The Chelsea Flower Show 2014 is away and running with 15 main Show Gardens vying for gold medals and the Best in Show prize. Have a look through and then let’s see if you pick out the same design trends that I do. Not being at Chelsea Press Day this year, I sadly missed out on Benedict Cumberbatch visiting with his mum, the bikini-clad model sitting in a giant shell in the BrandAlley garden, Princess Beatrice wearing a very short skirt, and actor and comedian Rob Brydon heading for the bar.
I’ll lead with the Positively Stoke-on-Trent garden as I love this delicate, pastel cloud-like shelter that seams to float about it.
As I’m not at Chelsea this year so these pics come from my generous friend Charlotte Weychan, aka The Galloping Gardener.
The strong banding contrast in ‘The Extending Space’, designed by new comers Nicole Fisher and Daniel Auderset is also an eye-catcher. It also shows how little overhead work you need to create a sense of garden enclosure.
‘Hope on the Horizon’, sponsored by the David Brownlow Charitable Foundation and supporting ‘Help for Heroes’ is Charlotte’s favourite this year. Those heavy granite blocks look fabulous sitting amid the airy, wispy planting.
One garden design I liked a lot off the plan is ‘A Garden for First Touch at St George’s’ designed by Patrick Collins. It’s designed to raise awareness of premature babies, but for me it’s about the use of levels. I’d probably fancy a less fussy planting plan but then that wouldn’t be very ‘Chelsea’.
Another that’s caught my eye is the heavy copper-patinated arches in the Brewin Dolphin garden designed by another Chelsea newbie, Matthew Childs. In the original plan, they look like they were planned to be less blue and more verdigris, but I like the blue.
BrandAlley has moved up to Main Alley this year with a Paul Hervey-Brookes design for a Moorish-style garden. Hmm…maybe this is much more impressive and interesting in real life.
One if the favourites for Best in Show this year is the Laurent-Perrier garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei. True, it would make a lovely back garden but it’s not my favourite.
Another hot favourite for best in show is designer Cleve West and the M&G garden which apparently has something to do with turtles. It has an interesting octagonal central area which you can see more clearly in the plan below.
‘No Man’s Land’ (below) is a war-themed first Chelsea garden for designer Charlotte Rowe.
The UK Telegraph Garden designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz – I rather like this. The shape of the clipped shrubs makes them look almost liquid, like they’ve melted, and what a superb stilt hedge. Those tree trunks look as regular as milled timber.
Here’s a slideshow of the other main show gardens:
So my design trends from Chelsea this year? First, obviously, if you don’t have purple flowers in your 2014 planting scheme then you must have missed out on the designers’ ring-around. Except for alliums. Second is a conspicuous absence of built pavilions/shelters or ‘”the shack at the back” as it was called by garden columnist Tim Richardson. There’s a sense of enclosure but it’s suggested rather than a real building. And intermingled perennial planting is still de rigueur which, I have to admit, I’m pretty over as it’s about as anti-gardener as it can get. By that I mean it’s a garden catwalk fashion that’s can’t be created or maintained by us mere mortals – unless you’re aiming for a fleeting five days of brilliance à la Chelsea, and forget the other 360.
This year’s Chelsea Flower Show has a new scorecard-style judging system with gardens awarded marks for: overall impression – impact, originality, theatre, scale; objectives – have the design objectives been achieved; construction – material selection, quality, workmanship, finish; choice of plants – quality, colour, texture, plant association and relevance; overall design – unity, balance, creativity, and spatial awareness. For the first time this the teams will be given a scored sheet so they can see how they went in each category. This is supposed to counteract some of the ‘group think’ charges that have been levelled at judging results in previous years, notably designer Christopher Bradley-Hole’s diatribe against the 2013 Australian Flemings/Trailfinders win. I suspect it might open Pandora’s Box.