Chelsea Flower Show 2016

The Cotswolds go to town

The Cotswolds are well represented this year at a Chelsea Flower Show that promises more than a touch of theatre with an 80ft train, an acoustic garden and spinning topiary.

Visitors will be greeted by floral arches over the Bull Ring and London Gate entrances, created to celebrate The Queen’s 90th birthday. The tunnel by Rock Bank Restaurant will be hung with more than 5,000 roses, and part of the Royal Hospital grounds will be carpeted in nearly 300,000 hand-crocheted poppies, a tribute to those who have served in war.

chelsea flower show
Floral arches will welcome visitors

Those with a pass for the Hospitality Village will see ‘Le Jardin Blanc’, created by Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brookes and former Hillier boss Andy McIndoe, using veg grown at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

Cleeve West returns with a garden inspired by Exmoor, the plight of modern day slaves is highlighted in an Fresh garden by Juliet Sargeant, and Diarmuid Gavin is again set to be a talking point with a garden for Harrods celebrating British eccentricity that will have bobbing box balls, patio furniture emerging from a trapdoor and twirling bay trees.

Elsewhere, hosta and fern specialists Bowdens are planning a display around a 1920s Belmond British Pullman carriage, disability charity Papworth Trust has worked with percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie to produce a garden of sound and award-winning Great Pavilion exhibitors Jekka McVicar and Rosy Hardy are both making their show garden debuts.

Jekka’s A Modern Apothecary explores the links between herbs and well-being with a palette of plants that will include fennel and chicory, which aid digestion, wild celery for treating gout and several red-leaved herbs, important in preventing heart disease. A herb lay – a mix of grass and plants such as sorrel and chicory – will be used instead of a traditional lawn.

chelsea flower show

She’s growing 90 per cent of the 15,000 plants needed at her South Gloucestershire herb nursery.

“I really want to show how fantastic herbs are as garden plants. They are the one group of plants that look good, smell good and do you good.”

After the show, the garden will be rebuilt at St John’s Hospice, London, which is sponsoring it.

Rosy’s garden highlights the fragility of chalk streams, under threat from climate change and pollution, and, if the pressure of her first garden wasn’t enough, she is also putting together the display for Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, the nursery she runs with her husband, Rob.

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Catching up with her at the recent launch of Allomorphic in Stroud, I questioned the wisdom of building two exhibits simultaneously at Chelsea and just weeks after exhibiting at Malvern.

“I try not to think about it all,” she admitted, adding that while husband Rob would put in the hard landscaping for the nursery stand, only she did the planting.

“Nobody else can put it together. It has to be me.”

Partly, this is because she has no detailed planting plan and there’s no ‘dry run’.

“I just go and paint with my plants.”

Here are some of the Gloucestershire designers, growers and artists taking part in this year’s show.

A life-changing disease

Designer John Everiss’ garden celebrates the 30th anniversary of Stroud-based charity Meningitis Now.

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The Artisan Garden depicts the life-changing effect of the disease with 3D wooden sculptures, modelled on real children, seen travelling across the garden from health, through a wall of disease to life after meningitis. One of the figures is seen reaching for help through the wall, another fails to reappear.

John explained: “It’s important that those who have lost children or young adults are represented in this garden as well.”

Country-style planting in pastel shades will be shot through with orange, the charity’s colour, while its Gloucestershire roots are suggested by the use of Cotswold stone for walls and a folly.

A garden for GOSH

There’s also a children’s health theme to Cheltenham designer Chris Beardshaw’s show garden, which is for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, sponsored by Morgan Stanley.

chelsea flower show

Designed to be relocated to a rooftop at the hospital, it relies on texture to create a soothing, green space for patients and their families.

There’s a central water feature and an interlocking Japanese-style pavilion with woodland planting, including acers, cornus and epimedium.

“The flowers are deliberately small and hidden within the garden and not blousy and ostentatious,” said Chris.

More colourful will be fabric on the seats, which is based on leaves drawn by some of the hospital’s young patients.

Bringing France to Chelsea

A small piece of Provence will be created at the Chelsea Flower Show with the help of contractor Peter Dowle, who runs a nursery near Ruardean in the Forest of Dean.

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He is working with designer James Basson to mark the 40th anniversary of beauty firm L’Occitane, founded in Haute Provence by Olivier Baussan. Last year, the same team won gold at Chelsea for their depiction of a perfumer’s garden.

Plants native to the region, including sage, small-leaved holly and thyme, will be used to recreate a scene looking across a lavender field to the rolling hills and woodland of the area.

Earlier this month, Peter won gold at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival with a Japanese-style garden.

Forest plays its part

Stone from the Forest of Dean will underpin Cleeve West’s nostalgic look back at the landscape of Exmoor where he spent his teenage years.

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Nearly 90 tonnes of undressed stone, including one piece of nearly nine tonnes, will be used along with polished pieces.

The stone has been sourced by Cotswold firm Lichen Antiques, who supplied gates and paving for Cleeve’s 2014 gold medal-winning garden.

“We’ve spent days and days in the quarry choosing the right pieces of stone,” explained the firm’s owner, Darren Jones.

The firm is also supplying Westmorland stone for Hugo Bugg’s Royal Bank of Canada Garden which celebrates the importance of water.

chelsea flower show

Influenced by a trip to Jordan, it will show how arid landscapes can still have beautiful flora.

Westmorland is no longer quarried and Darren was lucky enough to have the 15 tonnes needed in stock.

“It’s beautiful,” said Darren, “and works absolutely perfectly in this garden.”

Both designers had a ‘dry run’ at positioning the stone at a yard in Gloucester before it was transported to the Chelsea showground.

Inspired by pineapples

The number sequence that underpins nature has inspired a Cotswold water sculptor’s Chelsea Flower Show commission.

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Giles Rayner used the Fibonacci sequence as the starting point for a copper water vortex sculpture that will feature on The Winton Capital Beauty of Mathematics Garden.

“It was inspired by pineapples,” explains Giles, from Avening. “It’s got quite a complex shape.”

More of Giles’ work will be on show at his own stand, set into a garden designed by a student from Inchbald School of Design. It will feature a freeform hedge of Ilex crenata as a backdrop to the copper sculptures.

Florists head for Chelsea

Gloucestershire flower arrangers are also taking part in this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

Katherine Kear is leading a team building the NAFAS display in the Grand Pavilion, full story here

Meanwhile, in the floral art contest, Jayne Morriss is hoping to delight judges with a surprise.

The theme is ‘Garden Delight’ and Jayne, from Brimscombe Hill, has subtitled her arrangement ‘Twas Around the Corner I Beheld’.

“I think every garden should have a surprise as you turn the corner and this will be a beautiful planted urn”

For her ninth time at Chelsea, Jayne is planning an arrangement in pale pink, lavender and purple using delphiniums, peonies, roses and stocks.

Peacocks, pots and watering cans

Several Cotswold firms will be among the trade exhibitors at the Chelsea Flower Show among them garden antiques firm Architectural Heritage from Taddington.

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Their stand will feature period sundials and lead urns alongside their reproduction copper planters.

Cheltenham sculptor Christopher Lisney will be unveiling his twist on a traditional garden roller at the Chelsea Flower Show with a 7ft-high piece complete with a butterfly landing on the handle.

He has also reworked his popular watering can sculpture, adding a bird perching on the handle. The original watering can was shown at his first Chelsea visit in 2003 and is the only piece to have been on the stand every year since.

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Meanwhile, wire sculptor Rupert Till will be unveiling a new 8ft-high peacock on a hoop at the show. It’s part of a new range that has seen cockerels and parrots balancing on rings.

It is, he says, a way of putting a dramatic piece of art into even the smallest town garden.

In a nod to The Queen’s birthday, he will also have a fell pony’s head, while his popular boxing hares will be the centrepiece.

chelsea flower show

For information about the show, visit the RHS

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Reflections on the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2016

There seemed to be a buzz about the opening day of this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival. Perhaps I’m biased – it is my ‘local’ show and I’ve been nearly every year. Maybe it was the weather, which saw the garden designers using watering cans rather than pumps and visitors suffering sunburn rather than wind chill.

Certainly the show and festival gardens, which moved to a more central position a few years ago, now seem part of the show rather than an afterthought, while the Malvern Hills make a far better backdrop than the top of trade stands.

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The Malverns made the perfect backdrop

It was also good to see the Villaggio Verde entry doubling up as a theatre space; perhaps more thought could be given to having gardens that people can actually get into rather than gaze onto. Often it’s only from inside a garden that tiny details can be seen.

Mark Eveleigh’s unassuming Macmillan Legacy Garden took the Best in Show accolade, proving that large scale, big budget gardens are not the only route to RHS success. And it’s not that there was no competition as the other gold-medal winners were polished and varied designs that could easily have won.

malvern spring festival
No corner was overlooked on Mark Eveleigh’s garden

Space seemed plentiful in the Floral Marquee, although I’m assured the number of stands is down by only one or two on last year. The feeling is it’s probably due to a rejig in the layout.

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Southfield Nurseries won the Best Floral Marquee Exhibit award

What hadn’t changed was the variety for those of us with a plant-buying habit and the increased space did mean that getting around and, more importantly, getting up close to the displays was easy, particularly at the beginning and end of the day.

malvern spring festival
Peter Dowle’s garden has a contemporary Japanese theme

There certainly seemed to be more interest in Malvern: the press pack had more than doubled on last year and for the first time the festival was used as the venue for TV weather reports on Good Morning Britain and Midlands Today.

Alan Titchmarsh, returning after an absence of some years, described the RHS Malvern Spring Festival as having “come on in leaps and bounds”.

It was, he said, a place with “people who know about plants, people who understand what horticulture and growing and gardening are all about”.

Certainly the gardening public outnumbered the celebs and even those ‘faces’ seemed to be mainly the green-fingered variety.

malvern spring festival
Villaggio Verde’s garden was used for a display of Royal wedding bouquets

Pictures from this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival are here

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Alpines on show

Alpine enthusiasts will be putting on a colourful display when they stage their annual show in the Cotswolds.

Members of the Cotswold and Malvern branch of the Alpine Garden Society will be exhibiting everything from primulas and saxifrages to dainty species narcissi and fritillaries.

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The dainty blooms of Iris sinpers

Among the most colourful will be dionysia from Iran and Afghanistan.

“They make almost a perfect hemisphere of concentrated jewel-like colour,” says show secretary Eric Jarrett. “The are difficult to grow but so beautiful everybody wants to try.”

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Dionysia tapetodes ‘Kate’ is challenging to grow

As well as the competition classes, there will be plants for sale, photography and botanical art. Growers will be available to give tips on growing alpines.

The show is on Easter Monday, March 28 at Maisemore Village Hall, Maisemore, near Gloucester. Plant sales start at 10am and the show is open to the public from noon to 4pm. Admission is £3 and refreshments will be available.

 For more details visit: http://www.alpinegardensociety.net/groups/Cotswold-and-Malvern

alpines
Trillium nivale from North America

Pictures © Eric Jarrett