Friday, 25 May 2012

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012

The sun came out for Chelsea this week, baking hot on Tuesday when I visited the show on the day the medals were announced.

There was a tremendous amount going on, and it was good to see an awareness of the the environmental impact of gardening, with a noticeable emphasis this year on water conservation, drought tolerant plant selection and naturalistic styles of planting, although it was evident from overheard comments that, to a significant number of onlookers, the designers’ painstaking attempts to recreate romantic meadow effects were often interpreted as patches of weeds – “there’s a bit like that in my garden behind the shed!”. I thought it was rather lovely, but that’s the challenge for the garden designer keen to promote this aesthetic with all its environmental, bee-friendly worthiness, when many clients just want things to look neat. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Notable also was a consideration of how we can green the urban landscape, with suggestions for even the smallest of spaces and, while there was undoubtedly some very impressive design and plantsmanship in evidence in the larger gardens, it was the small details which were more interesting for me than the broad sweep; how different designers use various materials, and observing the points at which they interact. The more modestly proportioned artisan gardens were a rich source of inspiration – not least because they demonstrated how much can be achieved in a small plot, and with increased demand on our space from housing fewer of us have large, or even moderately sized gardens any more – as can be readily appreciated when looking at the garden of an average new build home.

The Brewin Dolphin garden
Throughout there was a wonderful mix of the formal and informal, best in evidence in Cleve West’s garden for Brewin Dolphin which deservedly won him Best in Show for the second year running. Here he mixed formal elements such as yew topiary, stone gate pillars, and beech hedging, with a less disciplined side represented in the beautifully lush, detailed herbaceous planting. Similarly Arne Maynard’s garden for Laurent Perrier used his trademark copper beech – here in the form of a pleached hedge – as a stately component of the space against which his riotous lower level planting in shades of pinks and silver could frolic. Not noted for my love of roses, I was nonetheless completely smitten by the low mounds of Rosa ‘Reine des Violettes’ trained over hazel supports. Chris Beardshaw’s Furzey Gardens demonstrated that it is possible to create a harmonious, peaceful and lush space using rhododendrons and a variety of ericaceous plants. Wonderful stuff.

More pictures of Chelsea 2012 can be seen on our Facebook page.