Chelsea Flower Show 2016 Preview: Royal Bank of Canada Garden


This will be my final post before the lucky few (who include HM The Queen, but not me this year) are granted early admittance to The Chelsea Flower Show. The weather has taken a distinctly Chelsea turn, reverting from warm, dry and sunny to cool, showery and unpredictable. As I write, Tuesday and Wednesday look to be dry days, so hopefully I can leave my umbrella, galoshes and waterproof notebook at home.

Royal Bank of Canada Garden, Hugo Bugg, Chelsea Flower Show 2016

Having taken inspiration from the arid landscapes of Jordan, Hugo Bugg, mastermind behind of the Royal Bank of Canada Garden, will be holding out for a mini heat wave to bring out the best in his powerful design. Like Cornishman Sam Ovens, Devonian Hugo is employing huge pines to shade his garden, which explores the connections between water, people and life. The conifers in question, Pinus halepensis, are not native to the UK, but to countries with Mediterranean shores. They will preside over a landscape of tesselated grey slabs arranged around pyramidal stone cairns. This is classic Hugo Bugg; clever, modern, abstract and architectural. Designed to celebrate water as an entity sacred to humankind, a pivotal triangular pool will be raised aloft like a contemporary font.

Royal Bank of Canada Garden, Hugo Bugg, Chelsea Flower Show 2016

What I’ve liked about Hugo’s previous show gardens is that they have made me think. His Chelsea gold medal winning garden for the same sponsor in 2014 was cool and composed, but took a little working out. The careful arrangement of angles concealing and directing water around the garden were masterfully realised and fascinating to fathom. My only concern about this year’s design is that it looks rather brooding and colourless on paper, but some lively planting should create light and texture beneath the towering mass of the trees.

The Jordanian Dibeen Forest Reserve which inspired Hugo is one of the last remaining examples of a pine and oak forest in the Middle East. Its limestone landscape is dominated by Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), Palestine oak (Quercus calliprinos) and Aleppo oak (Quercus infectoria). Other typical Dibeen flora includes orchids, Greek strawberry tree (Arbutus x andrachnoides), pistachio (Pistacia lentiscus), and olive. The forest’s age structure shows wide variation, with many areas comprising mature forest and a vigorous young understorey.

Royal Bank of Canada Garden, Hugo Bugg, Chelsea Flower Show 2016

In the cool shade of pines visitors might spot the towering white spikes of sea squill (Urginea maritima) or the inky-black flowers of Iris nigricans, Jordan’s national flower. Reflective silver foliage will feature in the form of Onopordum jordanicolum, Artemisia alba ‘Canescens’ and Fibigia clypeata (Roman shields). The combination should make for an interesting and unexpected tapestry, inspiring gardeners to create a little bit of the Middle East back at home in Middlesex, Middlesborough or Margate.

Hear more about Hugo Bugg’s inspiration in this short film:

However you plan to experience the Chelsea Flower Show this year, I hope you enjoy every moment.

Plant List


  • Pinus halepensis


  • Arbutus x andrachnoides
  • Artemisia abrotanum
  • Artemisia alba ‘Canescens’
  • Cistus creticus
  • Myrtus communis
  • Phlomis fruticosa
  • Pistacia lentiscus
  • Rosa canina
  • Sarcopoterium spinosum
  • Tamarix
  • Teucrium flavum
  • Teucrium x lucidrys

Perennials, Annuals, Grasses & Bulbs

  • Acanthus spinosus
  • Melica persica
  • Adonis annua
  • Moluccella laevis
  • Ajuga genevensis
  • Nepeta curviflora
  • Anchusa azurea
  • Nepeta italica
  • Artemisia sieberi
  • Onopordum jordanicolum
  • Asphodeline lutea
  • Origanum syriacum
  • Cerinthe palaestina
  • Papaver rhoeas
  • Crambe Hispanica
  • Phlomis cashmeriana
  • Delphinium ithaburense
  • Ranunculus asiaticus
  • Echium angustifolium
  • Salvia judaica
  • Echium glomeratum
  • Salvia napifolia
  • Eryngium maritimum
  • Scabiosa prolifera
  • Euphorbia myrsinites
  • Silene aegyptiaca
  • Ferula communis
  • Silene vulgaris
  • Fibigia clypeata
  • Stipa tenuissima
  • Foeniculum vulgare
  • Teucrium chamaedrys
  • Geranium tuberosum
  • Teucrium creticum
  • Hordeum vulgare
  • Trifolium annua
  • Iris nigricans
  • Umbilicus rupestris
  • Knautia integrifolia
  • Urginea maritima
  • Lupinus pilosus
  • Verbascum sinuatum