What we liked at Chelsea – this and that
Every time you visit the RHS Chelsea Flower Show you always take away a number of impressions, many of which can stay with you for years to come. You might remember part of one of the show gardens, certain plants, the way a garden shone in the sun or perhaps an idea that you can utilize in your own garden.
My little note book is always full of jottings and notes, often with squiggles saying things like ‘must try that’ or ‘buy this’.
So basically what follows is a précis of my random thoughts and impressions, in no particular order, highlighting what I liked about RHS Chelsea 2015.
Sadly press day this year was marred by poor weather but that never dampens the spirits when you are at Chelsea as there is too much to see.
I enjoyed meeting the designer of the ‘Evaders Garden’, John Everiss, (Silver-Gilt) who told me the story behind his father’s escape during the Second World War and what the various parts of his Artisan garden represented. From the beautiful stained glass window (designed by Irene Mackay) in the ruined church, to the names of the people who helped his father escape, the garden is a complete story and very moving. The figure crouching beneath the window forms a significant backdrop to the garden with its ragged robin and myrtle – this garden plays homage to the French families who saved countless Allied lives during wartime occupation.
As soon as I enter the Great Pavilion I head for the Hillier exhibit because it is always one of the highlights of Chelsea. This year they achieved their 70th Gold Medal with Ricky Dorling, that maestro of planting achieving his 50th! Quite a team and always an outstanding display, so well done to Andy McIndoe and all at Hilliers for another wonderful display and horticultural experience.
I was delighted that Rosy Hardy of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants won her 20th Gold Medal. Their display of herbaceous perennials is always outstanding and this year was no exception. As Rosy admits every year they put pressure on themselves to improve on last year’s exhibit and with each gold medal that comes the pressure rises: “Getting that 20th gold is very special and one we will treasure as a team because none of this is possible without everyone back t the nursery, my husband Rob and my Mother who continues to help us plant up the Chelsea stand year on year,” says Rosy.
Like many of the exhibitors and businesses at Chelsea, getting ready for the big event is very much a family affair and the love, care and attention as well as pride that goes into those outstanding exhibits is awesome.
Winning their 19th Gold Medal this year is David Austin Roses, who brought along three outstanding roses to the show – The Ancient Mariner, Desdemona and Sir Walter Scott. One of the first scents to hit you in the Great Marquee is the smell of roses and it is always a pleasure to linger on the Rose Growers’ stands to take in that special aroma.
I was intrigued by the moving oak structure on rails on the Cloudy Bay Garden (pictured above). It seemed to glide through space as it moved to and fro through the planting. Designed by Harry and David Rich the garden was awarded a Gold. It is a perfect idea for anyone who has problems moving around a garden for whatever reason, but also must be a really peaceful and pleasant sensation for anyone sitting in it. Clever.
I have to admit that I am not a particular fan of modernist gardens but my interest was stimulated by The Brewin Dolphin Garden designed by Darren Hawkes (Gold). There are these gigantic slabs of slate except that they clearly are not solid slabs and when you examine them you realize that they are made from 40,000 pieces of hand-cut slates fused together. The effect is stunning and quite a change from slate which is simply cut to one piece.
On the Living Legacy Garden (Silver-Gilt) designed by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam, there were lots of little elements to see. In fact whenever I passed this garden I saw something new. Inspired by the landscape of the Battle of Waterloo and by Wellington, the garden evokes the bleakness and brutality of the Battle before leading through to a greening flowering of the landscape to an abstraction of the iconic architecture of Wellington College.
I love waterfalls and there are plenty at Chelsea this year. The Sentebale garden designed by Matt Keightley (Silver-Gilt) has one, so does the Hidden Beauty of Kranji (Silver-Gilt) and the Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Dan Pearson (Gold and Best in Show) which has a winding stream bubbling through it. on the On the Royal Bank of Canada Garden (Silver-Gilt) designed by Matthew Wilson, there is a lovely water feature as well as on the M&G Garden (Silver-Gilt) designed by Jo Thompson, which doubles as a swimming pool. Quite cool that I thought.
What struck me this year is the fact that so many of the gardens looked as though they had been there for years and year. It always amazes me how the designers and constructors add that sense of permanency to a garden.
This is particularly so of the Laurent-Perrier Garden, the M&G Garden and the L’Occitane garden – A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse (Gold) designed by James Basson. (pictured left) This is really a beautiful garden looking totally relaxed and settled in its space.
There are also some pretty sensational statement trees at this year’s show.
A 150-year-old macro-bansai olive on the RBC Garden is just terrific; on the ‘Breast Cancer Haven Garden’ and a horse chestnut features on the Artisan Garden ‘The Old Forge for Motor Neurone Disease’ designed by Jodie Fedorko and Martin Anderson (Silver).
On the M&G Garden Jo Thompson has some stunning trees and there are some interesting specimens on the Sentebale garden as well.
As far as colour trends go, quite frankly I got a bit sick of tangerine and orange. However, there are plenty of other trends to go for – Darren Hawkes uses blue, purple and white to create a fresh and calm feel for ‘The Brewin Dolphin Garden’; white and green represents white wine on ‘The Cloudy Bay Garden’; pale blue runs throughout Adam Frost’s planting scheme on the ‘Homebase’ garden and Jo Thompson features green, pink and blue with white and lavender on her M&G Garden. So take from that what you will.
For me the planting on both the M&G and Chris Beardshaw’s ‘Healthy Cities Garden’ (Gold) were superb. (pictured above, Healthy Cities) Chris has a magic way with plant combinations and colours and he certainly excels with this garden.
All over for another year, but I still have my little note book with the ‘what to buy’ and the ‘to look out for’ and of course I have my photographs and memories of yet another wonderful RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
To see our full range of photographs of both the show gardens and the Great Pavilion please link via the following:
Gardens: Please link here
Pavilion: Please link here
© All photographs are copyright of Reckless Gardener