14 Things at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019

It’s thoroughly enjoyable at Chelsea Flower Show this year. I’ve placed bets (in my head) on who will win best in show but who knows what will happen at this point.

As everyone in the world now writes Chelsea trend articles I’ve decided not to bother adding to that list anymore but for trend lovers, in summary they are (possibly): sustainability, woodland, naturalistic, Irises, Camassias, Echiums (yay!), unusual species of foxgloves, conifers (yay!), vegetables (yay! especially hydroponics, not quite as yay), ferns (yay!), loving wildflowers (yay!), copper still rocks everyone’s world, bonsais (yes bonsai – yay!) and pairs of chairs as opposed to tables. We recently chucked our table at home out and bought a pair of chairs instead, either making us on trend or trend setters. Somewhat out of fashion this year were lupins and alliums. It was as though lupins had been banished.

I do still want to share some of the things that caught my eye at this year’s show however as it’s become a bit of a tradition as the one article I’ve written every year since I first started visiting. Without further ado…

1) Soft hard landscaping

After a few laps of the Chelsea Flower Show grounds, as your legs tire, your mind gradually starts to let everything sink in and certain gardens and plants begin to float to the top. I’m a self-confessed fan of Jo Thompson’s gardens and from the off I was taken by the colour palette of this one. Soft apricots, beiges and copper browns are seen in both the pillars and chairs as well as the planting. The planting itself is so delicate with such an unusual selection of pastels. I can’t wait to revisit this garden when we visit again later in the week (aka tomorrow because yes I am that much of a Chelsea nut).

2) Ceramic painted concrete, who knew

Paul Hervey-Brooks, like Jo Thompson, wins gold medals for his show gardens all the time. Last year the two designers created gardens that were more subdued woodland gardens. This year they’ve both created gardens with a little dash of eye-catching colour. Paul’s features large angular slabs of rough cast concrete which is particularly attractive but made more so with ceramic images cast over the top. Apparently this is a first but I can guarantee this won’t be a last, I love it. The planting is of the usual high standard.

3) Vulcan homeworld

Chris Beardshaw is another veteran Chelsea Flower Show designer and his planting is always top notch (he won best in show in 2018). This year I was particularly taken by the huge leaning pine and the very stylish seating area at the back. The round copper circle embedded into the mottled blue wall and angular table… This is the kind of future garden Chelsea is about, opening our eyes to a new way of living.

4) Lean green planting machine

I have to admit that I really love it when a show garden has a strong colour scheme because it makes such an instant impression. Kate Gould wins gold medals constantly and this year I suspect she’ll add another with this cutting edge design for the Green Fingers charity. I’m always impressed with the way Kate pushes the use of modern materials in the garden, really making it seem like the inside has spilled out. Here the green tiles and calm white, yellow and green planting palette works wonders.

5) Oy Oy – Cypripedium calceolus

If Andy Sturgeon thought us eagle eyed orchid lovers would miss the lady slipper orchids… well of course he knew we’d spot them and it was fun to see them at the front. A garden overloaded with tropical plants including a particularly unusual…

6) Gunnera killipiana

I say no more.

7) Timeless spaces

Andrew Duff’s garden caught my eye for a few reasons, first the sculpture emerging from and reflected in the pool is particularly beautiful. Then, as you stare, the water shimmers with little metal leaves that flip up in a wave. Finally, my favourite bit was a lawn area lined with stone leading to a peaceful seating area overlooking the space. This combination of grassy planting between tightly packed stone is quite interesting.

8) Umbilicus rupestris

Navelwort is a native plant found in damp areas of South West Britain and it featured prominently on a large tree trunk in the garden designed by Andree Davies, Adam White and HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.

9) Sansevieria ‘Metallica’

A couple of weeks ago I was asked by homeware store One World to manage the planting design for their beautiful stand and when they mentioned tropical style, I couldn’t resist. In that time I found some awesome and unusual plants and top of that list must be Sansevieria ‘Metallica’ a truly beautiful silver plant that’s fairly rare in cultivation. Rather than bigging up my work, here I am bigging up this plant.

10) Sweet smell of donkey

If someone said I’d smell the Donkey Sanctuary garden by Annie Prebensen and Christina Williams before I saw it I’d have been wary, yet the waft of lavender from this garden was a real pleasure. Leading to some beautiful planting.

11) Forgotten forge

The Donkey Sanctuary wasn’t the only scented Artisan garden this year, Graham Bodle’s forgotten forge had a wood burning stove (sod those rules about burning stuff in London I say!) creating a lovely atmosphere around his rust themed garden.

12) Mind your backs

It’s become a running easter egg for Chelsea Flower Show fans (yes we exist) that the backs of the gardens are often as, if not more beautiful than the front. Sarah Eberle’s in particular took this to another level by genuinely looking like it had been there forever.

13) Back to back

Another garden designer with a beautiful back is Helen Elks-Smith with this beaut. The rest of the garden too is excellent.

14) Matching Echiums and foxgloves

Sarah Eberle’s garden is interesting for lots of reasons, not least for the large grain silo and whopping great trees including a Ginkgo biloba with its leaves still emerging (was it in cold storage?) It’s the sea of flowers however that knocks your socks off with red Echium russicum matching the foxgloves.

Overall this is already a great show with some really memorable show gardens. I think they’ve benefited from the collective dulling down of colour to create a more relaxed and welcoming vibe overall. If you’re going, the above is but a mere snippet of things to see across the show and I haven’t even touched on the giant tent (sorry pavilion). Have a fantastic time everyone!

Jack

When your outfit matches Tom Stuart-Smith’s show garden (photo: Philip Oostenbrink)
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Jack Wallington

I'm an RHS qualified garden designer living in Clapham, London who loves growing plants and designing with them. Follow me on Twitter.

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