There’s always a lot of firsts at Chelsea Flower Show; for me this year was my first viewed in the rain. However, that didn’t dampen my spirits as 2015’s show is an exceptional one.
Dan Pearson - Best In Show
This year marks the return of top garden designer Dan Pearson after a long absence, whose extraordinary evocation of the rock garden at Chatsworth House is a remarkable achievement. It’s on the difficult triangle plot on Main Avenue, but looks like it owns the space.
It’s a slice of Derbyshire brought to life, with much detail to get lost in. There are huge rocks, a whomping great willow and exquisitely fine detail in the naturalistic planting, right down to the leaf litter which knits everything together. This garden deservedly won Best in Show and is bound to be talked about for years to come.
Adam Frost's Masterstroke
Show gardens can look a bit dull in the rain, but a number of designers have cleverly incorporated elements which meant their gardens still managed to shine. Adam Frost’s use of warm red cedar wood was a masterstroke along with white foxgloves and yellowy-apricot geums which helped to lift the gloom. Everyone talks about ‘take home Chelsea’, but it’s set to become a reality with this garden as the sponsors - Homebase - have brought out a range of tie-in seeds and plants.
A Plantsman's Paradise
There was a unique treble in the Great Pavilion on the Hillier’s exhibit with the company striking its 70th gold medal in a row, plus a 50th for Ricky Dorlay (in charge of bringing 4,000 plants to the peak of Hillier and Chelsea perfection) and a 25th for the exhibit’s designer Andy McIndoe. As with many of the indoor exhibits, this was a plantsman’s paradise with plenty to inspire visitors to find an exciting new shrub or plant for their garden.
Irises In Their Prime
Irises are always a key signature plant in many of the show gardens as it’s their prime season at this time of the year. There was a great link between the gardens and the exhibits in the Great Pavilion, where there were three tremendous displays of this plant on show.
Firstly Claire Austin marked a triumphant return to Chelsea after 4 years. She’s moved her nursery in between shows and told me that growing her blooms to the peak of perfection took on a fresh challenge with the subtle changes in climate found at her new home in Wales. She needn’t have worried though, as she won a deserved gold.
There was also an intriguing link between hers and Cayeux nursery’s exhibits with one courtesy of Plant Heritage. The National Plant Collection® of Irises bred by Sir Cedric Morris harks back to the time when this plantsman exhibited at Chelsea during the 1940s and 1950s. His breeding of Irises forms the forerunners of many of those we admire today, especially at Chelsea.
These Irises haven’t been exhibited since those times and many were lost in the meantime. Sarah Cook, who was Head Gardener at Sissinghurst, started to collect surviving specimens on her retirement in 2004. Her collection of 25 examples from the 90 or so he bred formed an intriguing link between exhibitor and show garden, which also harks back to Sir Cedric’s time when he ran the East Anglian Art School.
This is just a brief glimpse of the treasures to be found at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I’ve run out of space for a complete guide, so do look at the RHS’s show pages for lots more insights into the world’s best gardening show.
Michelle Chapman is a gardener, freelance writer and blogger from Wiltshire. She is the author of the award winning blog, Veg Plotting, where she writes about her small town garden, seasonal food and anything else which strikes her whilst up at her allotment.