The world's finest growers and designers have pulled out all the stops for the world's most spectacular garden show.
The 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show has swung open its doors to its 11-acre site this week, attracting crowds of green-fingered fans eager to see its 550 exhibitors, show gardens and floral displays.
It’s one of the world’s most prestigious horticultural shows, with exhibits and displays that inspire the 157,000 annual visitors as well as the millions that will be watching the show on TV.
It’s a chance to see the country’s best horticultural landscapers, gardeners and designers all in one space, to glean ideas, spot trends, shop (there are over 250 trade stands selling everything from lawnmowers to botanical prints) and talk to the people who make our gardens grow.
The annual Chelsea Flower Show is not only a celebration of all things horticultural, but, since it began in 1913, the event has also become synonymous with the start of the “London season”.
This year, there are two important and topical themes running throughout; the environment and mental health.
The designs highlight the biggest environmental problems of our time; plastic. The show gardens will also highlight how plants, flowers and green spaces can have a positive impact on our lives, in terms of health, wellbeing and happiness – gardens are known to be the perfect haven to escape from the stresses of everyday life.
Here are nine not-to-be-missed highlights from this year’s event.
Plastics in the ocean is a particularly hot topic, so the Pearlfisher Garden is perfectly timed, raising (even more) awareness around ocean plastics.
Designed by John Warland and the Pearlfisher team, aquatic tanks containing fish with cacti and succulents are used to imitate the structure and form of underwater coral.
As the sun shines through the glass ceiling over the garden dappled shadows appear on the Portland stone mirroring the ocean-like movement of the water. The Pearlfisher Garden, in partnership with Plastic Oceans, highlights the impact of plastic waste on our ecosystems and is a call to action to brands, businesses and designers to create sustainable lifecycles for products and packaging.
CHELSEA LATE EVENT
Explore Ranelagh Gardens after closing time on Friday 25 May at the Chelsea Flower Show’s first ever Chelsea Late Event. It promises live jazz bands, cocktails and Seedlip mocktails, artisan food, a London Vegetable Orchestra Workshop (yes, really – you’ll be turning your everyday courgettes and carrots into musical instruments), plus complimentary flower crowns or pressed flower badges to take home, all in the intimate setting of Ranelagh Gardens by twilight.
MORGAN STANLEY GARDEN
Chris Beardshaw has a habit of making Chelsea gardens that show visitors fall in love with; Chris has won the ‘People’s Choice’ award four times (an award voted for visitors, not judges). His 2018 Morgan Stanley garden for the NSPCC is a mix of rich woodland and open perennial planting, giving a genuine sense of maturity to the garden, while the rear of the garden has a different feel, with a calm and reflective water ‘canal’ bordering the side of the cedar wood pavilion.
Designed to raise awareness of the work of the NSPCC, this garden’s design is a metaphor for the emotional transition that takes place in a child as they experience the positive impact of the NSPCC’s work. At the start of the garden the direction of the path in the woodland is unclear. As it turns a corner it leads to a more open and tranquil space, filled with soft, textured perennials. The path steps up onto a bespoke cedar wood pavilion, enclosed, at the rear, by a calm, reflective canal.
Will it be a fifth win?
This year Trailfinders is back with a South African winelands garden designed by Jonathan Snow (no, not that Jon Snow), a first timer at Chelsea.
The garden is a snapshot of a charming and traditional South African wine estate. A Cape Dutch homestead with a terracotta-tiled terrace leads down steps into a formal, romantic garden, then through a gate to a vineyard.
Beyond the vineyard is a representation of the wild and beautiful fynbos landscape, incorporating plenty of South African plants such as Proteas.
WELCOME TO YORKSHIRE GARDEN
Designed by Mark Gregory, the Welcome To Yorkshire Garden marks the 97th garden he has built for Chelsea Flower Show and the 5th he has designed. As the name would suggest, it’s inspired by the Yorkshire Dales, famous for its buttercup meadows and rich flora.
Sponsored by Welcome to Yorkshire, the garden celebrates Yorkshire’s stunning scenery, natural materials, traditional crafts and artisan food production, and is intended to inspire the public to visit the county and experience its nature firsthand.
Expect flowering wisteria and magnificent cabbages, plus, at the rear of the garden, a babbling brook emerging from under a boulder, backed by dense woodland planting of larch, elder and hazel being a natural area for wildlife to feel at home.
Particular attention to detail has been lavished on the limestone walls, with seams of larger ‘through stones’ holding more irregular shaped stones in place – a particular detail of the walling from the Wensleydale area.
THE LEMON TREE TRUST GARDEN
Tipped to be one of the most popular Show Gardens of 2018 is The Lemon Tree Trust Garden (sponsored by The Lemon Tree Trust), designed by debut designer Tom Massey with the aim of showing how plants can improve people’s lives and well-being through garden design.
He was inspired by the inventiveness, resilience and determination of people in tough situations of forced migration, in particular the gardens created by Syrian refugees living in Domiz Camp, Northern Iraq. The theme is brought to life through the use of Middle Eastern herbs, pomegranate trees, plus traditional Islamic influence can be seen in the star shaped water feature, radiating water rills and elaborate metal and wood fretwork screens.
The materials used would be available to refugees in the camp. Some of the most inspiring take home features from this garden are ones that were created from ideas seen at the refugee camp; the food plants in tin cans and re-cycled plastic bottles attached to a wall as well as the brilliant planted up building block wall.
Don’t miss The M&G Garden, a Mediterranean haven by designer Sarah Price, who is returning to the show after a 6 year hiatus. M&G’s ninth year of sponsoring the show, Sarah’s Mediterranean-inspired garden aims to connect us to nature, and features textured, rammed earth walls, almost 4,000 plants and over 170 varieties of flora.
The garden is inspired by holidays in the Mediterranean. Sarah Price wanted to create a sunny Mediterranean feel, like a place “that has been there for some time”.
Multi-award-winning designer Tom Stuart-Smith returns to Chelsea after eight years with the magnificent Weston Garden in the Great Pavilion. The Weston Garden’s theme is recyclability; it’s a waste-free garden and uses only recycled pieces, including plants from previous shows. Disenchanted with the amount of waste at previous shows, Stuart-Smith avoided using concrete for this garden, and promises to recycle all elements.
The Great Pavilion will also be home to this year’s floristry competitions, where 32 florists will be competing to win the title of RHS Chelsea Young Florist and RHS Chelsea Florist of the Year. The theme for 2018, following on from the Royal Wedding on 19th May, is ‘Spring Wedding’. Competitors will each be creating a floral wedding throne, with the finished designs displayed in The Great Pavilion. The competitions are judged on Tuesday 22nd and Thursday 24th May respectively, so if you’re visiting on either day you could watch the new RHS Chelsea Young Florist or Florist of the Year being crowned.