Chelsea review

Chelsea 2014

So now the show gardens have been dismantled for another year and the grounds of Chelsea have been restored to verdant lawns, what did we think of it? Well I did get a sense of déjà vu looking at the corporate gardens with their straight formal lines, specimen trees, rather wishy-washy planting; the garden which grabbed my attention the most was the RBC Waterscape Garden by the delightfully-named Hugo Bugg. I liked his use of concrete to give the impression of parched earth and way he favoured a very contemporary angular design softened by attractive lush planting and water. Hugo was one of a posse of new young designers which have brought some refreshing ideas to the show. The other garden which I enjoyed was the contemporary take on the Persian Paradise Garden by Cleve West. One glance was enough to realise that Cleve is a real plantsman – plants took centre stage (after the turtle-headed fountain) and I enjoyed some blasts of colour from California poppies and the like.

The Plants
Lupins that was a surprise to see, on the uber sophisticated Laurent Perrier garden, old fashioned cottage garden lupins but the Italian designer Luciano Giubbilei was seemingly captivated by them and used them in lemon sherbet shades to good effect. But beware if you go shopping for them – they are one of the favourite foods of slugs and snails – I planted three well-grown plants in a border and two days later there was literally no sign of them! So I haven’t used them again as clients are not too keen on paying for disappearing plants.

Irises Yes what can I say? If you have never come across Iris sibirica before you certainly know about them now. As one TV presenter said it was as if the ‘gardens flowed into each other’ a polite way of saying that the muted planting was so similar. It is a truly elegant flower but needs damp and has a pretty short flowering time. As the same presenter said, it was as if one of the supplier told all the designers (apparently there are only a few nurseries that supply all the show plants) that he had thousands of iris sibs and they would all be ready on the day.
The gardens with blue, mauve and white schemes looked lovely but oh so safe and of course in a few weeks time, in the real world all you will be left with is well ….green.

More colour please next year! I am looking forward to a year when the corporate boys stick their necks out with some more radical plant ideas and add some zing to their plantings. I did expect more colour this year as we are 3-4 weeks early in the season and geums with their flame and burnt oranges, roses are blooming everywhere; plus bright yellow potentillas, cerise or bright white rock roses. I’ve even seen some Kniphofia – red hot pokers out in London. Do check out erysimums (perennial wallflowers) – they are my most recommended plant at the moment; there are now a terrific range of colours from bright purple with variegated leaves to burnt orange and yellow; some have several shades on one plant. They have a very long flowering period, are drought tolerant and seem pest resistant – what’s not to like? Hayloft Plants have some stunners.