Great Expectations – Chelsea Flower Show 2015 Show Gardens

Only fifteen days into the New Year and the RHS have offered the public a glimpse of how the show gardens will look at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. As you’d expect there’s little that might risk furrowing the brows of the judging panel, but there are some distinct trends emerging from the panoply of designs that have been revealed so far.

The World On Our Doorstep

Last year Cleeve West alluded to Islamic styling with his Persian inspired Paradise Garden for sponsors M&G Investments. This year we get the full monty in the shape of Kamelia Bin Zaal’s ‘The Beauty of Islam’, which explores the relationship between mankind and the earth.

The Beauty of Islam will be designer Kamelia Bin Zaal's Chelsea debut
The Beauty of Islam will mark designer Kamelia Bin Zaal’s Chelsea debut

Poetry, sculpture and calligraphy will be employed to demonstrate the beauty of Arabic and Islamic cultures, whilst Kamelia’s planting will illustrate the extent to which the Arabic empire grew, extending to regions where rosemary, papyrus and jasmine could be found. There’s surely no better time to reinforce the beautiful, cultured and peaceful nature of Islamic culture and I am sure this garden will garner a lot of positive attention. Too much hard landscaping can turn the Chelsea judges off, so it will be interesting to see if Kamelia’s completed project strikes the right balance between authenticity and high horticulture.

Kamelia Bin Zaal studied at Inchbald School of Design in London
Kamelia Bin Zaal studied Landscape Design at Inchbald School of Design in London

Several of this year’s first time designers are not Brits, or even Europeans, which I hope will start to turn the tide against the tedium of endless perennial prairie and annual meadow plantings. I doubt either of the latter will be found within ‘The Hidden Beauty of Kranji’, a garden designed by John Tan & Raymond Toh. Their show garden is inspired by a lush suburb of their native Singapore and will brim with orchids, tropical ferns, coconut palms and jungly creepers. This is a garden that is certain to turn heads, provided it can survive the vagaries of a British early summer.

The Hidden Beauty of Kranji is inspired by the gardens of a Singaporean suburb
The Hidden Beauty of Kranji is inspired by the gardens of a Singaporean suburb

A garden guaranteed to hog the limelight is the Sentebale garden designed by Matthew Keightley. With HRH Prince Harry as it’s Patron, and last year’s People’s Choice designer at the helm, it would be hard not have the highest hopes for a gold medal. Sentebale provides healthcare and education to Lesotho’s vulnerable children and Matthew’s garden aims to offer visitors a taste of this mountainous country, along with a sense of the vibrant atmosphere in the charity’s Mamohato camp. A central building constructed using traditional materials will anchor the scheme, which also includes rocks and water features.

The Sentebale garden comes complete with Royal approval
The Sentebale garden has already had Royal approval

Effortless Elegance

Chelsea would not be Chelsea without the stylish presence of both Laurent-Perrier and The Telegraph. The prestigious Champagne House has surely secured greatness by partnering with leading British designer Dan Pearson and one of our country’s greatest estates, Chatsworth. Having been absent from Chelsea for more than a decade, Dan’s garden is inspired by the wilder reaches of Chatworth’s historic garden, featuring an ambitious rockery and stream. It will be a welcome change of pace for Laurent Perrier, who’s garden I admired, but did not love in 2014.

The layout of the Laurent-Perrier garden suggests it may occupy the Rock Bank site
The Laurent-Perrier garden will occupy the prominent ‘triangle’ site at Chelsea

The Telegraph have left much to the imagination, releasing only a black and white pencil drawing of their garden designed by Marcus Barnett. To better understand Marcus’ design, think of Mondrian, a principal member of the De Stijl Movement (which translates from Dutch as ‘The Style’) founded in Amsterdam in 1917. The garden will rely heavily on rectilinear geometry, with bright blocks of flower and foliage contributing colour and texture. In place of the monochrome rendering, expect vibrant, primary colour-blocking against a foil of cool greens.

The Telegraph Garden will employ the vibrant colours and closely replated tones promoted by the De Stijl Movement
The Telegraph Garden will employ the vibrant colours and closely related tones favoured by the De Stijl Movement

Knowing What Works

My parting shot is to herald the return of TV gardener Chris Beardshaw to Chelsea, with a garden that brings together tried and tested features such as rusty metal pillars, pollarded trees and effervescent perennials. It’s been a winning formula before, and I am sure it will be again, but at face value this garden (top and below) feels a little too safe for my liking. I would be more than happy to be proved wrong.

What’s for sure is that Chelsea Flower Show will once again hold the nation in its thrall. Running from May 19-23 2015, tickets are still available, but don’t dilly-dally, they’ll be gone before you can say ‘Alan Titchmarsh’. Do let me know which gardens tickle your fancy, or dowse your bonfire.

Chris Beardshaw's garden will be relocated to East London following the show
Chris Beardshaw’s garden will be relocated to East London following the show

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9 thoughts on “Great Expectations – Chelsea Flower Show 2015 Show Gardens

  1. Loving the Telegraph Garden soooooo much and very inspired by the Singapore design. Sob that I won’t be there this year, but so excited about Hampton court. Thank you so much for this update.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great summary! I am super, super excited about the Sentebale garden. I love a garden with a sense of place and thought Matthew Keightley’s garden last year was gorgeous. I’d love to get excited about the Singaporean garden, although blending bold, tropical plants is always a challenge, so let’s see. I agree that the Laurent Perrier garden holds much promise – last year I would have described it as ‘safe’, so presumably the new judging criteria doesn’t put much emphasis on innovation, which is a shame. I am also looking forward to seeing Jo Thompson’s garden – it looks so feminine! Roll on May.

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    1. I think it’s the sheer expense of staging a show garden at Chelsea that inhibits innovation, sadly. It’s as much about the money as the talent, which is why I often prefer the variety that Hampton Court offers. Matthew Keightley is clearly very talented, so it’s great that he’ll be back again this year. I am sorry I missed Jo’s garden from my post, I’ll just have to write another one 😉 Dan

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  3. I usually love both the Telegrah and the Laurent-Perrier gardens, and this year looks like no exception, although the Laurent-Perrier plan does appear to be a deviation from previous years. I look forward to seeing them all – the excitement is starting already. Thank you!

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    1. I think Laurent-Perrier had to change tack really. It was becoming too much of a formula. Interesting that none of the garden designers involved in those two gardens is coming to Chelsea this year. I guess they are enjoying a well deserved break!

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  4. The Laurent-Perrier Garden with Dan Pearson, what could be better. And yes Chris Beardshaw’s garden is safe and predictable, but I’m still loving it, as only a Canadian in the midst of winter could lust after the lush British garden style. I will be looking forward to all the pictures. The Singapore garden leaves me cold, the tropical just don’t excite me.

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    1. Hi Lisa. I agree the rendering of the Singaporean garden is a bit ghastly, but I like the idea of it amongst all that Britishness. I am sure LP and Dan Pearson will be angling for Best in Show …. and they could be in with a chance. Dan

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