Catherine StewartChelsea Flower Show 2014 – Show Gardens

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.

Chelsea 2014 Positively Stoke-on-Trent designed by the City Council with Bartholomew Landscaping

Chelsea 2014 Positively Stoke-on-Trent designed by the City Council with Bartholomew Landscaping

As I’m not at Chelsea this year so these pics come from my generous friend Charlotte Weychan, aka The Galloping Gardener.

Chelsea 2014 The Extending Space designed by Nicole Fisher and Daniel Auderset

Chelsea 2014 The Extending Space designed by Nicole Fisher and Daniel Auderset

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, designed by Matt Keightley

Hope on the Horizon, designed by Matt Keightley

‘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’.

Chelsea 2014 A Garden for First Touch at St George's designed by Patrick Collins

Chelsea 2014 A Garden for First Touch at St George’s designed by Patrick Collins

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.

Chelsea 2014 Brewin Dolphin garden designed by Matthew Childs

Chelsea 2014 Brewin Dolphin garden designed by Matthew Childs

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.

Chelsea 2014 The BrandAlley Renaissance Garden designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes

Chelsea 2014 The BrandAlley Renaissance Garden designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes

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.

Chelsea 2014 Laurent -Perrier garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei

Chelsea 2014 Laurent -Perrier garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei

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.

Chelsea 2014 The M & G Garden designed by Cleve West

Chelsea 2014 The M & G Garden designed by Cleve West

Cleve west's design for M&G

Cleve west’s design for M&G

‘No Man’s Land’ (below) is a war-themed first Chelsea garden for designer Charlotte Rowe.

Chelsea 2014 No Man's Land - designed by Charlotte Rowe - this is her first year at Chelsea

Chelsea 2014 No Man’s Land – designed by Charlotte Rowe – this is her first year at Chelsea

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.

Chelsea 2014 The Telegraph Garden designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz

Chelsea 2014 The Telegraph Garden designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz

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.

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Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Creator, curator and editor of GardenDrum. Sydney, NSW.

4 thoughts on “Chelsea Flower Show 2014 – Show Gardens

  1. Julie Ayling on said:

    Great overview Cathy; thanks.

  2. Angela on said:

    Thanks for the Chelsea wrap. I appreciate you sharing.

  3. Christopher Owen on said:

    We know now that Luciano won, his garden looks lovely, though for me it’s not a patch on his 2011 effort where he teamed up with Kengo Kuma and Peter Randall Page. There is a beautifully illustrated book about it which I picked up from Gil at Florilegium.

  4. Alison S on said:

    Your comment about the purple flowers trend reminded me that my impression, while watching just a small fraction of the wall-to-wall Chelsea coverage on the BBC, was that this year’s Chelsea Flower of the Year was the foxglove (preferably white). A close second was the lupin – now apparently fashionable again after years in the gardening wilderness.. It’s intriguing how one or two specific plants seem to find their way into practically every Chelsea garden. I thought there might be a sort of mystical zeitgeist that pervades the gardening world when Chelsea entrants are working out their planting schemes, but then one of the gardening gurus commented (again, during the many hours of TV coverage) that sometimes one or more of the large growers let it be known that they have n100 perfect, guaranteed-to-flower-in-the-right-week-of-May Speciosa chelseania plants available at a knock-down price. Hey presto: this year’s Chelsea trend!

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