RHS Chelsea 2017 – in among the flowers

Cotswold gardens are generally big on herbaceous perennials so I love the chance to see something a bit different. The Great Pavilion at RHS Chelsea 2017 didn’t disappoint.

From specialist collections by expert growers to striking floristry and innovative ways to display plants, there was plenty to see this year.

Here are just some of the things that caught my eye.

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The waterlilies on Waterside Nursery’s stand were serenely floating amidst all the bustle of the show.

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And I loved the shaggy heads of this Eriophorum angustifolium, a British native.

The orchid display by the Eric Young Orchid Foundation was attracting a lot of attention. This is Paphiopedilum ‘Saint Saviour’.

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There were some interesting ideas for plant displays. This is a ‘living wall’ of thyme created by using Wonderwall planters.

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Or how about these ideas for house plants?

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It was put together by Indoor Garden Design and Ikea.

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I loved the idea of hanging plants. This was above a bed.

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And this makes a change from a budgie.

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The British Florist Association is celebrating a century of flowers and this display was put together by floristry tutors and students at Moreton Morrell in Warwickshire.

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As usual, the Birmingham City Council stand was eye-catching.

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The Interflora exhibit had a lot of cameras out.

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Of course, if it’s Chelsea there have to be roses. This is Peter Beales’ display.

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The delicacy of ‘The Fairy’ is a change from the larger blooms I generally see.

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This is also a beauty – ‘Rose Ball’.

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I’m planting lots more dahlias this year and, looking at the National Chrysanthemum Society’s stand, I may be branching out into those as well. This is ‘Vanilla Sorbet’.

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I also fell in love with Fibrex Nurseries’ new yellow pelargonium ‘Rushmoor Amazon’.

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Gardens may have moved on from tulips but I couldn’t resist photographing this on Avon Bulbs’ exhibit. It’s ‘Hemisphere’.

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And I love iris but seem to have mainly purple. These from Cayeux are definitely on my shopping list!

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RHS Chelsea 2017 the show gardens in pictures

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 – the Cotswold link

RHS shows come fast and furious at this time of year and while RHS Malvern may have only just closed, work on building gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is nearing the final judging deadline.

And there’s plenty of input from the Cotswolds this year with exhibits from the region across the show.

The gardens

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Cheltenham-based designer Chris Beardshaw will be planting to the sound of music on his third show garden for Morgan Stanley.

Members of the National Youth Orchestra have produced a piece of music based on their interpretation of his garden and this will influence where individual plants are based.

“That piece of music will help to direct how we formulate the drifts of plants in the planting of the garden itself,” explains Chris.

The garden has three distinct areas and, unusually for Chelsea, can be viewed on three sides. At one end is a naturalistic woodland, while the opposite side has a formal sun terrace garden. Linking the two is a green oak asymmetrical building.

Like his previous two gold medal-winning gardens for Morgan Stanley, the design has been inspired by one of the three strands of the firm’s outreach programme.

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Chris on last year’s garden

The 2015 design looked at well-being and was part of a much larger community garden in Poplar. Last year’s garden, which was relocated to Great Ormond Street Hospital, focused on health and this year’s entry explores education, with a basis in fractal geometry.

“There is an assumption that nature is chaotic and a garden is ordered and in fact that could not be further from the truth. Everything in nature has a pattern and order it’s just that it does not necessarily conform to an artificial geometry that we impose,” says Chris.

And in a move back to his horticultural roots, he’s growing more than 2,000 herbaceous plants himself in borrowed glasshouses at The Nursery at Miserden rather than leaving it to a commercial grower.

“Looking after the plants is obviously very time consuming when we are so busy with everything else. And is quite challenging as we have to work with the changing weather conditions – holding back some species, while coaxing on others. But for me the planting is the aspect of any show garden creation I love the most and this year will be even more special and rewarding.”

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Sculptor Darren Rumley

Concrete isn’t usually thought of as beautiful but Darren Rumley turns it into art.

The sculptor from Stroud is making his RHS Chelsea debut on award-winning designer Sarah Eberley’s artisan garden.

Spotted by Sarah at the RHS Tatton show, he has been commissioned to produce a seat for her garden for Viking Cruises celebrating Gaudi and Barcelona’s modern arts movement.

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The Viking Cruises garden

“I am a massive fan of concrete as a material and his work stood out for me,” explains Sarah.

The glass fibre reinforced concrete will be shaped using a silicon mould to produce a sculpted seat.

“It’s something very different and not what I’ve done before,” says Darren, of One Artisan

With fewer show gardens than in previous years – eight down from 17 in 2016 – the RHS has brought in five gardens to fill the space, a move last seen in 2009 with the ‘Credit Crunch Gardens’.

Celebrating Radio 2’s 50th anniversary, the ‘BBC Radio 2 Feel Good Gardens’, which won’t be judged, will be half the size of a show garden and aim to demonstrate the role gardens have in promoting a feeling of well-being.

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Jo Whiley’s garden

Each has been named after a presenter and has a different theme. The Jo Whiley Scent Garden is designed by Tamara Bridge and Kate Savill, who have asked fragrance designer Jo Malone for help.

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Sarah Raven has designed Anneka Rice’s garden

The Anneka Rice Colour Cutting Garden is being designed by Sarah Raven and will concentrate on plants that can be cut and will flower again.

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Jeremy Vine’s garden

Matt Keightley is designing The Jeremy Vine Texture Garden with bold geometric forms against soft planting.

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The Zoe Ball garden

James Alexander-Sinclair is aiming to reproduce the feeling of music vibrating through your body in The Zoe Ball Listening Garden. While visitors won’t be able to hear the music of the last 50 years of Radio 2, it will produce patterns in the water feature and will be felt through the floor.

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Chris Evans’ garden

And Chris Evans will be broadcasting from his garden on Press Day. The Chris Evans Taste Garden has been designed by Jon Wheatley as an allotment-style plot with a range of fruit flowers and vegetables. Bake Off Queen Mary Berry has been consulted on the tastiest plants.

Great pavilion

The Great Pavilion will see its first fully revolving exhibit with a display by Linda Marsh from Cheltenham, which celebrates 60 years of the Hardy Plant Society.

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In another first, each plant will have a QR code to enable visitors to access cultivation notes via their smart phones.

“We want to show that we’re innovative and moving with the times,” she explains.

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Linda Marsh

Linda, part of the Worcester HPS, which was chosen to put together the exhibit, is using 60 different plants in a fiery palate of purple, red and orange, with highlights of white.

Members have been growing the plants since October both in their own gardens and in glasshouses lent to them by Cotswold Garden Flowers nursery.

Fibrex Nurseries are no strangers to Chelsea but this year will be extra special.

The nursery, based at Pebworth near Evesham, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its National Collection of Pelargoniums and fittingly the display will resemble a celebration cake.

Rather than its usual ‘against the wall’ pitch, the family-run nursery will have a free-standing display featuring pelargoniums in a tiered arrangement.

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P. ‘Rushmoor Amazon’

Among the four new varieties being launched, is ‘Rushmoor Amazon’, with large yellow blooms.

Another nursery marking an anniversary at the show is Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, which will be putting on its 25th display.

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100 years of The British Florist Association will be celebrated

Also celebrating is The British Florist Association, which will highlight its 100th anniversary with a 2.5m-high display using more than 6,000 cut flowers in pink, orange and green.

Visitors will be able to look through circles of flowers onto the RHS Chelsea Florist of the Year competition entries.

And Hillier is hoping to add to its 71 consecutive golds with a bold display, designed by Sarah Eberle, featuring a 4m-high metallic spring.

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The Hillier display is built around a huge spring

Weighing in at more than a tonne, the coils will span the length of the display and will carry water into a pond at one end.

There will also be a ‘Memory Tree’ where visitors can hang a signed copper tag with a book below for them to add their favourite garden memory.

Alan Titchmarsh will be the first to add his memory to the Davidia involucrata, or Pocket Handkerchief Tree, and tags added by other designers and personalities will be auctioned after the show in aid of the Wessex Cancer Trust.

And there’s also . . .

Cotswold flower arranger Jayne Morriss, from Brimscombe Hill, near Stroud, is making her 10th appearance at the show with an entry in the Enchanted Garden class of the flower arranging competition. She’s interpreted it as ‘Puck’s Hollow’ and is planning to create a green and white display with a small pool, delphiniums and roses.

Mickleton-based Phil Britt, a member of Chipping Campden and District Flower Arranging Society, is also putting his floral art skills to the test in the same contest.

Cotswold wire sculptor Rupert Till from will be displaying his garden artwork and Cheltenham sculptor Chris Lisney will be unveiling three new pieces at RHS Chelsea. One is a sphere with a branch and a perched bird, while the other two show girls, one dancing with a perched bird and the other balanced on a book.

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Chris Lisney working on one of his sculptures

There will be garden antiques from Architectural Heritage, based at Taddington, and artist Jaci Hogan, based at South Cerney, will be showing her flower paintings on everything from cards to tablemats.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from May 23-27. For more details, visit the website.

This post was updated on May 18.