Chelsea is all about rocks and colour this year. Stone features on many of the gardens and there are vibrant, paintbox shades in every part of the Great Pavilion.
Cleve West’s celebration of the rugged landscape of Exmoor manages to combine huge pieces of Forest of Dean stone with soft, easy-on-the-eye planting without making either look out of place.
Rosy Hardy has circular gabions filled with stone that mimic a dry chalk steam bed; Hugo Bugg creates bold geometric shapes in shades of black and grey; and in the Fresh gardens, Propagating Dan has balanced a five-tonne boulder on the roof of a pavilion in ‘The Garden of Potential’.
A talking point among visitors though is Diarmuid Gavin’s nod to British eccentricity. The strains of ‘In an English Country’ garden float over the show as window boxes go up and down, topiary twirls and plants process around the garden’s house. It ticks few boxes in terms of inspiration for home gardeners but as a spectacle it is unbeatable and won silver-gilt.
In the Great Pavilion, Marks and Spencer introduces a carnival atmosphere with vibrant blocks of colour in a display that is high on impact.
Heucheraholics are bringing a sense of fun to the humble garden shed, repainted in primary shades and festooned with heucheras, there are hyacinths and tulips in lipstick shades, and the New Covent Garden Flower Market has a nod to the Queen’s birthday with a display that combines cool green and white on one side with 3D colour on the other.
And this year, the usual splashes of scarlet from the Chelsea pensioners are dwarfed by the great swathe red poppies in front of the Royal Hospital.
It’s been a different Chelsea: the sun shone – a welcome relief after last year’s deluge; press day was quieter due to fewer passes being issued; the Main Avenue gardens showed a welcome individuality. What hasn’t changed is the buzz around the showground and the crowds pouring in as soon as the gates opened this morning.
Key results and the Cotswolds
Best show garden: The Telegraph Garden by Andy Sturgeon
Cheltenham’s Chris Beardshaw added to his gold medal tally with his garden for Great Ormond Street Hospital, sponsored by M&G. Peter Dowle saw the garden he built for L’Occitane win gold, while Lichen Antiques supplied the Forest of Dean stone for Cleve West’s gold medal-winning garden and Westmorland stone for the Royal Bank of Canada Garden, which got silver-gilt. Avening sculptor Giles Rayner supplied a water feature for The Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, which won silver-gilt.
South Gloucestershire herb queen Jekka McVicar got silver-gilt with her first show garden and the Meningitis Now Futures Garden for the Stroud charity won silver-gilt in the Artisan Garden awards.
For a round-up of the Cotswolds’ input into the Chelsea Flower Show see here
In the Great Pavilion, Gloucester florist Katherine Kear led her team of florists from the Three Counties and South Wales to gold medal victory. Their display for the National Federation of Flower Arrangement Societies showed the influence of the Victorians on gardening. More details here
Here are some of my snapshots of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.
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