The Greatest Flower Show on Earth - The Design
Friday, 6 June 2014
Like any design led pursuit personal style grows over time and shifts with what's en vogue, so it is with gardening. Enter The Chelsea Flower Show. If Chelsea were a fashion week it would be NY, London, Paris and Milan all rolled into one glorious spectacle. It's a firework display of horticultural perfection and design genius. Visitors gasp in awe and in some cases quietly snub their disapproval as the vista unfolds around them, but the one thing that everyone has in common is the desire to be inspired by those at the peak of their profession.
The show gardens this year were magnificent, almost without exception. There was also a remarkable coherence with regard to the planting schemes. A similar use of colour flowed from one garden to the next and all used foliage and texture to great advantage. Of course I have favourites, which this year are The Telegraph Garden designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz and A Garden for First Touch at St. George's designed by Patrick Collins.
The Telegraph Garden is a formal garden that reinterprets classic Italian and English style for the modern era. I love how the sculpture within the garden is mirrored in the planting. The lightly clipped hedge and pleached trees frame the boundary as well as adding height and structure. The shape of the chairs is fluid, curved like the topiary while the buxus (box balls) could almost be mistaken for ottomans. The linear nature of the garden is echoed in the perfect rectangular lawn. All of this textural form with it's architectural structure could leave the garden feeling stuffy and rigid but the thoughtful planting scheme softens the edges and brings colour and movement to the fore. The jewel coloured hues of euphorbia, iris, alchemilla mollis and gladiolus shine out from the borders while fennel and arching grasses sway and rustle in the wind.
The Telegraph Garden designed by Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz
For anyone who gardens on a slope 'A Garden for First Touch with St. George's' shows how effective terracing can be. The lush planting and informal steps reminded me of the hillside landscape in Vietnam, as viewed from a distance. With space in cities and towns at an absolute premium vertical planting is becoming ever more popular and with it you turn even a tiny basement courtyard into a dense green oasis. Terracing a plot also has the advantage of improving drainage on boggy ground or soil depth on thin chalk allowing for a greater range of planting options as shown in the pictures below where hosta and flag iris (both plants that thrive in damp conditions) are growing in the water and on the margins of the stream. Where as only a few meters away on the opposite side of the steps purple spires of salvia grow with thyme and grasses which will only thrive on free draining soil.
A Garden for First Touch at St. George's
For more information about any of the show gardens at RHS Chelsea 2014 please visit the RHS website.