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Chelsea Flower Show 2017 - My highlights

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Chelsea Flowershow 1The day begins as always with an early start, up at 4:30am, with the aim of arriving at the gates to Chelsea Flower Show by 8am to join the queue with other eager gardeners and show visitors. This year traffic was worse than usual so arrival was not until 8:30am but redeemed by an easy, queue free entry.

As our tradition dictates it’s the show gardens first, then breakfast, followed by the artisan and the fresh gardens. The afternoon is dedicated to the main show in the pavilion, all interspersed with ice cream, Pims or a decadent glass of bubbly.

It always staggers me how much raw talent exists, and as usual display standards were second to none anywhere you looked, from main avenue display gardens to educational displays by the children on the Miracle Grow programme.

 Now, I could write a book on my favourite things at Chelsea, not to mention spend a fortune! So let’s begin with the show gardens.

My favourite was the Morgan Stanley garden designed by Chris Beardshaw simply because of the three themes, woodland, Oak shelter and terrace came together so well. There was plenty of colour too contrasting beautifully with the winding gravel path. Structurally topiary Yew added height and foil for other plants to shine through. 

MorganStanley1      MorganStanley2 




The artisan gardens are a delight this year and therefore difficult to choose a favourite, so I’ll mention two that stood out for me.

The first was Gosho No Niwa (No Wall, No War) by the multi gold award winner Kazuki Ishihara. Now if I had a a water garden this is what I imagine it would’d have to look like. It is both a peaceful place for contemplation and can be viewed from any angle. I loved the sound of the waterfall and the planting using mosses, lichens, japanese maples, pine. 

No Wall No War1    No Wall No War2      No Wall No War3 

The second artisan was the World Horse Welfare garden depicting the plight of 'invisible' horses around the world. Planted in two halves with equestrienne friendly vegetation and also highlighting plants that are dangerous for horses. A clever use of the tiny space provided and the sculpture of the horse made entirely from rusty horseshoes was inspirational. A well deserved gold medal.

    World Horse Welfare1     World Horse Welfare2    

The Fresh gardens this year were joined by the BBC Radio 2 gardens and for me it was Aneka Rice’s Colour Cutting Garden that won through. This was definitely not a formal garden but packed with all the garden favourites, I could easily imagine sipping a glass of chilled white wine after on long day in this garden and even fill the house with cut flowers!

Colour Cutting1    Colour Cutting2      Colour Cutting3 

In the Fresh garden category the Breast Cancer Now Garden – Through the microscope had a slightly more formal layout with precision cut rectangular borders informally planted with Lupins, grasses and foxgloves with multi-stem maples providing the height and the 3 white hoops the focal point. A lovely stepping circle over a black pool gave great reflective properties to the garden. 

Breast Cancer Now1    Breast Cancer Now2      Breast Cancer Now3 

There were a few trends this year that appealed starting with ‘rust’. It has to be one of the best backdrops for planting schemes going. One that almost any gardener could incorporate into their planting plans. 

I absolutely loved this zinc style planter with the blue grass in seed against the rusty wall.



 Then there were the ‘sound troughs’ in the Radio 2 garden, vibrating as the hum of the speakers provided an unexpected water feature.




The sculptures and plants cast their shadows in the afternoon sun onto rusty ironwork. This statue a mere £9,000 for those with exquisite taste and a bank balance to match!





I too loved the insect houses, elaborate structures, providing homes for all manner of garden friends. 

    Insecthouse1      Insecthouse2     

Injecting colour into the garden has long been a trend and if proof were ever needed that this combines with the other senses to provide drama in a garden this year was no exception. Beneath the Mexican Sky used a beautiful combination of pinks, ochre and greens to really show what can be achieved.

    Beneath a Mexican Sky1      Beneath a Mexican Sky2     

Camassia is a real favourite of mine, that comes in colours ranging from purple to blue and white to cream. Thrives in a sun or partial shade and in rich moisture retentive soils. It can be purchased as a bulb and should be planted around 3-4 inches deep and 3-4 inches apart, pointy side up! Water well in dry periods. It also makes an excellent cut flower.


I adore the next plant, Mecanopsis,  from both a plant perspective but also from a photographic point of view. Its translucent petals are a dream with the sun behind them in the mottled shade. They are a relatively short-lived perennial, common name Himalayan Poppy, that is quite difficult to grow. They grow best in cooler, wetter areas and require a shady spot to avoid scorching. A humus rich soil is ideal sheltered from the wind and don’t let them dry out.  There some stunning colours including bright blue.


Lastly a Hydrangea, this one called ‘Fireworks White’ and they also come in Blue, Red and Pink. From Burncoose Nurseries it is a hardy plant over wintering in the UK well and grows to 3-5 feet high and 5-6ft wide so requires a reasonable amount of space. To keep them blue in colour use a blueing agent to keep the soil on the acidic side else the flowers my turn pink. Requires a well-drained soil rich in humus where they’ll thrive.


  Hydrangea1     Htdrangea2  


I hope this inspires you to get out into the garden and enjoy the sunshine whilst it lasts. I will be getting out and about to see lots of gardens where I really enjoy photographing plants, butterflies and dragonflies. Some of my work will soon be on display and for sale at Dragonfly Framing, Bicester. Dragonfly Framing provide a Picture framing service for your photography, artwork, or prints, conserving it for future generations to enjoy. Graham 


Thanks for visiting.


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