The best from this famous
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.
FOR THE BEES
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.
CENTRE STAGE FOR SCULPTURE
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.