A little late, but here are my thoughts on this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.
I’ve been going to Chelsea for the last 4 or 5 years. I have to admit to being more interested in plants than in design, and I am one of those gardeners whose garden is crammed with a messy mixture of one of each cultivar rather than the limited palette of plants I know would work better design-wise. But I am starting to understand more about why designs work and why I connect with some gardens and not others.
One of my favourite show gardens this year was the Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw. I loved the colours, the fact that every space was crammed with a vibrant range of plants, but somehow it all still looked ordered and even calm. I would like to read more about how colour works in garden design.
This garden is being rebuilt after the show in a community space in east London, and I think you can tell that it is designed for a ‘real’ situation. I feel a bit uncomfortable about the extravagance and waste that must happen in order for these perfect show gardens to be created. The plants that must be rejected, the energy and resources that go into getting the plants in peak condition at exactly the right time, the transportation, all for just a week-long show, so it’s good to know that many of them will have a life after Chelsea.
Dan Pearson’s garden will eventually be recreated at its spiritual home at Chatsworth. It was quite astonishing and incongruous to see what looked like a small slice of the countryside surrounded on all sides by crowds of people in smart clothes drinking champagne (though I haven’t been to Chatsworth – perhaps that’s what it’s like). Although it was a dramatic, huge scale project, with gnarled mature trees and large boulders, it was the tiny details I enjoyed most – the plants growing out of cracks in the rocks, the tufts of grass that looked like they had been there for decades.
A completely different garden which I liked just as much was the Beauty of Islam Garden by Kamelia Bin Zaal. I loved it’s simplicity and calmness. I find it very interesting to work out how designers create atmosphere in their gardens, and for me Bin Zaal did this best at Chelsea this year. All green and white, it felt like a very quiet, contemplative space, even in the bustle of Chelsea.
Another garden that really captured my attention was the Royal Bank of Canada garden by Matthew Wilson (conveniently sitting here in his garden). This one will was designed to be rebuilt at a hospice after the show.
Having enjoyed the fact that the Beardshaw garden was so crammed with plants and colour, what I liked about this one was the sparseness of the planting, allowing each plant to stand out.
I also liked these wiggly benches.
I hope to get round to writing a part 2 soon…