The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is all over for another year, following a week of horticultural high energy. It was another year of immaculately high standards recognised with a flurry of gold medals being awarded to designers and plantpeople alike.
The overriding feel of the show gardens was of lush foliage and dappled light filtering through trees with woodland gardens very much in vogue with gold-winning examples from Andy Sturgeon’s M&G Garden (Best in Show) and The Duchess of Cambridge’s RHS Back to Nature garden (not judged).
THE M&G Garden designed by Andy Sturgeon – winner of Best in Show
An awareness of plant health and responsible plant choices and planting plans was a repeated message as highlighted in Sarah Eberle’s Resilience Garden and also underlying Chris Beardshaw’s Morgan Stanley Garden with his rescuing of a rejected, wonky Pinus nigra to star status.
Smaller gardens in the Spaces to Grow and Artisan sections gave plenty of inspiration with exquisite examples from young Japanese designers Kazuto Kashiwakura and Miki Sato for their Kampo No Niwa garden using plants from the island of Hokkaido, all with medicinal qualities. And Spaces to Grow category winner Joe Perkins’s garden for Facebook proved a big hit as the sun came out, complete as it was with gentle lapping waves and coastal habitat plantings.
The Artisan gardens are always popular with visitors and this year’s category winner was the Family Monsters Garden, designed by Alistair Bayford. This refined space features birch and hazel to create an enclosed space centred on a tranquil water feature and wooden bench. The message was one of family time together as a way to overcome stresses and strains.
Iris sibirica in intense blues, buttery yellow Trollius x cultorum ‘Cheddar’, evergreens – particularly pine trees in various shapes and sizes and a rather striking Gunnera killipiana originating from Guatemala on Andy Sturgeon’s garden following a trend for big, bold, textural foliage.
People’s Choice winners
The end of the week brings a second sense of anticipation with the announcements of the People’s Choice votes. This year’s winners were:
Show Garden: Welcome to Yorkshire
Mark Gregory’s masterful evocation of a canal, complete with huge lock gate and gate keepers cottage. Mark won People’s Choice last year and once again it wasn’t hard to see how the story he told with this garden, the audacity of construction and skilful planting stole visitors’ hearts.
Space to Grow Garden: CAMFED Garden: Giving Girls in Africa a Space to Grow.
Designed by Chelsea first-timer Jilayne Rickards, the garden highlighted the opportunities to develop climate-smart, sustainable agricultre led by women farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Full of intriguing yet nutrient rich edibles such as sweet potatoes, taro, the Natal plum and okra, the planting beds surrounded a classroom emphasising way in which the education of women can break the cycle of poverty. The garden is to be relocated to the Eden Project.
Artisan Garden: The Donkey Sanctuary: Donkeys Matter.
Designed by Christina Williams and Annie Prebensen, this artful little garden aimed to spotlight the vital role donkey play in assisting access to water in countries such as Namibia, Lamu, and Ethiopia. The planting was both fragrant and eyecatching with bright spots of purple from lavender, allium and iris standing out against the rich green of Pinus parviflora ‘Glauca’.
It was a confident yet thoughtful show, reminding us that the choices in our gardens really do have an impact on the health and wellbeing of us both as individuals and also the wider environment.