Tuesday, 24 May 2011

My Chelsea shopping list

My only regret about my day at Chelsea Flower Show yesterday was that I didn't get to a betting shop. For the second year in a row I predicted (along with most other people, I'll admit) that Cleve West's Telegraph Garden would win best in show. And it most deservedly did. But I didn't put any money it. Shame, but well done Cleve.
My snap below doesn't do it justice. Although it's a show garden, built to last a week, it has the quality of a garden that stays with you and makes you want to return to spend time in it. I loved the sculpture columns and the jewel-like planting - acid sharp colour combinations of  flowering parnsip (Pastinaca sativa) fennel and valerian, and achillea, punctuated by pockets of the heart-stopping ruby-coloured Dianthus cruentus. Cleve, I think you might have launched a dianthus revival, and a new planting trend this year: no big drifts and blocks of colour, nor a prarie-style meadow a la Piet Oudolf. This planting was like a new, natural take on the mediaeval-style flowery mead - it felt fresh and contemporary. I think we might be seeing more of this. 

Of other hot of the press horticultural fashion must-haves this year: flat topped trees - the mulberrys in the B&Q garden were gorgeous.

Green walls are now positively commonplace, as are bug hotels. But in between dodging the hefty gusts of wind and accompanying pollen dust from the plane trees (you could tell when it got people right at the back of the throat as the showground reverberated with polite Chelsea coughs), there was much to covet.
I would like to have taken home with me most of the Kevock nursery display, the scent of the Dutch hyacinths and these plants I'd not really come across before:

Phlomis tuberosa, 'Bronze Fleming'

This Cirsium heterophyllum that is bigger, pinker and more upright than rivulare, although Alys Fowler told me they flop badly in the rain.

And this Geum tangerine that was one of those plants that seemed to crop up in lots of gardens and nursery stands. Here it nestles next to one of Nigel Dunnet's dry stone walls.
I would love some of Tom Hoblyn's beautiful Italian lava pots with a pale glazed interior so that they look like rock pools; I heard him say they are about £1000, so I'll have to buy a lottery ticket for those. I also loved the lovely burnished steel pot in the Power of Nature urban garden.

Things I'd leave behind - the crazy golf landscaping in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne creation (surprised it got a gold). The crane that lifted Diarmuid Gavin's pod - couldn't it have sat on stilts? And those partition walls in the Bradstone urban garden.

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