This is a very personal garden as Chris suffers from arthritis. Â The design reflects this; itâs very enclosed, surrounded by dense hedging so thereâs going to be a fair amount of neck-craning when the crowds come to see all the planting. There are three distinct areas â woodland, white and, most exciting, a sunken, âradiantâ area with Iris âSupreme Sultanâ, Lupinus âMasterpieceâ and Oenothera versicolor.Â Very calm and quiet, with a focus on contemplation â Iâm going to want to sit reading a book in the woodland area, full of foxgloves, trillium and a beauteous corydalis called âBlackberry wineâ.
This garden has had lots of publicity (Sentebale is Prince Harryâs charity which was inspired by and aims to raise awareness of the children and orphans of Lesotho. Central to the garden is a circular pavilion with steps and the planting is chosen to mimic the evergreen foliage of the local mountain scrub. Jinny Blom has collaborated with the royals at Chelsea before when she designed a garden in commemoration of HRH the Queen Mother in 2002. Now âscrubâ is not immediately appealing to a lush-loving creature like me, but then this garden also promises a âdamp valleyâ area with Ajuga repatans, Myosotis arvensis and that Chelsea favourite, Anthriscus âRavenswingââŚthis makes me feel an awful lot better.
This is all about the âsustainable regenerationâ contained within the âlegacy promiseâ of last yearâs Olympic Games. Donât glaze over; the language may be boring, but the garden is anything but. The new neighbourhood in East London, represented by this garden, opens later this summer and will, we very much hope, set a new standard for modern living, with plenty of quality green space. There is much emphasis on textural planting, using unusual-to-Chelsea shrubs like Enkianthus and rhododendron, set against what is tantalizingly referred to as âan herbaceous paletteâ. Hmmm. That said, Michael Balston won Best Show Garden for his 1999 Telegraph garden. He has been designing Chelsea gardens sporadically since the mid Eighties. I canât wait to see this in real lifeâŚsomething tells me itâs going to be a stunner.
Fresh from their Gold medal and Best Show Garden award courtesy of Cleve West last year, Brewin Dolphin are back with something completely different but no less exciting. The main architectural element has morphed from stone to timber, but the key ethos is the same: âbespoke and innovative, but firmly rooted in past traditionsâ. I love the sound of the planting, which confines itself to UK native species (as set out by the Natural History Museum), and the whole thing is brought to order with a âcornerâ of pleached field maples. The plants will be chosen for sun and part-shade and are set to show us how to âdo nativeâ in an ornamental way. Plenty of take-home here. I shall be frantically scribbling notes.
Anyone who keeps to a ratio of 80/20 planting / hard-landscaping is a hero in my book, and Philip Johnson is just such a person. He is hugely well-known down under for his innovative take on sustainable gardening, not only in terms of water management and planting, but also in his construction practices. Consequently, this garden promises to be completely âoff gridâ from build-up to break-down, and that means that power will be sourced from solar panels, and water will be filtered from surrounding sites through âbillabongsâ. I should probably find out what these are, but Iâm scared they wonât be as cool as they sound. Planting will represent the varied Australian landscape. We are promised native species, from âlush fernsâ to âbright kangaroo pawsâ. I am agog. In a good way.
A garden that champions sustainability and âusing whatâs availableâ is always attractive to those who are time and cash-poor, and Kate Gouldâs space looks to be full of brilliant ideas. The emphasis is on using whatâs lying around, making it safe and adding plants for gorgeosity. This garden is based on one that Kate created at an abandoned water pumping works, and she has used an old storm drain, and corrugated steel panels within her design.
The planting is for spring (after which water naturally becomes scarce, so she sticks to Digitalis, Allium, Iris, under a canopy of Zelkova and Sorbus trees. This is Kateâs first big show garden, although she is no stranger to Chelsea, having exhibited regularly in the Urban Garden category.
M&G are the sponsors of this whole glorious event, and their garden intends to bring together design ideas and trends from the past at Chelsea. The garden is a series of beds, separated by sandstone paths. It has a shady area, full of dark evergreens (Ilex, Laurel), a pond surrounded by white and blue perennials (Iris, brunnera, geranium) and then a pinkish-purple palette towards the front (roses, verbena), along with a wild grassy area. The whole is brought together with what looks to be plenty of box ball-dom nestling within the planting. I just know Iâm going to love this.
Platts is an expert designer, plantsman and nurseryman, known for his generous, traditional English planting. He has worked with M&G before, securing them a Gold medal, and the Peopleâs Choice award in 2010.
Christopher Bradley-Hole is back after a break of eight years. He has designed no fewer than five gold-medal winning gardens in the past, and this one looks like and absolute beauty. It takes its main inspiration from the English landscape, telling the story of how this was formed over many years, with the onset of agriculture.
He uses blocks of box, yew and beech to represent fields, and his passion for Japanese design is illustrated in the calm, contemplative oak colonnade that surrounds two sides of the garden. The planting looks like it might include field poppies, and it doesnât look like there are any paths at all, which will make me want to tiptoe through it, and sit silently under a tree. My money is magnetically drawn to this garden for a gold.
Another garden with an emphasis on native species, but this time we are starkly reminded of the threat that pests, diseases and invasive nasties pose towards them, courtesy of Joâs avenue of dead trees. This shocking sight leads to a black pool with one solitary sapling, marooned on an island in the middle (insert extremely sad face). All this is of course off-set by her characteristic vibrant planting which will include Hesperis matronalis, Geranium gravetye, and Iris sibirica. The whole will be surrounded by a concrete wall which is apparently ânot as innocent as it looksâ. I am already charmed. Jo has exhibited at Chelsea three times before, winning Best Urban Garden for Thrive in 2010.
Billed as âa contemporary take on a romantic gardenâ Ulf Nordfjell intends to bring together classical French and English gardens with an elegant modern twist. The graphic of this garden is making my mouth water â calm white stone with billowing softness for an understory, and sharp vertical accents for structureâŚitâs the sort of garden you want to be wafting around in, barefoot, but wearing your sexiest party dress â you know the daydream (you are also very thin and very rich). As far as plants go, this garden is keeping its cards very close to its chest, but the colours look soft and chic and ever-so-Champagn-eyâŚI love it already.
A rooftop garden concept that aims to show us how to achieve âskyrise greeningâ in order to encourage wildlife, make use of dead space, and reduce flooding from run-off in our urban areas. This garden is full of great ideas. It uses rooftop âfurnitureâ (like vents and chimneys) as habitats for insects and invertebrates, and a central âwetlandâ to irrigate the entire space. Nigelâs planting style is naturalistic, and the palette looks to be predominantly green, white and blue, with an embarrassment of Meconopsis âLongholmâ dominating the central wet area, the likes of which is bound to make me go all goey.
A garden charting Stoke-on-Trentâs journey as a city from industrial to modern. The illustrations show a striking architectural element in the form of a bottle-shaped âskeletonâ which is supposed to represent a kiln, along with a sweeping (swooping) structure with lots of sticky-out wooden bits, which echoes the path below. The colour palette is basically orange and brown, made up of carex, astilbe, heuchera and Rosa âLady of Shallotâ, with lime green and deep red accents. Thereâs nothing âsafeâ here (orange and brown are never going to win peopleâs choice); itâll either soar or bomb. Iâm hoping for the former.