Last week I spent a wonderful day at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I came back full of ideas and inspiration for my own garden. I found myself stopping to just take in the beauty of a flower or display, oblivious to the crowds around me. Interestingly enough I completely failed to see the enormous Trailfinders Australian Show Garden which won Best in Show! However I didn’t go to Chelsea to be wowed by clever, conceptual designs. I wanted to find beautiful plants and ideas that I could use in my cottage style garden. Going to Chelsea is like going to an array of different art galleries in one place. You can choose to look at modern abstract conceptual gardens or you can choose to be inspired by the more traditional, simple artisan gardens. If you need to provide a leaflet for me to understand the concepts behind a garden design, the garden is not something I want to re-create. I want to create a garden which is peaceful, pretty, relaxing and simply beautiful to look at. With this aim in mind I spent a long time in the Great Pavillion admiring the flowers of the various nurseries and making a Wish List for my Future Dream Garden.
My Chelsea Inspired Dream Garden
Cottage Style Planting
I was particularly taken with the Horticolous show garden `The Secret Garden of Past and Present’.The garden takes you back to horticulture of 100 years ago, when the RHS Chelsea Flower Show first began, with plants and materials that make you feel like you have stepped back in time. In contrast as you take a look round the corner you step forward into the present day with new technology for growing plants and modern plants and materials. I like romantic, vintage, cottage style gardens. I like the idea of planting traditional heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables. They may not be as reliable or as resistant to disease but the flavour is unsurpassed. I may take on board the cottage style of mixing flowers among my vegetables. I am already trying to create an unruly herb garden with direct planting and the use of decorative pots. It’s lovely when you brush against herbs along the garden path and smell a wonderful aroma.
`Secret Garden of Past and Present’ by Horticolous Landscape & Garden Design
Our current garden is very open with a lawn, herbaceous borders and separate raised vegetable beds. I have created something very pretty, however there aren’t any `secret’ cosy, comfortable corners where you can relax with a book or a glass of wine. It is too open- plan. My dream garden would be made up of distinct areas broken up with climbers and hedges hiding secret cosy corners. Ideally I would like an artists retreat surrounded by roses! I was very taken with the artisan retreats at Chelsea. One day I will have a working artist’s studio, `a place to work and dream’ like Rob Ryan and Cath Kidston.
I love having a greenhouse, however we really do need some kind of roller-blind and ventilation system. I recently frazzled my seedlings on an unexpected hot day. I long for a traditional potting shed and cold frame in my Dream Garden. I admired the Gabriel Ash upright cold frame. At the moment each morning before work I take my seedlings out of the greenhouse to prevent frazzling in the heat and put them back at night. However this takes a long time. I can see that a cold frame which you just open up would save a lot of effort!
At the moment we have large high panel fencing. It is very functional, but it is not pretty! In my dream garden I would have traditional white picket fencing and hedges with plenty of berries for the birds.
I came home with a long wish-list of plants for my Dream Garden. Unfortunately I have planted so much in our current garden there isn’t room for much more! The flowers I lusted after most were the big blowsy peonies and old fahioned roses.
Peonies I have bought peonies in the past from my local supermarket which so far have failed to bloom. I now know that I would be much better off buying good quality container grown plants from a reputable nursery than dried out dusty cheap supermarket varieties. I had a lovely chat with the guys on the Binny Plants Stand who are specialist peony growers. `We are now planting in bigger pots which achieves better and more established plants. This means happy plants making happy customers, which makes us very happy too.’ I definately have my eye on `Coral Charm’. This variety has coral, peach semi-double flowers and is said to be the best coral peony.
Roses Most of you who follow my Blog will by now know I adore roses. At the last count I had 16 different varieties and I know them all by name! I must confess to buying 2 more at the weekend inspired by Chelsea. I absolutely love David Austin Roses. After fifty years of intensive breeding, David Austin’s English Roses combine the forms and fragrances of old roses with the repeat flowering of modern roses. They are very easy to grow, healthy and reliable.
Apart from the wonderful display of rose bushes there was a beautiful table set up for afternoon tea with David Austin English Rose Bone China and lovely cut roses. The whole display was absolutely delightful.
Although the roses and peonies stood out for me there were quite a few other hidden gems.
Alliums Dutch Grower W.S.Warmenhoven had a wonderful display off alliums. I have a few in my garden. I realised that they look better in eye catching sweeps or rows with underplanting. Mine tend to be dotted around the garden. In my Dream Garden I will have them in eye catching groups.
My absolute favourite bloom on the Warmenhoven stand was Nectaroscordum siculum. These plants have dozens of cream bells marked with green and burgundy, pendulously arranged in a loose head. The seed heads look like muli-turreted fairy castles.
Dahlias have enjoyed a great resurgence in recent years moving on from memories of plants for the working classes on allotment plots. They are now being used as feature plants and are a good source of late summer and autumn colour in any garden. I have no objection to growing dahlias among my vegetables. I think they are big, bold and cheery and make a stark contrast to stark decking and modernist planting schemes. The National Dahlia Collection from Penzance had a wonderful cheery display.Lets hope my dahlias bloom as brash and bold as these later in the year!
My dream garden would have clematis growing up an apple tree and over arches intermingled with rambling roses and honeysuckle. Unfortunately I forgot to jot down the name of these varieties at Chelsea this year so do post a comment if you know!
I liked the flamboyant pom-pom frilly pink ones contrasted with the other very delicate pink variety.
The last element of my dream garden would include quirky details. I was inspired by Kate Gould’s Show Garden `The Wasteland’. In this garden she regenerated an abandoned water pumping works incorporating industrial waste such as a bath tub and a shopping trolley into the design. I very much agreed with the design concept. The garden does `offer a sense of privacy; there are spaces to sit and relax under the canopy of trees, enveloped by small shrubs and pretty perennials, with the sound of water gently burbling in the background’. This garden has a quirky chair made out of a bath tub and screens made out of shopping trollies, but manages to retain a sense of calm.
I’m not sure I want an old bath in my Dream Garden, but I do want to create something individual and slightly quirky, whilst retaining the prettiness of a cottage garden.
So there we have it my Dream Garden inspired by Chelsea Flower Show. Do let me know what your dream garden would be like!