One of the world’s most prestigious events takes place on our doorstep every May. The Chelsea Flower Show, now in its 105th year in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, is the most influential catwalk in garden design. A short walk from our showroom, the Chelsea Flower Show welcomes over 150,000 visitors every year, attracting royalty, celebrities and enthusiastic gardeners from all corners of the globe. Whenever we get the chance, we love to take time out from the hustle and bustle of city life and spend a day in this oasis, soaking up the newest trends in garden design – plus a bit of celebrity spotting (well, who wouldn’t?). Mind you, some days it feels as though the whole world may have had the same idea.
Best in Show
This year’s Best Show Garden, the show’s top accolade, was won by Chris Beardshaw’s NSPCC Garden, sponsored by Morgan Stanley. The design reflects the emotional transition of a child as they are supported by the NSPCC. Dark, shady areas lead to a more open, tranquil space, then on to the safe space of a beautiful cedar wood pavilion and the calm of a reflective canal. The garden includes a number of sculptural pieces with splashes of blue, pink and purple woodland planting.
Gardens Big and Small
Much of the media focus tends to be on the large scale Show Gardens. These attract the big sponsors and give plenty of space for the designers to express themselves. But we shouldn’t forget some of the other amazing categories, whose more limited space means that the designers have to make the most creative use of every inch of garden to get their message across. The Artisan Gardens are small spaces with grand ideas that really pack a punch. Space to Grow is a new category, offering bite-size, accessible ideas for people to take home. The Pavilion holds exhibitions of the world’s finest plants, new creations, and exhibitions by companies, cities and countries from the Commonwealth and around the world.
A trend that continues to grow year-on-year is the use of garden design to raise awareness of health and social issues. Some of this year’s gardens have brought issues such as HIV, mental health, epilepsy, myeloma, skin conditions, children’s cancer and children’s charities to the forefront. Garden design is a powerful and often unexpected way to tell a story or make a point. A key feature at this year’s show was the RHS Feel Good Garden. Designed by Matt Keightley, this garden was full of soft curves and peaceful planting, different levels, places to sit and contemplate, and a choice of pathways around the garden. After the show, the entire garden will be re-located to the Highgate Mental Health Centre where it will provide a calm and beautiful space for vulnerable adults in need of respite, as well as their families, carers and staff at the unit.
Our Favourite Gardens
Here, we share a few of our favourite gardens, chosen simply because we liked them. They did, in fact, all win medals but that would not have mattered. We chose them because something in each one spoke to us.
The Seedlip Garden
Space to Grow – Gold
Designed by Catherine MacDonald
We are great fans of Seedlip and this contemporary small garden in the Space to Grow category was exquisite. Seedlip Garden is a distilled but non-alcoholic drink made from peas, hay and herbs. Very sophisticated. Their beautiful garden was, therefore, a celebration of the pea, taking this humble vegetable to new heights with mirrored, peapod-engraved stepping stones, split pea shingle and a Peavilion. Every plant in this garden was a member of the pea family, showing an exceptional level of creativity.
The LG Eco City Garden
Show Garden – Silver Gilt
Designed by Hay-Joung Hwang
This garden highlighted environmental issues posed by our modern lifestyles and high rise living. The bold design incorporated ideas aimed at reducing air and noise pollution both indoors and out, particularly in areas of high population. A central sunken seating area was surrounded by colour co-ordinated planting, cool shade and an impressive use of water, linked by stone paving to an elegant, contemporary pavilion. There were so many simple ideas here that we could all incorporate into our gardens, homes and interior design.
Birmingham City Council Windrush Garden
Discovery Zone – Gold
Designed by Baroness Floella Benjamin
Birmingham scooped their seventh consecutive gold medal with their display celebrating the legacy of the Windrush Generation. An explosion of colour, it was designed by Baroness Floella Benjamin, patron of the Windrush Foundation and a Royal Horticultural Society Ambassador – although many of us know her best from her days on BBC’s Play School. The display centres on a fantastic floral rendition of the Empire Windrush parting the seas, with Jamaica on one side, Britain on the other, and a glorious, lush veg patch in front of the funnels. A traditional West Indies chapel house, surrounded by tropical plants in hot reds and glowing colours, gives way to a poppy-coloured London bus and more subdued, cottage-style flowers and a 1950s English garden feel. After the show, this spectacular floral display will be moved back to Victoria Square in the centre of Birmingham for the public to enjoy.
Welcome to Yorkshire
Show Garden – Gold
Best Constructor Award
Designed by Mark Gregory
You may think that this garden is a bit rustic for us – and we do usually go for something more sleek and contemporary – but it was such a perfect portrait of a little corner of Yorkshire that we couldn’t resist it. Inspired by the Yorkshire Dales, it really did look as though someone had picked up a piece of the county and put it down in Chelsea. Set on the edge of woodland and soft pastures, a beautifully-constructed stone bothy sat among cottage flowers, magnificent cabbages and a tumbling brook. It was designed to inspire the public to visit and experience the beauty of Yorkshire. Well, it worked for us.
Time to Put Our Feet Up
It’s tiring (and thirsty) work doing all this research. The Royal Hospital Chelsea grounds may be compact but there’s an awful lot of walking involved in visiting every part of this world class event. As a treat, and a reward, we found three Chelsea Flower Show-inspired tipples that we think you might like; a non-alcoholic delight, a G&T, or simply Tea.
We couldn’t visit their garden and not try a quick G&T (that’s a Garden and Tonic). Seedlip Garden and refreshing tonic water served with ice, a handful of peas and a sugarsnap peapod. Dry, cooling and spectacularly sophisticated.
Partridges Chelsea Flower Gin
By Appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Partridges can be found just along the King’s Road and they have a whole range of delectable food and drinks inspired by the iconic Flower Show. Their Chelsea Flower Gin includes 19 botanicals and a hint of rose. They have also just launched their Chelsea Flower No. 2 Gin, infused with bergamot, to commemorate the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Both are dry, distinctive and subtly floral.
Partridges Chelsea Flower Tea
When only a proper cup of tea will hit the spot. This Chelsea Flower Tea is made with China tea, marigold flowers and a gentle hint of apple and mango. It tastes just how it smells and makes a wonderfully refreshing end to a day at the show.
What does any of this have to do with luxury furniture and interior design, we hear you ask. The Chelsea Flower Show is all about design, texture, placement of pieces and use of colour. It’s exactly what we do as interior designers but it’s out of doors. And remember that we can include garden design as part of our start-to-finish service. We like to think of it as exterior design – and the wonderful Chelsea Flower Show is yet another source of inspiration for our team of designers. Never close your eyes, or your mind, to the things around you.