Gardening: The draw of Chelsea
PUBLISHED: 14:29 11 May 2015 | UPDATED: 14:29 11 May 2015
As the world's most prestigious horticultural event, the Chelsea Flower Show, opens later this month, Philippa Pearson looks at the latest garden trends and Herts exhibitors
For more than a century, the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show has witnessed many changes in horticultural fashion. The enthusiasms of garden designers and plantsmen from the Japanese and topiary gardens of the early days (Japanese dwarf trees, now known as bonsai, were seen at the first show in 1913), through the rock garden craze of the war years and the paved backyards and cottage gardens of the 1980s to the contemporary sculptural gardens and natural style planting of the present have influenced gardeners across the world.
At the heart of Chelsea is the Great Pavilion, a huge exhibition of plants staged by nurserymen and women, while scientific exhibits, model glasshouses and displays of tools and equipment have remained constant features from the outset. Several companies and organisations from Hertfordshire are involved in this year’s event from designing and exhibiting show gardens to showing plants, garden art and showcasing lovely sundries to enjoy in your garden.
Gardening trends come and go, and each year new ideas are spotted by gardening gurus and hailed as the latest item, plant or planting style that we simply must have in our own gardens. Many of these trends are not necessarily innovations but are simply good gardening traditions, with a new twist. RHS Chelsea remains the definitive horticultural event to see these latest ideas in the gardening world, in the eclectic mix of show gardens large and small, wonderful plants, and avenues of sumptuous goodies.
The fascination with growing-your-own produce shows no sign of abating. Patricia Thirion and Janet Honour from A Touch of France Garden Design in Bushey have designed the Runnymede Surrey Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Garden; a delightful artisan garden celebrating a milestone anniversary of this historic document. When not designing show gardens, the pair create beautiful gardens across Hertfordshire and beyond and many of these incorporate areas for growing fruit and vegetables. ‘Lots of our clients are very keen to have fruit trees in their gardens and grow their own veg,’ says Thirion, ‘and we often add raised beds to our design for that purpose.’
Gardening in a small space, whether a courtyard, balcony or windowsill, is all about finding plants that thrive in bite-size areas and garden décor and sundries that fit the brief. Family-run Harkness Roses in Hitchin has a philosophy of breeding new roses for all garden situations including borders, focal points and for containers. ‘Susie’ is a new repeat-flowering patio climber rose that will be launched at Chelsea and has a delicious citronella scent mixed with traditional rose perfume. ‘The Susie rose is a compact climber that will happily grow in a large patio pot or in the soil and is perfect for small spaces.’ explains Philip Harkness. The rose has dusky yellow-orange flowers and together with Harkness’ other new rose, the salmon pink ‘I am Macmillan’, fits perfectly with this year’s trend for vintage and rustic shades in our gardens.
Working with natural landscape features and habitats is still hot news in gardens. At Daisy Root’s stand in the Great Pavilion you will find many plants that attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. Run by Anne Godfrey, her nursery is at Jenningsbury near Hertford.
Also in the Great Pavilion in the Discovery Zone will be a stumpery garden designed and built by students from Capel Manor College in Enfield. ‘A stumpery uses logs and old upturned stumps to create the perfect habitat for beneficial insects, decomposers and micro-beasts like the endangered stag beetle,’ says Sarah Seery, head of the School of Horticulture and Landscaping at the college.
A growing trend is using garden spaces as places for entertainment and personalising them with beautiful products. Big is best for containers, and Sandman Planters of Kings Langley has a range of large planters and containers for impact.
Arthur Jack makes Georgian-inspired steel planters to bring a classical style to the garden. Influenced by 18th-century lead cisterns in gardens of grand houses, the Tring company’s new water butt has been shortlisted as a finalist for the RHS Chelsea Garden Product of the Year. The winner of the competition will be announced at the show.
Personalise your outdoor area with stunning contemporary African sculptures from Guruve of Stanstead Abbots, while Kyoto Garden Art of Broxbourne has natural wooden eco- screens. ‘The screens offer a way of combining interior space design with outside space for houses, offices and hotels and can be fixed in a number of ways,’ explains Kyoto’s Kevin Warren.
Hertfordshire exhibitors at RHS Chelsea
A Touch of France Garden Design - The Runnymede Surrey Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Garden
Capel Manor College – The Stumpery Garden in the Discovery Zone
Daisy Roots – perennials and grasses
Harkness Roses - roses
Alitags Plant Labels with Gifts & Gardens - plant labelling systems and unique garden items
Arthur Jack – traditional Georgian style steel planters and water butts
Guruve – contemporary stone sculpture from Zimbabwe
Kyoto Garden Art – eco architectural wooden screens
Sandman Planters – handmade wooden garden planters
Trumpers World – British watercolour greeting cards and gifts
Visit the RHS Chelsea Flower Show
May 19-20 RHS members only
May 21-23 members and non-members
All tickets must be bought in advance. See rhs.org.uk