Chelsea looks to the past for inspiration

There is something for everyone at this year’s Chelsea whether you are a garden fashionista or looking to the past for inspiration.

What is fashionable in the gardening world is at the heart of Chelsea Flower Show and this year’s show  (May 20-24) has a real haute couture feel about it as Gucci has sponsored a garden designed by  Sarah Eberle.

The garden takes Gucci’s Flora pattern, which was created in homage to Princess Grace taking her 1966 scarf pattern as its starting point and includes both planted and cut flowers.

However, I am most looking forward to something a bit more serious – the gardens marking the centenary of the First World War.

My great, great grandfather Henry Charge died in the First World War and having visited the war cemeteries of the battle torn Somme where architecture and gardening fuse together to provide a formal and picturesque approach to garden design – I will be interested to see how the garden designers of the present day reflect this

Birmingham City Council is joining forces with the gardening charity Thrive and the Royal British Legion to reconstruct the trenches, memorabilia and poppies, to commemorate the outbreak of war.

Somerset-based nursery, Pennard Plants, show two back-to-back gardens reflecting the changes before and after 1914.

While two further show gardens will address the idea of war in different ways.

“No Man’s Land”, by garden designer Charlotte Rowe, with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, takes its inspiration from the fields of northern Europe.

In contrast to all this period inspiration, Matthew Keightley of landscaping firm Farr & Roberts has designed a garden for the Help the Heroes charity, “Hope on the Horizon”, which tackles the war in Afghanistan.

The show has many highlights not least Alan Titchmarsh’s garden which has been hailed as giving the show a big boost.

Only last year’s centenary show, when Prince Harry was involved in a show garden, sold out slightly quicker.


Last year’s Chelsea will be hard to better


Last year’s Centenary show was a sell out.

His Chelsea garden ‘From the Moors to the Sea’ charting his journey from his native Yorkshire to the Isle of Wight, where he has a holiday home, is his first since winning a gold medal in 1985.

Titchmarsh’s ‘joyous celebration of our flowers’ will mark his 50 years as a professional gardener and the 50th anniversary of Britain in Bloom, the annual contest run by the RHS for the country’s most well-tended town.

The show will also see the launch of a new daffodil named Georgie Boy after the nine-month old Prince George. The daffodil has white, overlapping petals, which surround a bright yellow corona.

Others to look out for:

  • As a fan of seaside design and having spent a month living in a tent with two Labrador’s on Europe’s largest sand dunes I am looking forward to seeing Susannah Hunter and Catherine MacDonald’s garden. Inspiration has been taken from the Cape Cod landscape, particularly the sand dunes and sandplains associated with the seashore. The planting scheme makes use of native and naturalised plants.


    The designers planting scheme makes use of native and naturalised plants.

  • Brewin Dolphin’s choice of garden designer Matthew Childs, who is new to Chelsea this year offers  calm, tranquil spaces surrounded by fresh, lush planting featuring Hostas, ferns and grasses feature.
  • Chelsea would not be the same without Cleve West and his paradise garden could be the pièce de résistance.  He has gone back more than 2,000 years to create a garden invented by the Persians offering a space that uses water, shade to create planting for sanctuary and contemplation.     The M&G Garden is a contemporary take on this concept. Roots of the Tree of Life are engraved into stone wall panels, a simple metaphor alluding to the fact that our English gardening roots lie in ancient history. Check out the  use of herbs and medicinal plants.


    Striking lines in West’s garden of Paradise

  • The Italian garden also features heavily at this year’s show.    Designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes The BrandAlley garden has been inspired by the Italian Renaissance which has been used as backdrops for everything from fashion to film, and are still hugely popular with garden visitors and holidaymakers.  Designed by Tommaso del Buono & Paul Gazerwitz (del Buono Gazerwitz) The Telegraph sponsored garden is an Italian garden for the modern era, featuring some of the guiding principles of Italy’s great historical tradition re-interpreted in a 21st century idiom.