Chelsea Flower Show 2013

30th May 2013

This year saw the centenary of the images/chelsea Flower Show; a significant year for the show but, in my opinion, not one that especially stood out from any of those that I have seen in the last two decades. The large show gardens were in the main beautiful, well designed and well executed as always, but none of them were exceptionally innovative or different from those seen at images/chelsea over recent years. Most designs followed the trend for clean, geometric layout softened with naturalistic planting. A prime example of this style was Robert Myers’ garden sponsored by Brewin Dolphin. Although the overall layout may have seemed rather harsh and corporate in nature, there were a number of features that helped to make the garden work as a whole. I particularly liked the sunken area of lawn and soft cushions of box interspersed with longer grasses, which brought an interesting dynamic to the space.

Garden by Robert Myers

Myers use of British native plants in the planting scheme was also skillfully executed. Cushions of clipped box provided the structure and solidity to the planting and contrasted with the light airiness of Lynchnis viscaria (sticky catchfly) and Anthriscus slvestris ‘Ravenwing’ (cowparsley). Additional texture was introduced to the planting in the form of the large silvery leaves of Verbascum thapsus (Mullein).

Planting in the garden by Robert Myers

Adam Frost’s garden for Homebase and the Alzheimer’s Society was also based on strong geometry, but its exuberant planting was effective in disguising this fact. The garden was designed to provide a connection between nature and food production; a place where people could garden and cook together. There were also a number of useful design ideas in this garden such as a bespoke steel and stone ‘cooking box’, which could also double as a seat.

‘Sowing the Seeds of Change’ by Adam Frost

The Swedish landscape architect, Ulf Nordfjell, created a garden that was meant to unite the classic styles of French and English landscaping. The garden contained many sculpted forms from upright oaks to wedges of clipped yews, domes of germander and clipped and unclipped lavender. Although certain aspects of the garden were beautifully styled, to my eye the garden was too linear in form with Mediterranean style planting on one side and more temperate woodland planting on the other.

Laurent-Perrier Garden by Ulf Nordfjell

Christopher Bradley-Holes’ garden sponsored by the Telegraph was inspired by the abstract pattern that appears in English landscape (field patterns and woodland clearings) and the Japanese approach to garden making. As a concept, this garden worked superlatively but it was not a garden to immerse oneself in. Instead, this was a garden for reflection and contemplation and to be viewed from a distance (in this case from a colonnade of green oak backed by charred oak panels). For me, the garden lacked soul but maybe this was because it was out of context and difficult to achieve the right state of contemplation in the hubbub of a images/chelsea Flower Show

Garden by Christopher Bradley-Hole

The theme for Chris Beardshaw’s garden for Arthritis Research UK was based on the emotional journey someone diagnosed with arthritis may experience from confusion and pain at the time of diagnosis (as represented by Anna Gillespie’s sculpture of a crouching bronze figure textured with acorns) through to an understanding and acceptance of the disease.

‘Homage’ by Anna Gillespie

The latter state is represented by the radiant garden with its colourful and exuberant planting which combines a brave mix of plants with orange, blue, yellow and pink flowers, including Californian poppies, borage, lupins and geraniums. This combination of plants shouldn’t work in theory, but somehow it does, with quite exciting results.

Chris Beardshaw’s Radiant Garden