Reflections On Chelsea 2014

News & Musings

This was my first visit to Chelsea for 4 years – and so I was on the search for any new plants, styling ideas and features that would provide inspiration for both me and our clients!

My friend and I duly filed, penguin style, past the show gardens, before going on to marvel at the floral displays in the Grand Pavilion.  I can’t say I was overly wowed by the show gardens; the same plants did seem to keep on appearing from one garden to the next.  Having said that, I very much enjoyed taking in all that they had to offer – and none of them were trying to shock or show off for the sake of it.  Perhaps the budget constraints caused by the recent recession have done some lasting good in that respect!

I came away from the show with a few ideas and thoughts:



My Favourite Garden

My favourite garden (by far) was The Daily Telegraph garden.  Classical yet contemporary; it looked so simple, but contained so much.

Simple elegant planting.  Simple elegant hard landscaping.  Green and tranquil.  Wonderful execution.  Ok, so maybe I was overly wowed by this one!  Methinks the lesson here is that elegant simplicity looks deceptively easy; in reality it takes a lot of hard work and inspiration to achieve.



Or to be precise, a single, life size, enormous Gorilla.  Hmm.  Perhaps a timely reminder that garden designers should never be arrogant enough to think that they are the custodians of good taste!  Along with the gorilla, there was a variety of other life size sculpture on show.  Tasteful? The jury’s still out.



Another thing that struck me was that although the planting in the show gardens and the floral marquee was truly stunning, most of the plants that I saw have in fact been around and in common use for many a year.  Which just goes to show that good design is often the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.

Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’Having said that, there were a couple of perennials, amongst the ubiquitous Alliums and Irises, that stood out in my mind as plants I should be using more often in my planting schemes:

  • Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’ (top right) – an excellent and long flowering accent plant, with wine red small thistle like flowers on tall stems
  • Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’ (bottom right) – not the normal loosestrife, but one with attractive curved open spikes of burgundy flowers over silver grey foliage. Also long flowering.

Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais’Both of these looked wonderful amongst the blues and whites around them.

A new plant (to me at least) on display in the big marquee: Clematis ‘Bijou’ – a dwarf pale blue, purple Clematis, which grows in a neat and slightly arching mound just 1-2’ tall. It looks like it would be great in pots and even in borders, and perhaps too for hanging over a retaining wall. It just needs hard pruning once a year. Think I might be trying this one out in my own garden this year!

And a final tip… always ask the price of the pink champagne before ordering two glasses!


Image credits: Herry Lawford


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