Encouraging people to reconnect with nature was a key theme at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show with gardens celebrating the beauty of the natural world.
Multi RHS gold medal winning designer, Sarah Eberle returned to Main Avenue with a garden celebrating 100 years of forestry with The Forestry Commission. The Resilience Garden looks ahead to the biggest challenges facing our forests in the future, exploring how they can be made resilient to a changing climate and the increasing threats of pests and diseases.
Set within an outdoor farm workshop, both the garden and designer are inspired by William Robinson, an advocate for forestry, pioneer in experimental planting and visionary in the creation of wild, natural gardens. Echoing Robinson’s designs, the garden features exotic alongside native species – specially selected to thrive in habitats that mimic existing and probable effects of climate change.
The garden uses natural materials including boulders, stone and gravel to reflect its rural setting. Water is collected from the rear of the garden and distributed to create a variety of habitats including an arid area, damp area and well-drained meadow area. A full size hopper bottom silo, doubling as the designer’s office, stands over the garden at nearly seven metres tall.
Plants were selected to respond to the three main habitats; forests/woods, dry/arid and damp/waterlogged. A wide variety of trees and plants, some more unusual than others, featured in the garden signifying the diversification of planting required to create resilient forests and gardens.
The trees were selected to cope with varied conditions as a replacement for timber and, in some cases, for their aesthetic quality and sympathy to the character of the English landscape. Plants were also selected for their resilience to changing climate conditions.
The garden was awarded Gold, and Best Construction in the Show Gardens category. Sarah Eberle remains the most successful designer in RHS history.
The Warner Edward’s Garden by Hampshire designer Helen Elks-Smith incorporates water in a playful and imaginative way. Central to the design is an impressive sheltered courtyard, referencing the pastoral setting of Falls Farm, the heart of Warner Edwards Gin Distillery in rural Northamptonshire where all their gin is hand-crafted with nature. The central column with elements of copper and water is inspired by ‘Curiosity’, the Warner Edwards Gin still.
Said to be built ‘on rock and water’ the naturally occurring springs and aquifers of Falls Farm inspired the addition of an imaginative interpretation of the use of captured water, as it appears and disappears throughout the garden. With a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece Fallingwater and an emphasis on the horizontal plane, this enclosure is designed for relaxed entertaining with views to the wider landscape beyond and underpinned by subtle, textural planting.
Rainfall and water from rooftops is a playful element, on display rather than hidden behind drainpipes, slowing the passage of rainfall and highlighting how it might be used. Regionally-sourced quarried natural stone and materials will anchor the design. The garden contains a complex cantilevered roof and supporting structure. Bespoke, hand crafted glass panels are being designed for the garden by Oxford-based artist Wendy Newhofer. The blue of the glass created is from copper reacting with the glass.
The planting includes Juniperus communis, an evergreen conifer the berries of which are used to flavour gin; Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia’- broad-leaved cockspur thorn; mixed native hedging, an important part of English countryside and Rosmarinus officinalis.
The garden was awarded Silver-gilt.
Hampshire nursery Hortus Loci again supplied the planting for show gardens – this time for Mark Gregory and Tom Dixon.
Mark Gregory was last year’s People’s Choice winner and he designed again for Welcome to Yorkshire, inspired by the canals and waterways found in the West of the county.
He didn’t disappoint as he was once more crowned People’s Choice winner.
The garden is inspired by the rich heritage and history of infrastructure in West Yorkshire, reminiscent of the urban regeneration of the likes of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, now a major tourist attraction.
It consists of a towpath running next to a perennial meadow that borders a pair of narrow canal lock gates and a Lock Keeper’s lodge with private garden and vegetable patch. This slice of West Yorkshire focuses on the beauty of the natural and the cultivated, while celebrating the area’s industrial roots and rich diversity of native flora alongside cultivated varieties, striking a balance between the industrial and the beautiful, showcasing how a working lock can also be a place of tranquillity and charm. For authenticity, the garden will reclaim as many of the materials as possible for the hard landscaping and structures including reclaimed masonry walling, canal sides and canal gates. There will also be a gravel (hoggin style) towpath that will run along the length of the garden.
Welcome to Yorkshire has an established history of bringing a slice of this glorious county to London each year for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and 2019 marks the organisation’s 10th consecutive year.
The planting scheme across the garden is a mix of soft and structural with a contrast between the natural areas and the cultivated garden. A blue, yellow and white colour scheme subtly runs through each area. Key plants include Lupinus spp. both wild and cultivated varieties, Petasites hybridus, Acer campestre, Urtica dioica and Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris.
The garden was awarded Gold.
For the first time the Great Pavilion houses a judged walk-through Show Garden by internationally renowned designer Tom Dixon and home furnishings retailer IKEA. Together they’ve designed an experimental model for growing plants in the urban environment.
Divided into two levels, the immersive garden explores the contrast of the super-natural and technological to explore the future of growing. The base garden is a horticultural laboratory where hydroponic technology is implemented to grow hyper-natural edibles. The raised garden is a botanic oasis with a naturalistic aesthetic to encourage visitors to emerge themselves in a canopy-like ecosystem of trees, flowers and plants with medicinal, health and environmental benefits.
The garden showcases the potential for democratic and distributed urban farms and considers the future of the environment and the importance of growing food locally.
The garden was awarded Silver.
Small is beautiful when it comes to the Artisan Gardens and this year’s line-up inspired and excited as traditional materials and methods were revitalised through new design approaches.
Miles Stone of Eastleigh teamed up with Kingston Maurward College. Their Chelsea garden celebrated 70 years of land-based education at the Kingston Maurward.
With a bespoke cupula at its heart, the garden draws inspiration from across the globe combining metal, stone, wood and flora from Asia, England and the Mediterranean.
The sawn paving and dry stone walling fuse to create an inviting path using heritage and contemporary versions of Purbeck stone from Kingston Maurward’s own Dorset coast. The path culminates in a place of rest and reflection under the cupula where thoughts can flow and the next generation of land-based professionals can be inspired.
The garden embraces the artisan approach with hand-crafted elements. Modern elements to combine the traditional with the contemporary have been incorporated through the use of sawn stone paving and cutting-edge production methods.
It was awarded Silver-gilt.
Sparsholt College showed their exhibit ‘Behind the Genes’ in the Great Pavilion. It dived into the science behind plant breeding and genetics to offer an insight into the development of plant breeding and selection.
‘Behind the Genes’ was awarded Gold.
British horticulture remained at the heart of RHS Chelsea as the UK’s top nurseries filled the Great Pavilion with thousands of immaculate plant varieties on display.
Exbury’s famous rhododendrons were showcased in a collaboration with experts Millais Nurseries. Exbury and Millais have been working together to conserve some of the more rare and threatened hybrid rhododendrons in their collection. The display evokes the ‘spirit’ of Exbury Gardens.
They also showed the new plant Rhododendron ‘Jessica de Rothschild’. Strong flowers open a light greenish-yellow, flushed yellowish-pink at the edges, with a glowing deeper yellow centre and sit in a neat rounded truss above a compact plant with good foliage. It grows to 100-125cm in 10 years and requires moist, acid soil. Although bred by Edmund de Rothschild in 1966, it was not registered with the RHS until 1996, and Millais Nurseries is the first nursery to propagate it. This is probably the best new cultivar ever to be raised at Exbury Gardens. It’s perfect for the smaller garden, having a neat compact habit, and flowering profusely from a young age. Jessica is the daughter of Evelyn de Rothschild, a cousin of the present Lionel.
They were awarded a Silver-gilt.
New Forest Hostas and Hemerocallis were one of eight nurseries making their Chelsea debut and adding to the horticultural excellence on display this year. They did their largest ever display, which consisted of a garden setting showing over 100 different varieties of Hosta of all sizes. They also launched a brand new variety of Hosta.
As first timers, they were thrilled to be awarded a Gold.
Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants returned for the 27th year, launching three new exciting, long flowering perennials – Digitalis ‘Firebird’, Salvia ‘Amethyst Lips’ and Dianthus ‘Cherry Burst’. Digitalis ‘Firebird’ came second in the Plant of the Year competition.
They were awarded their 24th Gold medal.
‘The Stihl Hillier Garden’ was designed by Lilly Gomm, who made her Chelsea debut.
The garden blends together contemporary and traditional themes. The central element, alongside the thousands of beautiful plants, is the striking water feature that brings a feeling of calm and elegance to the space and is designed to be easily viewed from all angles. The garden has been sponsored, for a second consecutive year, by world-famous garden tool manufacturer, STIHL.
Hillier extended their incredible world record of wins with a 74th consecutive gold medal.
Hillier also had a celebrity visitor – Dame Judi Dench. She helped them launch their campaign ‘Re-Elming the British Countryside’ in response to the devastating Dutch elm disease outbreak in the late 1960’s which wiped out over 30 million mature elm trees.
Ulmus ‘New Horizon’ is a ‘Resista’ elm species grown by Hillier on their Hampshire tree nursery which is resistant to the disease. 20 of the trees will be planted at the National Memorial Arboretum in autumn and Dame Judi was presented with the first sapling of the campaign.
There were also stunning displays from Hampshire Carnivorous Plants (Gold), The Real Flower Company (Silver-gilt), Heucheraholics (Silver-gilt) and Palms Exotics Ltd (Gold).
Luxury Hampshire hotel Chewton Glen opened their new treehouse with Stricly stars Joe Sugg and Dianne Buswell on Main Avenue. After the show, the treehouse was relocated to the grounds of the hotel.
Stockbridge company Wallgarden returned for their second year. Their garden showcased two playhouses – The London Shop and Hampshire Cottage which sits in beautiful gardens designed by Sarah Eberle. The London Shop playhouse is of a period shopfront, based on the Pragnell showroom in Mayfair. The Hampshire Cottage playhouse focuses on the rural idyll and features a large play kitchen to use what’s grown in the kitchen garden.
Jardin Blanc with Raymond Blanc is nestled in a peaceful corner of the show. An enchanting place filled with fantastic food, exciting cocktails and inspirational gardens and cut flower displays, designed by Hampshire’s Andy McIndoe and Pip Bensley. All menus for this delightful hospitality area are exclusively designed by acclaimed chef Raymond Blanc.
Beautiful sculptural seating by Myburgh Designs allows guests to chill out under the canopy of the trees. Designs include the Ostara Swing – made from copper and big enough for two to curl up in and peacefully drift away. It has a polished and lacquered interior and a natural and wax outer shine.
Myburgh Designs, Liphook
Site No: PW257
Alitex Ltd, Petersfield
Site No: MA334
Andy Small Photography, Cliddesden
Site No: EA509
Gaze Burvill Ltd, Alton
Site No: MA333
Gold Leaf Gardening Gloves, Southampton
Site No: EA499
Griffin Glasshouses Ltd, Ropley
Site No: RHW611
Site No: PW606
The Delphinium Society, Romsey
Site No: EA501
The Garden Lantern Co by Culinary Concepts, North Warnborough
Site No: SR16
Thomas Sanderson Ltd, Waterlooville
Site No: PW271
Wallgarden Limited, Stockbridge
Site No: RHW623