My thoughts on Chelsea


No, this is not part of one of the Chelsea show gardens. Since I have no photos of this year’s show, this is the next best thing to introduce this post. This is my “copy-cat” Chelsea border! You see the power of Chelsea flower show?
This small stretch of my main herbaceous border, was inspired by Luciano Giubbelei’s show garden for Laurent-Perrier in 2011, which used a colour palette of pinks and bronzes, apparently reminiscent of rose champagne. This is its second year, and is filling out nicely – definitely all froth and fizz! It has all the Chelsea hallmarks – cow parsley, bronze irises, floaty thalictrums and, of course, the purple alliums!

Which leads me into this years show! As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of Luciano (I’m not name dropping, just shortening it – Giubbelei’s a nightmare to keep spelling! Sorry, Luciano!) I was drawn to his earlier gardens which I saw in magazines, and loved all the formality and straight lines – so minimalist and contemporary (though not for a plantsman!). Since he started showing at Chelsea, he has moved on from his all-green palette, and introduced flowers, which he does so well. This years garden, in my mind, was well worthy of “Best in show”. The pool, which is central to the design, is absolutely stunning. All his straight lines are still in evidence, with the steps in the pool and the adjoining rills. The planting, again in geometric blocks, really softens all the hard landscaping. And the colours are so soft and beautiful. The tree? Well, I can boast, I too have an Amelanchier! The colour scheme really moved away from the Chelsea norm. I loved the creamy whites and yellows, with only a hint of blue, for depth and contrast. And it was good to see lupins make such a statement, after years of obscurity.

Which brings me on to my next view – that of the planting. I’m sure you’ll agree that there are always trends in Chelsea planting. One year it’s the strong shapes of purple alliums everywhere, the next it’s frothy cow parsley. I always believed that the designers were trying to “steer” gardening fashion. However, this year I have heard it mentioned, that it is more likely to be due to the limited number of plant suppliers to the show, dictating the plants available. That makes complete sense to me and could account for it.

I also liked Cleve West’s M & G garden. I loved the modern take on the Paradise gardens of old, all offset by the adjacent wilder planting – the concept of a paradise from the wilderness.

The Daily Telegraph garden was my other favourite, but it seemed to have mixed reports. Some saw it as too perfect and pristine, others saw it as too corporate. I was drawn to it, again, by its formality and straight lines. But the overwhelming factor that hit me, that seems to have produced little comment, was to see a lawn as the centrepiece of the garden for the first time in yonks! Ok, I agree that it was so pristine, that it would not stay like that for 5 minutes in the real world, and it would be high maintenance in this day and age. But didn’t it look wonderful? Although the garden is a very contemporary style, it’s also a very traditional layout. A central lawn, surrounded by borders, and a shaded patio area, complete with seating, water feature and potted plants. I can easily imagine it being a family garden, with a few daisies thrown in. And the box “cushions” at the corners were just so tactile! I found the whole garden very comfortable and usable – though I may be alone in thinking that!

The gardens again, were totally inspirational. It was lovely too, to see the flush of new, young designers this year. Didn’t they do extremely well? Matt Keightly’s garden, “Hope on the Horizon” was beautiful, with its hard granite cubes among soft planting. No surprise it was the “People’s Choice”!

And I want to finish with a few “buzz” words to some up this years trends – blue, plum, lupins. Oh, and if I hear the phrase “push the boundaries” again, before next May, you may well hear me scream!

6 thoughts on “My thoughts on Chelsea

  1. Chloris

    A great post. We do see the same plants again and again at Chelsea but of course this is because they are good plants and ones that bloom at the end of May. We all rely heavily on aquilegias, thalictrum, Irises and alliums at this time of the year. I love lupins and glad to see them being reinstated at last.
    I think the Cleve West garden was great too. The Daily Telegraph one was visually very appealing but a velvety lawn like that would indeed be very high maintenance and impossible without masses of chemicals. But like you I like daisies in a lawn.
    Right it’ s stopped raining at last so I’ m off outside to push the boundaries in my own garden.

    1. thelonggardenpath Post author

      Screeeam! 😉 That point about seasonal planting is a very valid one. I think show gardens should reflect what is available at this time of year. I did comment about this on another blog, adding that while the planting should be seasonal, plant growers can also go to extreme lengths to have their plants ready for Chelsea. Where else could you see daffs alongside dahlias? But that may not be practical for show gardens. Glad you liked the post.

  2. Cathy

    I didn’t see any coverage of Chelsea this year and probably won’t have time to see anything on iPlayer either (too busy gardening, blogging, marking test papers!) so thanks for this small insight. Does this mean that if we use any of those colours or plants in our gardens people will think we are jumping on the bandwagon?! Interesting what you say about plant suppliers though. We passed some lupins growing wild on a verge this week, a head-turning rusty colour – they looked stunning.

  3. thelonggardenpath Post author

    What a busy life you lead! I reckon it’s only jumping on the bandwagon if you don’t really like them. I like all of these things and have them in my garden. I like the sound of your wild lupins. The ones I sometimes see on the verges are usually blue.

  4. Annette

    Only goes to show how tastes differ…i thought Hope on the horizon was terribly busy, certainly no place for contemplation as your eyes are drawn from one bit to the next all the time. A lot of the planting was overdone and repeated. I’m happy that you found inspiration there!

  5. thelonggardenpath Post author

    It’s a good thing that tastes differ. I did love a lot of the planting – soft and floaty with beautiful colour combinations. It does benefit though, from calmer areas to offset the “busyness” of the planting, such as the Daily Telegraph’s lawn or Luciano’s pool. Gardens should have focal points, but only one at a time, to prevent your eyes moving from one thing to another. But that’s just my opinion! I hope you found something you liked!


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