The Royal Horticultural Society organises the Chelsea Garden Flower Show each year. The show has been held in the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London since 1913 and is one of the most prestigious in the world. The show is a five-day affair that is extensively covered by BBC television.
Each year the show presents awards, across four grades (Gold, Silver-Gilt, Silver, & Bronze) in each respective category. There are 5 awards categories:
- Flora: Gardens and floral exhibits
- Hogg: Exhibits of trees
- Knightian: Exhibits of vegetables, including herbs
- Lindley: Exhibits of special educational or scientific interest
- Grenfell: Exhibits of pictures, photographs, floral arrangements, and floristry
Designs are increasingly original and unique each year. The display that attracted the most attention in the 2009 show was James May’s Paradise in Plasticine. Many Chelsea traditionalists didn’t believe the exhibit should have been allowed (seeing as the entire display was actually made using plasticine and there was not a single real flower in the entire exhibit). However, it is the ingenuity of displays such as May’s that keeps the Show so popular over time, and means it can continue to attract attention from enthusiasts of any age.
James May's Plasticine in Paradise - Image via Wikipedia.
One of the best things about the Show is that it allows everyday gardeners to take some of the award-winning ideas and use them to transform their own gardens.
We’ve picked out some of the key trends from 2015’s Chelsea Garden Flower Show that are perfectly replicable for your own outdoors area.
1. Natural Water Features
Whilst water always features heavily at the show, this year, there was a clear shift from traditional formal water features and a sign of more earthy and natural swimming pools and streams - evident in Dan Pearson’s trout stream (a recreation of that in Derbyshire home Chatsworth).
Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth – Image via Telegraph.co.UK
You can create natural looking ponds by purchasing a pre-formed pond from outdoor stores, ensure you cover up the material with lots of plant life and shrubbery of varying heights and colours to prevent the area looking forced. Then, fill the pond with water. Plants are what can turn an ordinary backyard pond into a beautiful water garden. Water plants play a vital part in your backyard pond, not only from an aesthetics viewpoint, but also to increase functionality.
Keep your pond looking as natural as possible by adding plants and improving water filtration, providing necessary nutrients, as well as oxygen for fish. If the size, depth, and equipment allow it, adding fish to the pond can be the perfect way to naturalise your backyard pond.
In keeping with the trend of natural water features, some of the most well received gardens this year championed ‘natural’, slightly shabby planting and design. There was considerably less focus this year on highly stylised gardens. All entrants into the Chelsea Show must exercise much skill in ensuring their gardens look as natural and effortless as possible, and that the artificiality of the show garden plot is hidden.
Our favourite to support this style was the dreamy L’Occitane Perfumer show garden. According to the luxury skincare brand, the garden was designed to “bring to life the sights and scents of Grasse – the world capital of perfumery”.
Image via L’OccitaneChelsea2015.com
Like the idea of an untamed garden? As expected, this is relatively easy to replicate. Think of including plants that wouldn’t look amiss in a country lane setting. Include bursts of colour throughout much greenery. The key here may be to add in a beautifully made chunky wooden outdoor setting
or bench amongst the garden where homeowners can sit and take in their surrounds.
3. Stand Out Plants & Natives
Stand out flowering plants and versatile Geums were amongst some of the most popular perennials at this years show. Roses also made a return. However, one of the more interesting additions was the abundance of natives and naturalised species. They are generally used as informal hedges and boundaries, making the split between different displays not as jarring as other years. Not only this, however, many designers used native species as standalone features, where they looked right at home.
Flowering Geum - via Telegraph.UK
Choosing to plant natives in your garden can be a great element to any garden. Local native plants have adapted to specific conditions in your area over a long period of time. They are therefore most likely to thrive in this area compared to plants from other regions. Local plants will not only look great in your garden, they will also benefit the region and native plant communities by supporting native animals, providing fresh, clean air and improving water quality.
If you believe your garden will benefit from native plant species, now is the perfect time thanks to the higher than average rainfall of the cooler months. Want to replicate the look and feel from the Chelsea show by way of adding a small hedge into your garden? The best plants to choose for boundary purposes, or even as screening and privacy purposes, is wattle.
Use the Chelsea Garden Flower Show, and similar such shows in Australia, as inspiration. Don’t be put off by the extravagant displays that are as close to perfect as any garden can be. The difference between a display, and a real outdoor area is that a real outdoor area is never finished. Adding pot plants, water features, trees, and teak outdoor furniture, are things that can be done over time. An outdoor area will need to adapt and evolve in order to fit in with the weather patterns, seasonal changes, and the homeowner’s style of entertaining.
What happens at the end of the show? Whilst the majority of displays will be dug up and dismantled, this year, the winning exhibition will be transported (leaf by leaf, rock by rock) to the Duke of Devonshire’s estate, Chatsworth, the estate the garden design was modelled off.