165,000 people visit the Chelsea Flower Show each year to see the work of the world’s finest garden designers. For them, gardening isn’t just a bit of weeding; it’s the chance to get creative, explore a concept that’s close to their hearts and share it with the world through their art. A lot of effort goes into making the show the biggest event in the gardening calendar. A 15-month planning cycle leads up to a 19 day build, all for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 6 day reveal!
I paid a visit hoping to see beautiful gardens that would make me pause and reflect on what’s important and I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. Below are my 6 favourite show gardens, out of a grand total of 15!
The Homebase Urban Retreat Garden, in association with Macmillan Cancer Support
Designed as an urban community garden, this show garden has been cleverly designed to celebrate the design principles of the early 20th century Bauhaus Movement. Modern materials like concrete and corten steel combine with simple, geometric shapes as walls meet hedging to create a garden that doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb in an urban setting. The softness of nature gives us a lesson in introducing green space into cities.
The striking design clearly divides the water, lawn and planting into separate zones – it’s structured without being imposing. Best of all, it’s wildlife friendly too. Simple plants like Irises and Geraniums allow insects to thrive while Taxus domes provide nesting space for birds. In a Chelsea first, the cedar-clad building is also covered in a mix of wildflower turf, offering a home to a cedar beehive full of honey bees.
Royal Bank of Canada Garden
Water is something that many of us take for granted but in some parts of the world, it’s a luxury and not a given. The Royal Bank of Canada Garden hammers home the point that our planet needs water to survive and that we should all be doing our bit to reduce the waste. Designer Matthew Wilson has done a great job at showing us that conserving water needn’t mean bland planting. Scan the area and you’ll find an olive tree popping up alongside a variety of shrubs and small trees full of fruits, visually stunning flowers and silky leaves.
A quick glance and it appears to be just a well-designed, practical garden with a raised platform for you to eat outside. Delve deeper though and you’ll find that this is a space that boasts a zero irrigation ‘dry’ garden with a central water harvesting and storage zone. If the plants are of a good type and placed in the right spot, they don’t need artificial irrigation and can be watered using the harvested water.
The Time In Between by Husqvarna and Gardena
Ticking the box for tugging on the heartstrings, Charlie Albone has designed a garden as a space to connect with his late father and come to terms with his loss. Romantic planting celebrates life while the water feature in the second section encourages people to explore their emotions, emptying in a matter of seconds. Towards the back of the garden, there’s a place to sit and really enjoy life, talking to the people you love.
The Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden
Chris Beardshaw’s garden is inspired by Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities charity programme which works to give children the best possible start in life. An interpretation of ‘community’, Chris has used his Chelsea spot to explore what makes a community healthy. The structured hedges, walls and paths symbolise the physical infrastructure of a community, while the interwoven knot garden demonstrates the importance of friendships providing the foundations for the community to grow. Just as people come together from all walks of life, the plants come from all different regions and have their own character yet they can all live happily beside one another.
Sentebale – Hope in Vulnerability
Kate and William have grabbed the headlines recently but this week, it’s Harry’s turn to place the royals in the spotlight. His Sentebale charity was co-founded in 2006 with Prince Seeiso of Lethoso and aims to offer key support for children whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. Designer Matt Keightley has worked to come up with a garden that reflects the important work of the charity at improving the lives of vulnerable people in the African country. Stand in front of the garden and you’re struck by the pop of bright colours scattered throughout the greenery. This is a garden that stays true to Lethoso’s environment, complete with a poppy that’s native to the country itself!
The Hidden Beauty of Kranji by Esmond Landscape and Uniseal
I’m a big fan of tropical planting and John Tan and Raymond Toh have brought the tropics to London with a whole host of palms commonly found in the Singaporean suburb of Kranji. Creepers and green walls hint at the country’s green commitment and coconuts and the country’s national flower (the Papilionanthe Miss Joaquim) add the finishing touches to a garden that’s buzzing with life. If the vibrance gets a bit too much, the waterfall, Monstera and ferns provide a space to reflect and unwind. This is a garden that’s rooted in modernism and protecting the world we live in.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs until Saturday, 23rd May 2015. To find out more about the show and plan your visit, head on over to the official RHS website.