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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.