Hardy's cottage garden plants

Best for cottage favourites

Words: Paula McWaters

There is arguably too much emphasis on new plants and sometimes we need well-versed pro’s like Rosy and Rob Hardy to remind us of some of the wonderful forgotten treasures such as white campion, Solomon’s seal and royal blue anchusa we already have at our disposal.

That said, the Hardys are always up for a new launch and this year they’re unveiling Nepeta grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’, Gaillardia ‘Fanfare Blaze’ and Leucanthemum ‘Real Neat’.

Hillier Nurseries

Best for: trees and shrubs

Words: Paula McWaters

All hail to the clever people at Hillier’s for sallying forth year after year to produce the biggest display of plant material in the Great Pavilion.

A staggering 3500 trees and plants have to be manoeuvred into position, all of them perfect, to create inspiring garden scenes to get our horticultural juices going.


H W Hyde & Son

Best for: lilies

Words: Paula McWaters

H W Hyde is the UK’s top specialist lily grower and this year this Berkshire-based nursery, established since 1926, is pulling out all the stops to show 100 new varieties to mark Chelsea’s centenary.

Taking their biggest stand yet, they plan to blow us away with their two-metre high tree lilies and stun us with their amazing colour range.  We can’t wait.

Hampshire Carnivorous Plants

Best for: carnivorous plants

Words: Paula McWaters

We’ll all have to keep our hands firmly behind our backs to stop ourselves from poking the bristled lobes of the Venus flytraps on this nursery’s exciting stand of insect-eaters.

Glistening sundews and trumpeting, hollow-leaved sarracenias - some up to a metre tall - will be nestled among the moss on HCP’s consistently excellent, other-worldly looking stand. Catch us peering into the monkey cups to see what’s going down.

Downderry Nursery

Best for: lavenders

Words: Paula McWaters

Nurseryman Simon Charlesworth has built up one of the most comprehensive collections of lavender in the country and it’s a thrill to see and sniff more than 100 different ones brought together on his always fabulous, award-winning Chelsea stand.

This year, providing he can coax her into flower in time, he’s introducing us to ‘Helen’, named after a dear friend and ‘Olympia’, a lovely new hardy intermedia type with dark, conical heads.

David Austin

Best for: new English roses

Words: Paula McWaters

David Austin is the father of English roses and he and his Shropshire-based nursery have taken this most British of flowers to new heights through an extensive and innovative breeding programme.

The stand is always a treat for the eyes as well as the nose and, this year, they are adding four new roses to the collection, including an exciting-looking repeat-flowering rambler ‘The Albrighton Rambler’ and a rich apricot hybrid, ‘The Lady Gardener’.

Look out also for a lovely, cup-shaped double in soft gold, called ‘Carolyn Knight’ and a natural, shrubby-looking beauty in carmine red, called ‘Thomas à Becket’.

The picture is an old favourite, Rosa Gertrude Jekyll

Crûg Farm Plants

Best for: rare and extraordinary plants

Words: Paula McWaters

Bleddyn and Sue Wynn-Jones are modern day plant hunters, which means their stand of exotic, yet surprisingly hardy discoveries is always on my list.

They scooped the President’s Award in 2011, not only because their plants are so good but also because they have raised them all from seed collected by their own fair hands in wildest Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea and the like.

We bow to their energy and intrepidness. This plant is Saxifraga stolonifera ‘Kinki Purple’ BSWJ4972. It was collected from the Kinki district of Japan: this is a geographical area, not a dubious dive.


Best for: Hostas and ferns

Words: Paula McWaters

Hostas are a gardener’s best friend with their gorgeous leaves and happy-go-lucky temperaments and when you see how many handsome varieties Bowdens have to offer, you’ll be glad you stopped. They even offer a special Slugbusting collection, so no excuses.

Since 2011, this gold medal-winning nursery has specialised in ferns too, which they also grow to perfection. This year their fern stand will feature some impressive 10 foot high tree ferns.

Blackmore & Langdon

Delphiniums and begonias

Words: Paula McWaters

Chelsea has some catching up to do on the centenary front because B&L celebrated theirs in 2001, so all-round respect is due for delphinium and begonia experts with that kind of pedigree.

Their spectacular delphinium blooms are displayed in blocks of colour ranging from pure white to deepest purpley blue and they’re likely to have 100-120 to choose from. Nothing short of delicious.


Best for: peonies and irises

Words: Paula McWaters

Kelways are in the nursery business for the long haul - since 1851 in fact - and have exhibited at Chelsea since 1913.

Their voluptuous peonies and irises are world-renowned but over the decades they’ve been pretty big in delphiniums and gladioli too (they once grew 50 acres of glads!).

Part of this year’s stand pays homage to their illustrious past and they promise exciting things, yet to be unveiled…

Pennard Plants

Best for: heritage vegetables

Words: Paula McWaters

Somerset-based Pennard Plants have the Victorian walled garden that many of us hanker after and are bringing their great range of heritage and heirloom seeds to a garden stand of two halves to celebrate 100 years of growing your own.

One side of their stand will look as it would have done in 1913 and the other will be bang up to date, featuring cardoons and kales, kalaloo and oriental veg - all, no doubt, styled to perfection.


Best for: heucheras and tiarellas

Words: Paula McWaters

Vicky and Richard Fox hold the National Collections of heuchera, heucherella and tiarella so there is little they can’t tell you about this fast-moving genera of useful and curiously more-ish plants.

You’ll find everything from the subtle to the downright lary amongst their colourful exhibits, which this year include some compact heucheras from America called ‘Little Cuties’ as well as the old stalwart ‘Palace Purple’, a 1980s introduction.

The Botanic Nursery

Best for:foxgloves

Words: Paula McWaters

What’s not to like about foxgloves?  There is one for every situation in every garden and the bees go bananas for their nodding, trumpet-shaped flowers.

The Botanic Nursery holds the National Collection and will be bringing at least 20 different sorts to Chelsea including the delightful white ‘Pam’s Choice’, which is speckled with maroon, and her slightly shorter cousin ‘Pam’s Split’, ideal for pots.

This one is Digitalis purpurea campanulata Alba.

Avon Bulbs

Best for: spring and summer bulbs

Words: Paula McWaters

Avon Bulbs is the sweetshop of Chelsea, the pick and mix of spring and summer flowering bulbs where you can’t possibly make up your mind because it’s all too delectable.

This small, Somerset-based nursery has won 24 gold medals for its immaculate displays and deservedly so.

Expect tulips, alliums, fritillaries, camassias, triteleias and more. Tulipa ‘Bulldog’ is a new introduction to earmark, with dark purple flowers that are deeply fringed. This one is Tulipa Redshine.

Topiary Arts

Best for: topiary

Words: Paula McWaters

A 100 years ago a gentleman who rejoiced in the name of Herbert J Cutbush (yes, really) used to sculpt box into intricate birds, spirals and balls good enough to exhibit at Chelsea.   Now James Crebbin-Bailey of Topiary Arts is paying homage to his work with what promises to be an entertaining display of the same.

James used to cut hair so he certainly knows how to shape box to bring out its best side: wonderful stuff.

Trewidden Nursery

Best for: exotics

Words: Paula McWaters

Trewidden is the most south-westerly nursery on mainland Britain and this is the stand to gawp at if Southern Hemisphere exotics get you going.

They do all their own propagating and growing at this family-run nursery, where restios, proteas, aeoniums, agaves, aloes and leucadendrons are specialities.

Look out for the appropriately Cornish sounding Aeonium ‘Poldark’, one of their star exhibits this year and an impressive six-foot high Banksia ericifolia.

Westcountry Nurseries

Best for: Lupins

Words: Paula McWaters

Spontaneous rounds of applause might erupt for the glorious, knock-you-for-six tiered display of lupins that Westcountry Nurseries put on each year.

Their perfect, sentry-like blooms in technicolour shades from purple to sunset orange never fail to excite attention and their sumptuous ‘Masterpiece’ lupin was featured on the Royal Barge last year.

For Chelsea, they hope to showcase a new one called ‘Rachel de Thame’ - if she flowers in time.