Editor Note: Gillian Carson of My Tiny Plot took in Chelsea as a spectator on press day as well as on public days. Her perspective comes as a British garden writer and blogger as well gardener (in the USA) who has made many Chelsea trips in the past and has seen many styles and trends come and go.
Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth garden (Best in Show winner) wasn’t the only garden with a passion for naturalism and wilder side of gardening. A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse by designer James Basson transports viewers to the Mediterranean with scented flowers and aromatic plants used in an almost wild cottage-like garden. The Old Forge garden by Jodie Fedora and Martin Anderson features an abandoned forge that is being taken over by native wildflowers and Dandelions.
The Brewin Dolphin garden by Darren Hawkes features several large smaller-leaves Elm trees (Ulmus minor), while The Homebase garden by Adam Frost showed six imposing Katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum japonicum).
These are one of the big style trends at Chelsea this year. The Sculptor Picnic garden by Graham Bodle is mostly wood sculpture and took away a gold medal in the Artisan gardens sections. The charred remains of a tree creates an almost bomb-like black hole in this garden, The Living Legacy Garden (silver-gilt winner) by designers Andrew Wilson & Gavin McWilliam, representing the brutality of the Battle of Waterloo 200 years ago.
Almost every garden had a sculpture of some description and many of them chose metal people as the theme. The Breakthrough Breast Cancer garden by Ruth Willmott displayed a lovely torso of a woman in silver with holes punched through it. The Evaders garden by John Everiss featured a crouching figure partial hidden as it was constructed of see-through slatted metal. There were many more.
If you follow Chelsea trends then orange is definitely the new black. Burnt orange, maybe mustard or rust and in many cases connected to Irises especially at The Pure Land Foundation garden (gold medal winner). This is Iris ‘Cigarello’.
This one single plant figures in many of the show gardens this year. Its red wine color really pops out against lighter colors and its understated, glaucous leaves lend an elegance to any garden.
Verbascums are everywhere in the show gardens. Their colors again are quite muted. Think Edwardian ladies, dusky pinks, pale orange with just a peek of pink. This one is Verbascum ‘Clementine’ but Verbascum ‘Merlin’ is a pink variety that makes an appearance in Chris Beardshaw’s Healthy Cities Garden (gold medal winner).
Foxgloves seem to be a given at Chelsea. Like Wimbledon and strawberries it simply isn’t Chelsea without them. Their colors are more muted this year though. Lot’s of pale yellows, and baby pinks.
Again Lupins feature quite highly on every garden’s plant list. It hard to explain why. They are quite out of favor outside the confines of the show garden. But they keep coming back. Maybe it’s because they offer such a straight spire with a wide range of impactful, reliable colors. They really are a garden designer’s secret weapon.
They are popping up everywhere but were especially prevalent here at The Edo no Niwa – Edo Garden by Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory (gold medal winner). I love the way that their rounded edges echo the pebble steps.