Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Chelsea: The Show Gardens.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit the Chelsea Flower Show last Tuesday. It was the first time I have ever been to the show and it was quite an experience! The coverage of Chelsea has been very good this year so I will not bore you with pages and pages about the gardens. I did not have one overriding favourite although there were several gardens that appealed to me. I have included a few snaps of the show gardens that sung to me the most. 

  Astrantia in The Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith

The Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith (complete with the film crew that just wouldn't bugger off!)

Tom Stuart-Smiths garden was very beautiful, well it would have been if it had not been continually full of film crews every time I fought my way to the front of the crowds to view it. It was a garden that conveyed calmness and serenity. It consisted of a small grove of Betula nigra on one side of the garden with two hedges of cloud-pruned Buxus sempervirens. Fresh spring woodland planting including grasses, euphorbias, Cenolophium denudatum, and blue Iris sibirica was used under the trees and around the pool. It was soft, sensual and delightfully unassuming, my only real problem with it was, more or a niggling worry about what the garden would be like when the spring flowers had died back? I was a little concerned that this was very much a one hit wonder, beautiful for a fleeting moment and then rather dull for the rest of the year.

The Kebony Naturally Norway Garden designed by Darren Saines was another very calm, peaceful garden. It was designed to reflect the natural beauty of Norway with the goal of being contemporary, durable and environmentally friendly.

 Peony in the Kebony Naturally Norway Garden.

It contained a huge 40 year old stunted pine tree set in larvikitt rock at its centre. I was particularly drawn to the glass installation in the pavilion in this garden and loved the use of colour and the way it was echoed in the planting such as the Aquilegia 'Black Barlow', and Meconopsis betinicifolia.

The Kebony Naturally Norway Garden.

 The L'Occitane Garden by James Towllis

Another garden to incorporate a large tree at its heart was the L'Occitane garden designed by James Towllis.  The garden recreates a little bit of Provence beautifully. It has incorporated herbs and flowers found in the the products of the natural beauty company into the garden. I trotted up to the garden to find a very jolly rather excited gentlemen in a hat explaining that they had rescued the enormous olive tree at the bottom right of the photo above from a building site and that they had it shipped over here especially for the garden, they thought it must have been at least 300 years old. The gnarled old tree looked very much at home in the garden which was as pretty as a picture. I must admit I was rather fond of this garden, it made me happy, just like the jolly chap in the hat who turned out to be the owner of L'Occitane (no wonder he was jolly)! I also thought the garden provided some welcome inspiration for gardening on a slope when almost every other garden in the show was flat.

The L'Occitane Garden by James Towllis.

One of the gardens I was looking forward to seeing before I arrived at Chelsea was Mark Gregory's garden for The Childrens Society. It was designed as a garden for teenagers to spend time and unwind with friends and family. When I saw the garden it certainly looked like a very sharp, well constructed place to hang out but it did not really do much for me, but hey I am not a teenager! Although I do very much admire the concept of designing a garden around young peoples happiness.

The Foreign and Colonial Investment Trust Garden designed by Thomas Hoblyn. 

The Foreign and Colonial Investment Trust Garden was designed on the theme of Voltaire's Candide by Thomas Hoblyn. It was if I am honest a rather strange affair. It had some wonderfully bold and exotic planting, which I rather liked and thought was more adventurous than many of the other gardens. However for me and many others viewing it the garden was just too gaudy. There were too many sculptures of naked women or bits of naked women and overall it came across as excessively busy -so sadly hot it was not! 

 The Foreign and Colonial Investment Trust Garden designed by Thomas Hoblyn. 

The Daily Telegraph Garden designed by Andy Sturgeon.

 Verbascum bombyciferum 'Polarsummer' in The Daily Telegraph Garden.

Andy Sturgeon's Mediterranean inspired gravel garden for The Daily Telegraph took best in show and understandably so. It was a dream to observe, full of tantalising colour combinations and textures that drew you in and made you want to walk up and down running your hands through the Stipa tenuissima

 The Daily Telegraph Garden designed by Andy Sturgeon.

Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'

His use of Corston Steel screens created a dramatic focal point which was cleverly tied into the garden with three large containers planted with the rust coloured Iris 'Action Front.'

 The Daily Telegraph Garden designed by Andy Sturgeon.

 Kazahana (A light snow flurry from a cloudless sky) designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara.

I was looking forward to the mossy one! Kazahana (A light snow flurry from a cloudless sky) designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara was however not quite what I was expecting. It was for me far too cluttered. I had hoped for more simplicity from this Japanese garden. There were some beautiful elements to it but alas for me all to many of them, there was so much going on I struggled to know where to focus in on. It was a pretty and very colourful jumble (I have followed Anne Wareham on Twitter talking about "Plant Zoo's" and when I looked at this garden I could not help but think of just that).

Kazahana (A light snow flurry from a cloudless sky) designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara.

I loved the moss, the cobbles, the Acer's but hated the Brachyscome 'Royal Blue' dotted all over the garden it really did not work for me. I was not entirely sure about the dicentra in the walls either...

Kazahana (A light snow flurry from a cloudless sky) designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara.

The Tourism Malaysia Garden designed by David Cubero and James Wong.

Finally the garden I most wanted to climb into, sit in and relax in was this cool and leafy number by David Cubero and James Wong designed for Tourism Malaysia. It looked like the perfect place to escape the sun and Chelsea crowds. A real bit of tropical magic.


Heather at Dusty Bay said...

Thanks for the tour around! Lovely and inspirational gardens, eh?

BernieH said...

Terrific photos. How wonderful that you were able to visit! I really enjoyed your photos of the L'Occitane Garden ... simply beautiful, and the Tourism Malaysia Garden ... all those magnificent tree ferns!

Antique ART Garden said...

Good Golly Molly, what a tour and commentary ! Great photos , wish I could have seen all these in person, but your tour was second to being there I am sure ! Thanks much ! Gina

Valerianna said...

Lovely journey... I spent the whole weekend in my garden, but alas, it just won't look like these!

Anonymous said...

That was a delightful visit. Thanks.

Rosie@leavesnbloom said...

well RO I hardly saw anything of Chelsea this year on the tv so it was great to see your photos and get your thoughts on some of the gardens. I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks that some show gardens are "one hit wonders" and would look boring for the rest of the year.

Anonymous said...

RO, Your comment on the Laurent-Perrier garden raised an interesting issue about show gardens more generally. There must be considerable pressure on show garden designers to fill them with plants that will all be in bloom for the show -- so maybe they're not great models for real gardens. Loved your pictures (even with the film crew :-)). -Jean

Victoria said... gorgeous...what a wonderful adventure!

BilboWaggins said...

Thank you for an excellent glimpse of Chelsea, and *superb* photos.

Deborah at Kilbourne Grove said...

RO, thanks so much for the tour, I loved it. We do not get much coverage on Chelsea on this side of the pond, thankfully you keep us up to date on what is happening. Loved Tom Stusrt-Smiths garden, I could see something like that at KG, formal, but with some softness, loved it.

Sara Johnson said...


Your pictures are stunning as usual!

HappyMouffetard said...

Great photos - so nice to see some of the details of the gardens, and close-ups of the flowers they used.

Anonymous said...

Really liked your analysis of what you saw and agreed with much of it.

Stunning photos, but I guess with you that is a given!
Best Wishes

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

Great pics and I love your take on the gardens too. It's nice to read about a gardener's POV instead of all that media jazz we're fed via telly.

Melissa said...

Wow! You did a wonderful job both in critiquing and photographing the gardens. (Don't you hate those selfish photographers with their tripods who won't get out of your line of vision?). The L'Occitane and Daily Telegraph gardens are my favorites. Thanks for sharing with all of us Yanks!

Rothschild Orchid said...

I am so pleased you have all enjoyed the pics. If you only knew how crowded it was. It was such a struggle to get to the front of each garden and then try and take some decent shots without getting elbowed out of the way or trodden on. I think I have had my fill of show gardens for this year, perhaps by next year I will have forgotten what a struggle it was and be full of enthusiasm again to go in search of design inspiration.

RO xxx

joey said...

Your tour is breathtaking, RO! It has always been a dream of mine to visit the Chelsea Flower Show ... through your fine photo/journal, I feel as though I have been there. James Towllis - L'Occitane garden especially grabbed me. Thank you so much. I'm in awe!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the lovely tour. I appreciate it even more after hearing how crowded it was! I loved L'Occitane. From the pictures, I think it was my favorite.

Barbara H.

britgirlknits said...

Hi RO,
I am thrilled to see your superb photos..what camera and lenses do you use?
The photos of the gardens are transporting me back to my visit on wednesday, but your shot of the yellow verbascum is a triumph!

Rothschild Orchid said...

Hi Gardenlife,

Thank you so much for your kind words, I really loved that yellow verbascum, such a gorgeous colour.

I am using a Canon EOS 500 D and for the close up shots such as the yellow verbascum a Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG Macro lens.

RO xx

Richard Barrett said...

Gosh, viewing all this I almost feel I was there!

Watched the coverage on the Friday night and was pleased to see someone I knew - Olivia Stuart who was one of the young desingers planning gardens for next year. She is the daughter of a Botany Prof. But don't shout nepotism as, as a family they have had it really tough, and she has worked her way up the hard way.

lostlandscape (James) said...

Amazing gardens! Chelsea is definitely at a much higher standard than our local garden shows, most of which look like the plants had been dragged from a nursery the night before and planted without a chance to even begin to mature.

Juliet said...

I've only just had time to read this post, RO - the photos are gorgeous and several showed bits of gardens which weren't on the TV coverage or on the pics on the RHS website - thank you for struggling through those crowds so your readers didn't have to!

I'm not a twitterer and hadn't heard the "plant zoo" discussion, but I love the expression :-D I also, however, love gardens stuffed full of plants and dislike "less-is-more" ones, so I don't think my taste overlaps with Anne W's at all!

Andrea said...

Thank you very much for letting us peep through an otherwise impossible visit. All the gardens you posted are delightful and seemingly already there for a long time, as if not new. The delightful effect on us are especially because of the awesome photos.

Richard Barrett said...

Just read this in the local newspaper, Olivia won the chance to design a garden at Tatton Show, not next years Chelsea. Did not listen properly.

Rothschild Orchid said...

What a fantastic opportunity, she must be thrilled. I shall keep an eye out for her garden at Tatton.

RO :o)

Unknown said...

I try to get to chelsea once every few years and always enjoy it, despite the crowds, the lack of space, the un-reality of it all,but there's still nothing like it. Lovely post,thanks