The greatest and most prestigious flower show on the planet has arrived and brought with it possibly the hottest temperatures we have ever seen during a build at the show! The heat soared in the centre of London on this very small and congested show ground, we have all wilted and burnt during the build, just keeping the plants alive and in top condition has been a struggle in itself. The nurseries have had a really tough growing season in the run up to the show, with little light or heat through the wet, grey and sometimes white winter which has now turned to the extreme with the hottest temperatures we have seen for some time bringing with it its own concerns for the plants.
Chelsea Flower Show, with the heat, has a great buzz and excitement about the show ground again this year which is great to see and to be a part of after such a disappointing show last year. There are ten show gardens, six artisan gardens and eight of the new ‘space to grow gardens’ together with Matt Keightley’s Feel Good Garden for the RHS and Tom Stuart-Smiths Weston Garden situated inside the Floral Marquee alongside Sarah Eberles garden for Hillier’s.
There is so much more to see this year with a greater diversity of design and planting for visitors to enjoy and take ideas home with them. There are two show gardens that really stand out for me and a must see if you are visiting the show.
Jo Thompson’s Garden for Wedgwood
The first is Jo Thompson’s garden for Wedgewood. It has a real feeling of tranquil calm elegance and is truly inspirational. The colour pallet is drawn from the 18th century trials by Josiah Wedgewood of blue, purple, lemon and rusty browns all planted around a stream that dances through the middle of a woodland glade and a bronze sculptural pavilion as the centre piece. As I peered in from the boundary of the garden, I wished I could sit under the weeping willow tree with my feet splashing in the stream, it offered such tranquillity in the middle of a very hot and busy show ground!
My second garden of must see is Mark Gregory’s ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ garden. Set on the edge of woodland, a tumbling beck runs past a stone bothy with a cottage garden. Using artisan trades, crafts and natural materials it will inspire you to visit the Yorkshire dales. This is everything I love about a garden and brings with it, I suspect, a whole new era of show gardens without all the polished edges, a very exciting future for Chelsea and one that I fully approve of.
Mark Gregory’s ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ Garden
The artisan gardens are, as always for me, the best of the show, full of character and charm. Kate Savill and Tamara Bridge have created my favourite, a beautiful garden full of plants used to flavour the gins of their sponsor Warner Edwards. I loved the detail that was evident throughout the garden from the dry stone walls to the grassy meadow and the botanical planting.
The new Space to Grow gardens are a fabulous setting for new and innovative design and they don’t fail to impress. My favourites include The Silent Pool gin garden mixing sleek hard landscaping with drifts of soft planting and The Seedlip garden which celebrates the humble pea, all species of the pea family are used within the garden and it looks stunning. These gardens all have a message or story to tell and a must to see at the show.
The Silent Gin Garden
The Floral Marquee is always the jewel in the crown at Chelsea Flower Show and it is most certainly that again this year with fabulous displays from local nurseries Blackmore & Langdon, who never fail to put on an amazing display with their stunning delphiniums, Chew Magnas Jon Wheatly exhibited a wonderful display of dahlias with the National Dahlia Collection from Cornwall and a new entry at Chelsea, Flowers from the Farm which is a uk wide group of flower growers one of which is based locally in Nempnett Thrubwell. Congratulations to all three who won Gold Medals.
There are many people involved in the planning and building of a show garden or exhibit which can take place for several years before the garden is finally seen by all at the show including designers, contractors, planting teams, logistics managers, suppliers and experts and it would not come together without each and everyone one of the team but above all this year the nursery men and women should be congratulated for growing and supplying the very best plants and trees through a very testing year.
Chelsea Flower Show 2018 is set to be a huge success and one to go and see. Chatsworth Flower Show is just round the corner at the beginning of June and Hampton Court Flower Show not far away in July. It’s time to get out there, enjoy our gardens and be inspired.