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Did you know that RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the most famous show ot its kind in the word? It's undeniably wonderful, stimulating, inspirational and any other positive adjectives that you care to plant in front of its name. It's definitely the place to be in May each year. Why? ...
Because the little patches of land that are transformed during these few days of floriferous frivolity at Chelsea are diminutive garden wonders. They have been engineered and preened in order to create a tiny portion of paradise. Just like miniature gardens, but bigger. They are Honey, I shrunk the garden type of spaces. Let's face it, if you have seen the Artisan Gardens at Chelsea you will appreciatethat they do not represent the average suburban garden. Which is why designing them is such an accomplishment.
Chelsea gardens, by and large, have room for real people instead of models. They have seats that beg you to sit in them, even though the rope keeps the public at bay. There are cooling pools that seduce you and plants that make you salivate. The planting combinations look so luscious that you are immediately fuelled with a desire to scamper straight home with hoards of the same perennials. The space is exuberant. The relationship of greenery, flowers, shrubs and trees and their associated colours with the spaces between them are enchanting. In other words, the structure of the place into which they have been lovingly placed, works.
Just imagine the right old dog's dinner that could be created if you bundled random plants into a flat plane measuring just five paces by four. It's the size of some people's front door porch or conservatory. Only slightly larger than a standard car-parking space. What would you do with a hearty patch of England's sod when faced with a blank canvass (and hopefully a generous sponsor)? This is where an imagination and an understanding of hard materials as well as soft comes into play. Step forward the garden designer who can manipulate a nice soft pencil as well as s/he can wield a sharp pair of secateurs and a stainless steel spade.
Luckily, most visitors to RHS Chelsea don' need to worry themselves with all this planning angst. They are there purely to soak up the ideas, the entertainment, the wonder of the place and, hopefully, the sun. The one thing people share, from both sides of the rope divide, is a love of plants. And this is the thing that will be fully satiated.
So what's been trending at Chelsea during recent times?
If you need to find only 10 reasons to visit, here they are:
- The graceful perennial Aquilegia with its hooded, delicate blooms and pastel tones.
- Vertical spires such as Digitalis; Lupins; and one of the most indispensable in the perennial border: Salvia in all its amazing forms - particularly Caradonna with its dreamy blue vertical spears.
- Wonderful umbels such as cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris); Angelica with its stately domed heads and the easily grown annual Ammi majus.
- Blousy Irises galore including bearded, Siberian and Water varieties.
- Roses, roses, roses with their fragrant beauty and classical elegance.
- Not to forget hydrangeas which always sell like hotcakes at Chelsea. Last years RHS Plant of the Year, Miss Saori, will be available within the next two weeks from Perfect Plants.
- Holding the planting together are great structural forms provided by trees and shrubs such as the indispensable Buxus which is still a firm favourite, even despite box blight. It has been admirably substituted in many places by Ilex crenata and even Teucrium x lucidrys. The latter has become known as Charlies Choice after Prince Charles used it at Highgrove to replace his box hedging.
- Its the pruning forms that dominate the atmosphere of the spaces. For example, hedges in the air created by pleaching; evergreen hedging; topiary balls; spirals and cones.
- Green walls and roofs biodiversity is often at the forefront of modern Chelsea gardens - hurrah.
- Wonderful natural stone paving; brick and timber buildings and other structural wonders that give sense and meaning to the design.
Of course Chelsea provides far more than just 10 reasons to visit, but who needs any excuse for some personal indulgence? Call it garden research; therapy; education or just pure fun. There's an opportunity to buy what you see; to sit; to eat; and to drink up all the sights. Gardens are great, and this is the main event of the year. Enjoy!