At the end of a long tiring day, water is one of the most relaxing elements to come home to – both cooling and soothing to the nerves. Instead of confining it to one small area of the garden, David Neale has made it the central feature, wrapping paths of Portland stone and English oak around it so that the pool can be enjoyed from all sides. His planting scheme centres on rich blue Anchusa azurea ‘Dropmore’ with pops of amber and copper from bearded Iris ‘Carnival Time’, echoed in the rusted planters and citrus peel sculpture.
Garden: The Silent Pool Gin Garden
Designer: David Neale
There’s a return to old-fashioned romance in several of the gardens on Chelsea’s Main Avenue this year, with cottage favourites such as lupins and delphiniums making a welcome comeback. In the Artisan gardens, Janine Crimmins has gone for a country house feel, complementing immaculate drystone walling with old-fashioned roses such as ‘Tuscany Superb’ and ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’ amongst hardy geraniums, salvias and Delphinium ‘Summer Skies’.
Garden: A Very English Garden
Designer: Janine Crimmins
Herbal and medicinal plants are not only perfect in cooking, they are attractive in the garden and great for attracting and encouraging pollinators. In Kate Savill and Tamara Bridge’s delightful evocation of a Northamptonshire hillside garden, they have used a host of bee-friendly plants and have even thought to incorporate a shallow bowl of water for bees to drink from.
Angelica archangelica is a real statement plant at two metres tall, while at its feet, wild strawberries mingle with aromatic thyme, lemon balm, coriander and sweet cicely. For pops of edible colour choose borage and calendula – you can drop their flowers into salads.
Garden: The Warner Edwards Garden
Designer: Kate Savill and Tamara Bridge
Spire-like flowers provide instant height and vertical interest if you are looking for strong impact and they have been used everywhere at Chelsea this year, never more so than in Mark Gregory’s contemporary take on a cottage garden.
White delphiniums make the boldest of statements and these are echoed with white and purple lupins including ‘Noble Maiden’ and ‘Masterpiece’ and the much narrower flowers of Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’ which will keep coming all summer long. Popping up between these you can dot aquilegias – Mark has used an old favourite ‘Ruby Port’ – with Euphorbia x martini for strong contrast.
Garden: Welcome To Yorkshire – Gold Medal & Best Construction Winner
Designer: Mark Gregory
The simplest planting schemes of all stick to a limited palette of plants, repeating them several times around the garden to give a sense of cohesion and relying more on leaf shape and texture than flowers to provide lasting interest.
Under the partial shade of an Acer palmatum, Naomi Ferrett-Cohen has put together a low maintenance scheme with handsome dwarf conifers Pinus densiflora ‘Low Glow’ and Pinus nigra ‘Nana’ to provide structure, alongside reliable, ground-covering Euonymus fortunei ‘Kewensis’ and epimediums and , both of which have good leaf shape. Pretty Lychnis flos-cuculi ‘White Robin’ provides flower
Garden: Cherub HIV: A Life Without Walls
Desiger: Naomi Ferrett-Cohen
Landscaping materials form the backbone for planting and one way to inject interest is to make bold, confident use of contrasting materials and textures. In his Nordic garden in the Artisan section, Paul Hervey-Brookes has placed rough-hewn natural slate alongside smooth planed timber to great effect.
Around it, he has opted for a semi-natural style of planting to blur the boundaries between what might have been put there by human hand and what by nature. It’s a restful scheme with sorrel, lemon balm, caraway, achillea and honesty, dotted through with native ox-eye daisies.
Garden: Viking Cruises Wellness Garden – Gold Medal Winner
Designer: Paul Hervey-Brookes
Sarah Price has gone for perhaps the dreamiest look of all at Chelsea this year, with her meadow-like mix of many translucent plants, chosen for their light, diaphanous touch. It’s a planting style that would look good in a small sunny garden, set in gravel on a well-drained soil.
Sarah works in multiple layers, just as in nature, with ground cover, mid-height and then taller plants such as woad Isatis tinctoria, which puts out great clouds of yellow flowers followed by dark seedpods and Ridolfia segutum, which looks a little like dill, with chartreuse-yellow flowers right through summer. Holding it all together and a vital ingredient in the success of this scheme is the warm pinky-red of the rammed earth walling, a look that could be recreated with lime render tinted with natural pigment.
Garden: The M&G garden – Gold Medal Winner
Design: Sarah Price
While many garden designers choose light-coloured landscaping materials to give a sense of space, Tony Woods, a former RHS Young Designer of the Year, has made his debut at Chelsea with a more dramatic backdrop of dark walls (an interesting new porcelain covering called DesignClad) and dark clay tiles. These show off the rich, velvety purples of his planting scheme, peppered with ‘Masterpiece’ lupins, ‘Deep Black’ irises, Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’ and contrasting Euphorbia amygdaloides.
Tony has incorporated all sorts of sustainable features into the space including drip-feed irrigation to avoid water wastage, permeable paving and water-holding areas under decorative grills where excess run-off from the garden can be collected.
Garden: Urban Flow garden – Gold Medal & Best Space to Grow Garden Winner
Design: Tony Woods
If you don’t have a ticket to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show you can still expand your horticultural horizons and green your fingers at all manner of wonderful events as part of the Chelsea Fringe – the Alternative Garden Festival – which runs from 19 to 27 May.
There is everything from herbs in the garden at OmVed Gardens (pictured) and the gentle art of salad making at the Jetty, Greenwich Peninsula, to a wild flower art picnic at the Eden Community Garden and a fabulous floral flotilla at Henley-on-Thames. See chelseafringe.com for the full festival calendar.