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Five tips to take home from RHS Chelsea Flower Show

What can we take home from Chelsea Flower Show? The beautiful gardens at RHS Chelsea Flower Show are currently taking centre stage. But in just a few days they will be swiftly de-constructed and brushed away. They will leave only memories and indentations in the grounds of the Royal Hospital. So what's it all about? Do we wander around the RHS Chelsea Flower show with stars in our eyes, wondering at the foolishness of our own gardens? Should we be planning to implement similar huge Jurassic plates of bronze with gently tumbling 'natural' rills in our own backyard?  How on earth did we manage without a huge outdoor garden room complete with stained glass windows and champagne glasses arranged artistically on a chromium tray?

It's all bright and beautiful at the Chelsea Flower Show. Sun or rain, it's magical. And then there's the planting. Why did we pop all those little single plants in the spaces without thought of groupings, foliage colour, shape and form? Shouldn't we have planned a colour theme; architectural presence in the right places and plant 'algorithms'? How inadequate we feel without a garden story.

Every garden tells a story at Chelsea. But should it be like this at home? Does a trip to Chelsea make us feel tremendous or tormented? Hopefully, it's the former. Why? Because not only is RHS Chelsea Flower Show a greatly entertaining day out, but it's fodder for the imagination too. These gardens are not meant to provide patterns to copy at home. Far from it. They are the result of deep thought and intense scribbling in order to create something entirely unique and original. That lasts just a week.

Diarmuid Gavin's twirling topiary is probably not what you need in your own garden! And, let's face it, these show gardens, not to mention the Fresh and Artisan gardens often contain elements that are completely wacky. Few of us would want twirling topiary trees or window boxes that jiggle about when we're not expecting it. Only the foolish amongst us would crave for paving that collects every spec of falling debris and traps it between the cobbles.

The smaller, Artisan gardens are often completely charming. That's just the point these are like real-life three dimensional drawings. Designed to look good but not necessarily to live with. Although some, of course, are relocated and actually used as a garden afterwards. These are the more practical, useful spaces that can look every bit as beautiful as the others. Most of the Chelsea gardens should lift the spirits and be absorbed into the soul rather than parked into the logical, practical left hand side of the psyche.

Chris Beardshaw's Morgan Stanley Garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital will be used as a real garden at the hospital. But there are always elements that can be borrowed and used at home. This is the secret to a successful and happy visit to Chelsea. To gain ideas and inspiration. To come away feeling energised and positive.  You might not plan to have a huge cube of granite dropped into your garden so that you can peer through the tiny holes into the inner sanctum, but you might want a little rockery.  

The 'Antithesis of Sarcophagi is a granite block with an amazing garden inside. Five tips to help you carry your ideas home

  • Don't feel you should dig out all your existing plants in order to start again at home! But you might want to add interesting elements in pots and containers. You can use architectural shapes to great effect. This can take the place of bedding very happily.
You can achieve stunning interest with some plant architecture!
  • Most people don't have much space. But a few veg only need take up a tiny amount of room. Tomatoes will fruit on the roof of a shed or in a window box. Salad leaves will sprout and grow happily on a balcony. Herbs can grow in a pot or tumble over a wall. There are no obstacles for those with a little imagination.

Use every centimetre of space, there's room for plants on every plot.

  • Common-sense: use it in order to make your life as easy as possible. Look at your soil and your conditions and select plants accordingly. Don't try to grow a tree fern in a sunny, windy and exposed site. You are setting yourself up for failure. Got a north-facing wall? Select a climbing hydrangea, ferns or ivy with pretty foliage. Don't be tempted to try something that needs sunshine.

Tree ferns like a shady, sheltered site in the garden

  • Weeds: we don't always want them. Cut down on your workload by filling your spaces with attractive groundcover. Encourage your garden to look after itself.
Use groundcover planting to cut down on your weeding in the garden
  • Allow your own garden to invite you to relax. There are few Chelsea show gardens that don't have a tempting seating area. This is a vital piece of the space and one you will want to make the most of. Give yourself a ready-made seat and a sunny, sheltered spot. Even the tiniest space should have room for a chair.
  • Small garden? Don't forget the chair!
By Perfect Plants


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