Gardening: Show stoppers

PUBLISHED: 12:01 11 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:41 20 February 2013

Artisan materials in Fever-Tree’s Tree House Garden

Artisan materials in Fever-Tree’s Tree House Garden

With the summer gardening show season in full swing, Philippa Pearson looks at the trends in garden design and planting ideas to try in your own horticultural haven...


Prinses Juliana has fiery orange flowers from June to September.

Salvia nemorosa

Caradonna has masses of violet-blue flowers on upright stems, June to October.


Hyperion has endless primrose yellow flowers throughout July and August above sword like arching foliage.

Echinacea purpurea

Tomato Soup, a recently introduced coneflower, has dramatic bright tomato red flowers from June-September

WHAT gardener isnt inspired by a summer of garden show visiting or enjoying television coverage from the comfort of their armchair?

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May is the most prestigious of them all, a place where garden designs dazzle you and where plants in the Great Pavilion are astonishing.

Theres a lot of debate each year as to whether Chelsea is a real gardeners show and that plants can take a backstage place with all the emphasis on the show gardens. Walls of water, rusted steel columns and contemporary buildings might not be to everyones taste, but theres almost always a plant that will catch your eye or planting style you can try in your own garden.

This years RHS Chelsea Flower Show was the most opulent for a few years with 17 large show gardens adding more than a touch of colour into their stunning designs.

Inside the Great Pavilion, and despite some rather challenging spring weather conditions, nurseries from the UK and beyond displayed some awe-inspiring collections of plants to dazzle and marvel.

A colourful display

Colour was a definite theme throughout the show, the choice of blooms broadened no doubt by warmer temperatures, and natural-style planting was also quite trendy.

The Silver-Gilt RBC New Wild Garden had wildflowers and ornamental flowers in relaxed informal plantings using bold and bright colours in a sustainable eco-friendly design.

More natural-inspired planting was be seen on the Silver Medal winning Times garden, designed by Marcus Barnet, and on Robert Myerss Silver-Gilt medal design for Cancer Research UK.

Cleve Wests Gold and Best in Show Daily Telegraph Garden had areas of informal perennial planting mixed with a touch of drama from sculptured columns and formal yew hedging.

Using lots of colour in your borders can be a bit daunting but the trick is to try and blend zingy colours such as oranges and reds with softer tones. The formidable Gertrude Jekyll added white between colours to diffuse her brightly coloured borders and this magically brought harmony to the planting combinations.

Keeping it natural

Natural materials set plants off beautifully, and this year at Chelsea organisers introduced a small gardens category, the Artisan Gardens, which replace the Courtyard Gardens. Designers are challenged to use an artisan approach in the design, building and choice of materials for the garden and to use items from natural and sustainable sources to create their gardens.

Instead of rushing out to buy new wood for a project, why not source recycled material from reclamation yards or other places? Wooden pallets make brilliant sides for compost heaps whilst old floorboards are great for raised beds and for unique and unusual decking areas: treat the wood with preservative to extend its life.

All about eco

Adding to the naturalistic planting and eco-themed construction ideas at the show, many wildlife and ecology touches in the gardens can be easily transformed into your own patch.

In the Gold medal B&Q Garden, a tall tower had some brightly coloured and fun habitat boxes to attract beneficial insects; easy to make and a nice project to get children involved with.

Dry stone walls in the RCB New Wild garden used old books within their construction to create a natural home for insects and this was an integral part of the design.

The roof of the outdoor office in the Silver medal SKYShades Garden had lightweight, thin and flexible solar power panels, developed by the Cambridgeshire company, to provide electricity, making a green outdoor office a very affordable option.

Garden designer and RHS Silver-Gilt medal winner Philippa Pearson was awarded Peoples Choice Award for Best Show Garden at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2010. Visit or contact her on 01767 651253.

Medals for Hertfordshire

Congratulations to RHS medal-winning Hertfordshire exhibitors.

Harkness Roses, Hitchin.
The Homebase Cornish Memories Garden, built by Tring based landscapers Bowles & Wyer Contracts.

Kate Gould
from Radlett for The Magistrates Association urban garden.
Hitchin Floral Art Club for flower arranging.

Design Scents from Kings Langley for flower arranging.

Guruve from Stanstead Abbots received a Merit for their tradestand.
Js Pots and Potted Gardens from Wormley West End Nr Broxbourne received Highly Commended.

To celebrate Hatfield Houses 400th anniversary, David Austin Roses also launched a new rose, Lady Salisbury.

Visit an RHS Show

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show July 5th-10th
Tatton Park Flower Show July 20th-24th
Further information on both shows is available at

Plants to add zing into your borders

Try these plants to add some dramatic colour in your borders:

Alchemilla mollis

Ladys Mantle has sprays of lime-green flowers from late spring and through the summer. The scalloped-shaped leaves also look pretty with rain droplets on.

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