This year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show started off very wet and windy, nevertheless, that didn’t put a dampener on appreciating the wonderful plants and borders of the meticulously planned and planted 32 show gardens.
The avenues were bursting with colours and inspiration from around the world including places as far afield as New Zealand, Lesotho, Singapore, Scandinavia, Dubai, Japan and France. Closer to home, there were remarkable garden designs based on Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, the Yorkshire Dales, the diverse communal mix in East London, and a writers retreat in Sussex.
Here are my five personal favourites from this year’s show:
1. Edo no Niwa Garden by Ishihara Kazuyuki
This has to be the most tranquil garden at Chelsea with the sound of water flowing down the little stream complimenting the delicate mossy clumps clinging to the rocks and walls of the tiny viewing room. The serenity of the colourful yet perfectly manicured Japanese acer trees and the boldness of the upright blue Iris alongside the steps add levels of interest to this very special space. By viewing this astonishing little garden from different angles you can fully appreciate the precision and detailed execution of Kazuyuki’s vision of a garden for everyone.
2. Healthy Cities Garden designed by Chris Beardshaw
Chris draws his inspiration for this garden by considering the elements that make a healthy city and likens these to the elements that make a healthy planting community. The diversity in colour, shape and form don’t clash but work in harmony to make the garden richer and more vibrant, rather like his chosen area of East London, Poplar.
The hedge shape running through the centre represents the sailors rope knots used in the East Ends shipping industry- knots of friendship in the community that tie us together.
In the centre of this pathway are bubbling fountains washing over the engraved outline of the River Thames. The Poplar trees are a fitting tribute to the place name and its link in the early days to usage of the tree for wood for growing and sustaining London.
3. The Beauty of Islam Garden by designer Kamelia Bin Zaal
This garden is a little piece of the Middle East brought to Chelsea by designer Kamelia Bin Zaal from the UAE. It uses cool white marble pathways in simple geometrical lines to showcase the plants. The beautiful fretwork mirab doors lead the eye through walkways to plants that include fragrant citrus, rosemary, cardamom.
The stunning silver-grey palm tree Bismarkia nobili (previously unseen at Chelsea) together with olive trees provide depth and balance to the design. The senses are heightened by the elegant water rills and fountains, and there is poetic calligraphy inscribed on the back wall and feature panels. In the very heart of this garden is a contemporary silver sculpture with the name of God, reflecting centrality in Islamic life.
4. A perfumers garden in Grasse, France
This naturalistic garden has an overgrown feel with fragrant flowers and herbs vying for space amongst the wildflowers, fig and olive trees. Its designer James Basson takes his inspiration from the almost forgotten fields used by the flower growers from the once thriving perfume industry in Grasse. One feature that I particularly love is the subtle complimentary lighting used on the trees.
This garden reminds us that even the least cared for gardens where nature takes over from man once more will have riches and rewards to offer the visitor.
5. Home base urban retreat garden in association with Macmillan Cancer Support by Adam Frost
This Bauhaus inspired garden constructed by Adam and his team of apprentices has plenty of utilitarian value and is a fine example of how green spaces can be accommodated in our urban landscape. There is a sheltered social space, with paths and walkways leading to water features that beckon exploration. The choice of planting includes thistles, foxgloves, iris, geums and yew hedges, all helping to encourage birds, bees and butterflies to thrive in the city.
And finally, I came across this inviting bath tub in a jasmine filled green house- now that’s a great way to unwind after a superb day at RHS Chelsea 2015!