Delicate drifts of perennial planting, wild flowers and grasses defined many of this year’s Chelsea show gardens. Black and blue were the colours of the day interspersed with pulsating purples, vibrant pinkyreds and striking spires of yellow Lupins (Lupinus ‘Chandelier’) – the choice of Italian designer Luciano Giubbilei. My choice of the show is the Asphodeline lutea (King’s Spear) with its star shaped yellow blooms found in Cleve West’s Contemporary Paradise Garden. This hardy perennial does well in sun or partial shade, and has blue-green grass-like leaves all year round with fragrant yellow flowers in late spring.
Many of the plants featured in West’s gravel style garden will be familiar to visitors of Beth Chatto’s dry garden which to my mind inspired much of the planting though West cites Christopher Lloyd’s Great Dixter garden as being his influence. Many Chelsea designers seem to have opted for similar choices in planting styles and it makes you wonder whether they consort before putting together their creations! Digitalis with its tall bell shaped flowers, and another of my favourites Aquilegia with its bee pleasing flowers and wonderful foliage both featured strongly. Other favourites with the designers were feathery petite grasses, and the staple of every garden the Euphorbia and fern. The trend for sculpted topiary continued in the form of square box (Buxus sempervirens) in the “Hope on the Horizon” garden designed for the charity Help for Heroes along with impressive Hornbeam shaped balls in Giubbilei’s garden created for Laurent-Perrier which won best in show. Here are a few of my other favourites :
- Cerinthe purpurascens (Honeywort), a self-seeding annual which featured in Cleve West’s garden. Great colour and unusual silvery leaves with purple hanging bells. Sarah Raven describes it as one of the best annual foliage plants. Tend to agree.
- Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’ (Brook Thistle) offers fantastic colour and loved by bees. Looked fantastic in the WellChild garden. The bees definitely gave it the thumbs up.
- Grasses: Take your pick from – Deschampsia flexuosa, Melica ciliate or Melica altissima ‘Alba’. West and Giubbilei used both to great affect.
- The Astrantia – a clear winner in my eye. Choose from Astrantia major ‘Claret’ or Astrantia Rome. The former looked great in the Vital Earth – The Night Sky garden. Its young designers Harry and David Rich also included the fantastically named Astrantia major subsp. ‘Shaggy’ in their scheme. Possibly influenced by Scooby Doo!
- Camassia leichtlinii – known as camas this statuesque perennial offers tall spires of creamy-white, star-shaped, long lasting flowers.
- Geums are back in fashion with show garden designers choosing from: Geum ‘Borisii’, Geum ‘Lemon Drops’ or Geum ‘Mrs Bradshaw ‘.
- These are set to become really fashionable. Pick from this delightful double act: Baptista Australis AGM or Baptitsa ‘Purple Smoke’. Otherwise known as the North American wildflower – with stunning flowers and pea-like foliage. The Cloudy Bay garden, one of my favourites, used the Baptista Australis to great affect.
- Chelsea wouldn’t be Chelsea with an Iris or two. Take your pick from this irresistible trio: Iris germanica ‘Dutch Chocolate’ or Iris ‘Persimmon’ or the aptly named Iris ‘Perry’s Blue’ which Hugo Bugg, gold medallist used as a drift for his rain garden for the Royal Bank of Canada.
- The poppy is never out of fashion and is particularly symbolic with the four year commemoration of World War One. This one I particularly liked: Papaver ‘Patty’s Plum’. They don’t last long but they certainly have a place in any garden.
- Salvias were certainly in vogue and give great definition to any design. This was my favourite: Salvia x sylvestris ‘mainacht’ – amazing purple spears.
- The Allium is just like the Iris – ever garden must have one. The bigger the globe the better….try out the Allium cristophii.
- Last but not least: Centaurea montana – known to us all as the cornflower. No wild garden is complete without one.
Choose your Chelsea plants at www.crocus.co.uk/chelsea and enter this code 90224 at the check out to get 20 per cent off all plants. Offer ends on May 31st 2014.