The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) announces some of the plant trends and stand-out themes at the world’s most famous gardening event, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 (24-28 May), sponsored by M&G Investments.
Peonies are a design favourite this year and roses feature prominently. Other popular flowers include alliums, achillea, foxgloves, irises, lavender and geum. Box Hedging feature in the plans of eight gardens including Charlie Albone’s ‘The Husqvarna Garden‘ but many clipped alternatives to box, such as yew and bay are also used.
Ferns are proving popular with some designers, while others have turned to plants such as Bracken and Horsetail to add beauty to a garden. Oak trees are a predominant feature being used by designers such as Cleve West.
Guy Barter, RHS Chief Horticulturalist, said: “Dramatically exotic peonies are set to be leading actors this year and have proved to be an interesting and exciting plant choice for designers such as Matthew Wilson and Hay Hwang. Roses are also popular, with Jo Thompson featuring the beautiful bloom. Rose-related enquiries topped our RHS advisory list this year and are much loved by gardeners.
“Pastel predominates as a colour, but there is a healthy amount of green seen in many of the gardens, with rich plantings of ferns. Ferns don’t tend to be readily stocked in plant centres, so I wonder if this will now change as people are inspired by what they see at the Show.
“A real point of interest is that so many oaks feature in plans – an iconic UK tree at a time when so much ash is suffering and oak processionary moth is moving into the countryside and tree disease Xylella fastidiosa, albeit one adapted to olives, is spreading in Europe – a subliminal concern for this tree perhaps?
“Based on our Gardening Advice service, our members may well be quite surprised to see some weeds in RHS Chelsea gardens – but everyone knows a weed is just a plant in the wrong place.”
For many visitors and BBC viewers, the most rewarding aspect of the show is picking out details for use in their own gardens and there are many notable projects, says Guy: “Jekka McVicar’s herbal lay for example, reminds me of some research RHS and Reading University conducted where low growing plants that are not grasses were used as permanent ‘turf’. A ley is defined as temporary pasture, often nowadays including forbs such as milfoil and chicory. Indeed why can’t gardeners grow leys as a kind of temporary lawn / wildlife / herbal border – they are often raised from seed and are low cost and wildlife friendly.”
David Austin Roses launches the new English shrub rose, ‘Roald Dahl’, which is named in honour of the world’s number one storyteller and marks 100 years since his birth as part of the official Roald Dahl 100 celebrations. Appropriately the blooms are peach-coloured, acknowledging Roald’s ‘James and the Giant Peach’, which was his first literary success in 1961. The ‘Roald Dahl’ rose is a remarkably free-flowering rose with the blooms produced almost continuously.
The ‘Princess Charlotte’ chrysanthemum by Deliflor is launching in honour of the royal baby. Other new plants include Acer ‘Moonrise’ by Hillier Nurseries, hosta ‘Smiling Mouse’ by Hogarth Hostas, vibrant and deep red ‘Cherry Kiss’ by Millais Nurseries. For a look at the full list of new plants visit:http://press.rhs.org.uk/RHS-Shows/Chelsea.aspx
Health, Happiness and Horticulture
Last year, the RHS Greening Grey Britain campaign was launched in response to the worrying trend of paving over front gardens. The growth of grey space, and decline of green, aggravates a range of environmental challenges, while the domination of grey, hard surfaces has been shown to have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing.
The RHS has teamed-up with award-winning designer Ann-Marie Powell to champion the health and wellbeing benefits of horticulture. The charity believes everybody should have access to a garden and the joy and happiness it brings. Ann-Marie’s garden celebrates the wide range of plants and tactics gardeners can use to promote health and happiness. Her garden includes: cacti, fruit and vegetables, wildflowers, fruit trees, herbs, a bug house, a kitchen garden, a compost bin, hanging baskets, house-plants, seedlings, and many more ‘take-home’ ideas.
Launched today, ‘Urban Connections’, a new Fresh Garden for the Victoria Business Improvement District, by design duo Lee Bestall and Paul Robinson highlights the growing issue of elderly isolation and showcases the role that high quality public spaces play in bringing communities and generations together.
Other exhibits that follow this theme include RHS Ambassador Jekka McVicar’s ‘A Modern Apothecary’ which champions the healing power of herbs, Chris Beardshaw’s collaboration with Great Ormand Street Hospital and ‘The Garden Bed’ by Alison Doxey and Stephen Welch.
RHS Chelsea provides an international stage for horticulturists and there’s even more of a theatrical feel to the show this year. At first glance, the ‘Harrods Eccentric British Garden’ designed by horticultural showman, Diarmuid Gavin, appears to be a beautifully gentle garden of terraces and topiary, but all of a sudden, the garden puts on a performance with mechanical buzzings and whirrings, a tower that erects, box balls that bob up and down and conical bay trees that begin to twirl.
Leading designer Peter Eustance has created an Artisan garden for disability charity Papworth Trust. Inspired by world renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and the ‘sea music’ produced by the women of the Vanuatu islands, Peter’s garden becomes a musical instrument. A water marimba – a giant set of musical bars – generate an acoustic pulse, while soft planting on either side of green oak monoliths will create a diaphanous, dancing screen that will sway to the music, with floral soloists adding to the horticultural concerto.
Other dramatic elements at the show include giant jagged bronze fins representing an ancient mountain range in The Daily Telegraph’s garden, by Andy Sturgeon and a 2.5m granite cube, which contains a garden, representing a world inside out by Martin Cook and Gary Breeze.
Futuristic v Traditional
Although RHS Chelsea represents the very forefront of horticultural design it is also a showcase for the traditional horticultural landscape. Find below the best of both.
Hay Hwang has designed the ‘Smart Garden for LG Electronics’. With an alternative approach to reclaiming our outdoor spaces, Hay’s futuristic garden aims to bring technology to the forefront of design with lighting, water features and audio-visual aspects of the garden controlled simply by the touch of a button – is this a glance into the future?
Other modern gardens include Paul Martin’s ‘The Garden of Mindful Living’ which represents a contemporary modern garden designed to be a calm space to reboot after a hectic day.
Jo Thompson’s garden for Qatari Diar represents a more traditional garden. Inspired by the first site of the Chelsea Barracks and the architecture of the new development close to Royal Hospital, The Chelsea Barracks Garden features roses interspersed with perennial planting throughout.
More traditional horticultural landscapes can be seen in gardens such as Matthew Wilson’s for Welcome to Yorkshire which celebrates the diversity of plants in the Region’s gardens with a series of beds.
Paying homage to nature
Along Main Avenue, a number of RHS Chelsea designers have been inspired by, or are recreating landscapes. The M&G Garden by Cleve West, for example, was inspired by his memory of the ancient oak woodland on Exmoor National Park where he spent his teenage years. The planting in Rosy Hardy’s garden ‘Brewin Dolphin – Forever Freefolk’, features planting that reflects the planting around the River Test near Freefolk in Hampshire, and will also showcase the ‘Right Plant Right Place’ mantra that Rosy works to.
Similarly, Sam Ovens’ garden for Cloudy Bay is inspired by the horticultural landscape of the Marlborough region in New Zealand and visitors can expect to feel transported to the lavender fields and stunted woodland of Provence, in France by James Basson.