Chelsea Flower Show – A change of direction?

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The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a fantastic institution, undoubtedly the best of its kind in the world. I haven’t missed a show I realise for 25 years!  It has shaped the way people view gardens and gardening, continually setting the scene for future trends and movements in garden design. This year I have had the opportunity to spend several days at Chelsea, allowing me to absorb the beauty of the show and now back at my Hertfordshire desk, to reflect on its significance for garden-lovers everywhere.

This year’s show was particularly fascinating for me. I am noticing a change in

James Basson's Gold Medal winning garden

James Basson’s Gold Medal winning garden

direction to softer  geometry and more organic forms. As always the show gardens are of an exceptionally high standard but a few stood out for me. Dan Pearson’s garden (‘Best in Show’ winner) provided a beautifully crafted and executed celebration of nature with exquisite details, while the garden I would most like to spend more time in was that of James Basson (gold medal), based on a perfumer’s garden in Provence, with simple and highly effective features including mini rills, a bath house and – of course – many colourful aromatic flowers.  My favourite piece of theatre was Charlie Albone’s (Silver Gilt) water feature which filled up and refilled on an 8-minute cycle, the pool holds at brimming point for a minute then after a few ripples disappears in moments

Charlie Albone's water feature in his Silver Guilt Medal winning garden

Charlie Albone’s water feature in his Silver Gilt Medal winning garden

before repeating the cycle.  As for the small gardens – Howard Miller’s Dark Matters Garden stopped me in my tracks with its highly innovative structures constructed from rusted iron which contrasted beautifully with the planting.  I was also struck by Sarah Eberle’s Breast Cancer Haven Garden which conjured up the notion of a ‘nest’ (beautifully provided by a sculpture of wood and willow created by artisan craftsman Tom Hare).

To conclude, I found Chelsea as inspiring as ever this year and particularly noticed the following themes

  • With regard to plants, the planting palette of the show was deep rusts, oranges, blues and purples. The recent proliferation of umbilicus type plants such as cow parsley was replaced with stronger, more defined blocks of colour.  Interestingly, several gardens had few or no grasses, while still featuring significant drifts of herbaceous plants.
  • The rigid rectilinear designs of recent years were few and far between and – while beautiful in their own right – starting to look somewhat ‘dated’ in my opinion.
  • A much more fluid geometry is on the rise, with sinuous curves and looser, much more organic forms. I welcome this trend because I believe it is more pleasing and approachable for people who look to Chelsea to provide inspiration for their own garden.  And it happens to be a design style that I am more in tune with and also relates to the gardens we produce.

If you have been inspired by the coverage of Chelsea this year and would like to progress your own plans for your garden/outdoor space, then why not make 2015 the year that you do so?  For those of you in London or the South-East, we would of course be delighted to talk your ideas over with you – please email james@thegardenco.co.uk or call the office on 01442 832666.  Examples of our garden design work can be viewed at http://www.thegardenco.co.uk/garden-design/ and we have also constructed 100s of beautiful gardens over the last 20 years – http://www.thegardenco.co.uk/garden-construction/.

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