Back from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show I am fired up with inspiration and new ideas.
It fascinates me that there is definite “trending” in plants every year and this is very apparent at RHS Chelsea. This year there were the usual purples, whites and zippy greens, but there were more powerful splashes of colour using Primulas, Geums (Totally Tangerine and Princess Juliana), Irises and Foxtail Lillies. Grasses had a shout too (especially silver green varieties of Deschampia) and also ferns as foils were back in fashion. I was drawn to the sinister but beautiful darker ports and burgundies. There were the usual suspects of Geranium phaeum, Cercium rivulare and red astrantia contrasted with hostas and euphorbias. But there were some more unusual appearances from the gorgeous Papaver “Blackcurrant Fizz’, some sumptuous burgundy irises and the amazing Angelica sylvestris “Ebony”.
This year it was not the planting but the structures, walls and seating that inspired me the most. It reminded me that good garden design ought to be focused not just around the plants but also on features that contribute aesthetically and functionally.
Walls and fences are as important as staging to the cast of plants in the border and nowhere is this more apparent than at Chelsea. These seemingly impossible and impossibly expensive backdrops need not be reproduced but could be adapted and downscaled to fit in a more modest garden.
There is inspiration to be taken by Marcus Barnett’s De Stijl inspired panelling which acts as a backdrop both to the planting and seating. This could be reproduced using panels on an existing wall, by painting onto a wall, or even just etching black lines on a white concrete wall.
In contrast to the modernity of the De Stijl panels is this simple, rustic wall in the L’Occitane Garden. I love the contrast and “soft” texture of the wall that makes it a subtle non-intrusive backdrop to the planting. Again this would be easy to replicate in a quiet corner or along a boundary and would work equally in a town or country garden.
This “chimney” caught my eye – I love the use of the wall buttress against the wooden fencing – the dry-stone brickwork is cleverly repeated in the edging of the gravel path – and it adds height and solidity to the ethereal soft planting below.
In the Viking Ocean Cruise garden most eyes were upon the mirror sculpture. However look beyond to the purple panelling – this works with the wooden decking – the key is in the symmetry of all the pieces working together. This could be reproduced with formal planting of box and silver birch in a city garden, or would also work with a cottage garden border.
In addition to walls and fencing, most gardens incorporate a seat or seating area. Again I was inspired by how seating spaces were created as well as the materials and aesthetic design of the seats themselves. I think the best was seen in the L’Occitane Garden – I loved the deceptive simplicity of the layout of the garden and how the seating seemed casually placed under the shade of the tree, but was actually the focal element of the planting and framed by the walled rill.
This feature caught my eye and I love its duality. There is the modern and the traditional – i.e. the concrete on top of the rustic dry stone walling. There is the dual use of it being a wall and a seat together. Finally it would work as a standalone feature in the centre of a lawn as well as infront of or behind a border. Simple but multi-functional.
Although we can’t all have the wonderful outdoors room of Adam Frost or the fun and functional glass bubble of the Rich brothers we can always incorporate some design element from RHS Chelsea into our gardens. We love the “wow” factor plants provide because it’s not permanent – but surely we can incorporate a more permanent “wow” into our gardens with a seat or wall or path? Or it could be something subtle to compliment the ‘wow” of the our plants. It is far more do-able than perhaps we think.
Bye for now – Brett
Next blog “Wonderful waterfalls and water features”
All photos courtesy of the RHS – check out www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events/RHS-Chelsea-Flower-Show for more information and inspiration