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gar­den show

Trend­set­ter and show­case for the best in plants, gar­den de­sign and in­no­va­tion, this year’s Chelsea Flower Show tack­led the deeper theme of well­ness – our own and the world in which we live – while cel­e­brat­ing, some­what nos­tal­gi­cally, the ro­mance and crafts­man­ship in­her­ent in English gar­dens


The com­bi­na­tion of ex­u­ber­ant plant­ing and a calm, con­tem­pla­tive space earned Chris Beard­shaw, de­signer of the ‘The Mor­gan Stan­ley Gar­den for the NSPCC’ the pres­ti­gious award of Best Gar­den on Show. The gar­den as heal­ing space re­mains a com­pelling theme in to­day’s un­cer­tain world. Beard­shaw drew on a soft pal­ette of mauve, blue and pink peren­ni­als and richly tex­tured woodland fo­liage to off­set a cedar-wood pavil­ion and serene ref lec­tive pool as a metaphor for the safe emo­tional space the NSPCC seeks to pro­vide for chil­dren. Beard­shaw’s gar­den last year was the Peo­ple’s Choice Show Gar­den.


Flow­ers took over this year: daz­zling, clash­ing and ex­u­ber­ant, push­ing grasses ever so slightly to one side. This year, de­sign­ers weren’t afraid to use colour, all in the name of gar­den­ing for bees, but­terf lies and wildlife. In the f low­er­filled ‘David Har­ber and Sav­ills Gar­den’, where the­atri­cal sculp­ture marked the tran­si­tion from nat­u­ral wild­ness to cul­ti­vated for­mal­ity, de­signer Nic Howard ad­mit­ted to hav­ing no spe­cific colour scheme, just those blooms that would en­cour­age in­sects.



In an era of water short­ages and global warm­ing, Sarah Price’s eclec­tic mix of suc­cu­lents, scented herbs and di­aphanous, heat-tol­er­ant f low­ers of­fered a fresh take on gar­den­ing in hot sunny cli­mates with ‘re­strained’ water use. Her gold-awarded ‘M&G’ gar­den was both dreamy and rus­tic. A trio of an­gu­lar pools cooled the arid land­scape and earthen walls helped to de­fine the space. Her plant choices included water-wise suc­cu­lents, eu­phor­bia, senecio, pop­pies, rock­roses, ground­cover herbs and grasses. The in­cor­po­ra­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tally pos­i­tive tech­nol­ogy into in­ner-city gar­dens is a trend that con­tin­ues to push the bounds of pos­si­bil­ity. As a con­tem­po­rary com­mu­nal gar­den within a typical Lon­don square, ‘The New West End Gar­den’ included paving that con­verts foot­steps into elec­tric­ity and data, en­ergy-har­vest­ing sys­tems, so­lar light­ing and air-pu­ri­fy­ing plants which ab­sorb tox­ins and help clean the at­mos­phere. De­signer Kate Gould was awarded gold for it.


The quin­tes­sen­tial English gar­den with its beautiful f lower bor­ders, ram­bling roses and crafted stone-work never seems to go out of favour. Its time­less ap­peal was con­firmed again as the Ar­ti­san Gar­den Peo­ple’s Choice. De­signed by Ja­nine Crim­mins, and win­ner of a sil­ver gilt medal, ‘The Claims Guys: A Very English Gar­den’ was inspired by the English Arts and Crafts Move­ment. Its plants included tra­di­tional favourites like fox­gloves, phlox, roses, laven­der and prunus, with box hedg­ing as a for­mal el­e­ment.



As the Peo­ple’s Choice win­ner, Mark Gre­gory’s ‘Wel­come to York­shire’ gar­den, was a ro­man­tic evo­ca­tion of all that coun­try liv­ing means: crafted stone walls, veg­eta­bles and flow­ers tum­bling over one an­other, and a sun-drenched porch shaded by fra­grant wis­te­ria. The grow­ing ar­ti­sanal move­ment, and the over­whelm­ing re­sponse to this post­card-per­fect view of coun­try life, il­lus­trate the ever-grow­ing de­sire to es­cape the stresses of ev­ery­day life. This gar­den also won the best con­struc­tion award and cel­e­brates Gre­gory’s 30th year at Chelsea. The water fea­tures that stood out this year were tran­quil pools, such as the in­fin­ity-edged pool in ‘The Silent Pool Gin Gar­den’ de­signed by David Neale awarded the Peo­ple’s Choice in the Space to Grow cat­e­gory. Vis­i­tors loved this ‘city haven’ with its stone-clad planters filled with flow­er­ing peren­ni­als and shrubs, the easy to main­tain walk­ways and the in­ti­mate cor­ner in which to en­joy the evening’s botan­i­cal gin and tonic.


Con­tin­u­ing the theme of bal­anc­ing ur­ban life­style re­quire­ments with en­vi­ron­men­tal health, the win­ner of the Space to Grow cat­e­gory, ‘The Ur­ban Flow’ de­signed by Tony Woods, com­bined bold de­sign for small-space city liv­ing with eco-friendly so­lu­tions. Large-scale metal in­stal­la­tions sculp­tural in na­ture, and dec­o­ra­tive grilles dou­bling as rain­wa­ter stor­age so­lu­tions, gave the gar­den its con­tem­po­rary edge. A plant pal­ette in shades of pur­ple and chartreuse added to the drama, yet all the plants were cho­sen for their abil­ity to with­stand un­pre­dictable cli­mate conditions, off­set pol­lu­tion and at­tract wildlife.


Chelsea’s love of soft pur­ple, mauve and blue was still ev­i­dent but the trend­ing colour this year was yel­low, backed up with or­ange and white. Lupins, ver­bas­cum, senecio, fen­nel, pop­pies and eu­phor­bia in this en­er­gis­ing colour, popped up in al­most all the gar­dens, and was the dom­i­nant theme in HayJoung Hwang’s ‘LG Eco-City Gar­den’, which won sil­ver gilt. It used plants and trees to as­sist in oxy­gen gen­er­a­tion, hu­mid­ity con­trol, tem­per­a­ture mod­er­a­tion and the re­duc­tion of car­bon diox­ide. Run­ning water pro­vided a fil­ter for noise pol­lu­tion.


Col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween land­scap­ers, sculp­tors and even com­posers pro­duced gar­dens of drama, fan­tasy and whimsy in which strik­ing sculp­tures played a cen­tral role. Jo Thomp­son won gold for ‘The Wedg­wood Gar­den’, in which an ephe­meral bronze pavil­ion ap­peared to float over a stream against a nat­u­ral­is­tic back­drop of plants and boul­ders. In the ‘Spirit of Corn­wall’ gar­den, sculp­ture inspired by the waves of sound, ac­cen­tu­ated the con­tem­po­rary trop­i­cal gar­den, il­lus­tra­tive of Corn­wall’s mi­cro­cli­mates. De­signed by Stu­art Charles Towner, this gar­den was also awarded gold.

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