Stand-out show gardens from the Chelsea Flower Show


2016 will be my tenth year covering the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s one of my favourite days at work! I thought I’d revisit some of my favourite gardens from the past five years. Well, not quite the past five as last year, sadly, I had a funeral to attend, so it’s my pick of the best from 2010 to 2014. All photos ©Adrienne Wyper



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Recalling the landscape of Provence, this show garden appears to be sited at the base of a cliff, with a water channel and terraced beds adding to the illusion of height. Olive and pine trees are underplanted with lavender, rosemary, borage and marigolds – all botanicals which are used in the company’s best-selling products.
Awards: Silver Gilt medal

Daily Telegraph

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Steel screens slice through this contemporary gravel garden, inspired by travel with hints of the landscapes of South Africa, the Mediterranean and South America. Open clearings of gravel mingle with densely planted areas, backed by a courtyard area in the shade of a cork oak.
Rusty orange was a refreshing new shade seen this year in many gardens, most often with bronze-toned irises, displayed in big bowls here in The Daily Telegraph Garden as well as the University of Worcester Garden. This warm, coppery hue tones well with rusted metal and wood.
Awards: Best Show Garden, Gold medal


Daily Telegraph

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Exploring the nature of timelessness, this garden is a mix of formal and traditional elements such as yew edging, along with contemporary style, as in the water pipes emerging from a lemon wall. The planting is designed with self-seeding in mind, suggesting an evolution of the garden’s appearance over time: what was, is, and will be.
Award: Best Show Garden


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A fresh take on a traditional kitchen garden, this is a relaxing space that’s very productive. In just one corner of one of the willow-walled raised beds are lettuce, coriander, lavender, with climbing roses and climbing courgettes scrambling together up an obelisk. The design is framed by pleached trees, with a central pool for filling your watering can. At the rear is a glass platform sheltering a seating area beneath.
Award: Silver-Gilt Flora medal


Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust


The warm tones of this garden’s planting are offset by the fresh green foliage and cool blue-toned water feature, supplied by a shallow rusted-metal rill.

Designed to offer a series of views, contained by cedarwood frames, the garden appears as a series of snapshots.
Award: Gold medal



Evoking the natural beauty of wild places in the British countryside, this design features perennials, meadow flowers and grasses arranged around a central Chilmark limestone pool, with copper detailing inspired by the mineral wealth of North Wales and Dartmoor. A natural-looking stepping stone walkway leads to a casual seating area. The whole is framed by a stand of birches.
Award: Gold medal


RBC Blue Water Roof Garden

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An urban rooftop garden, this design blends recreational space with wildlife-friendly features.The garden includes a striking living wall of flowerpots, which need no watering, with insect shelters built into the wall. A central ‘wetland’ area captures rainwater run-off. Among the planting are bright blue Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis).
Gold Medal

Trailfinders Australian Garden

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Showcasing sustainable landscaping, this garden focuses on water management and natural habitat gardening.

All of the garden’s surfaces channel rainwater into a tank and a billabong, intended as a natural swimming pool. When the water tank is full, the overflow is directed into a creek which flows into the billabong.

The striking terracotta-coloured space is a studio, with a design based on the waratah flower.
Award: Best Show Garden


A Garden for First Touch from St George’s

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This garden’s watercourse, encased in weathered metal, represents the journey that premature babies and their families follow. The source at the top of the stylised valley is turbulent but then the flow becomes gentler. The garden is planted mainly in soothing blues and greens, set in pale gravel.
Award: Silver-gilt Flora


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Designed as a series of defined layers, the layout is cool and contemplative with natural elements in a geometric setting. The garden features vivid lemon and lime shades with plants including Euphorbia palustris and E cornigera, lemon Lupinus ‘Chandelier’ and ‘Cashmere Cream’ and Geum ‘Lemon Drops’.
Best Show Garden, Gold medal




How to survive the Chelsea Flower Show


DSC_0139If you’re lucky enough to have tickets to the Chelsea Flower Show, congratulations. At the time of writing there are only £99 public day tickets left. Note for next year: apply earlier.

Approach the 101st flower fest with the right preparation and you’ll enjoy yourself much more.

Plan your visit: there’s a whole section of the RHS website for just this, so take a look; saves clogging up the pathways thumbing through the show catalogue. (Do buy a copy if you haven’t already ordered one with your ticket.) Plan how to get there, and the best entrance to use. The Routemaster shuttle bus from Victoria is fun. Decide what’s most important to see, and plan your route. There’s a lot of ground to cover. Are you there for the shopping; to gaze on the ranks of perfect orchids in the Great Pavilion, to sip champagne and people-watch, or to check out this year’s most-talked-about gardens?

Check the weather: showers and sunny spells are forecast, with a high of 16°C. So you’ll need a raincoat or a waterproof poncho, as well as sunglasses

Wear sensible shoes: you’ll be doing a lot of walking so choose comfortable, supportive shoes that keep out the wet; the going can get squelchy.

Go hands-free: you’ll most certainly be juggling a camera and catalogue; maybe a notebook and pen, so take a rucksack or across-the-body bag. Pick an outfit with plenty of pockets – useful for stashing the camera/catalogue/notebook while you’re picking up plant lists.

Take pictures, lots of pictures: you might think you’ll never forget how the all-white meadow-style bed was planted, but visual fatigue does set in. If you want a comprehensive record of what was there, take a photo of the garden’s namepost before you capture the garden itself. That way, you know what was where, and by who.

Don’t have a memory lapse: once the camera’s out, you’ll be amazed at how many photos you just must take. Take a spare memory card and batteries, and if you’re using your mobile, delete photos from the phone so you’ve got plenty of room.

Take an antihistamine: never had hay fever? There’s always a first time. At Chelsea it’s four seasons in one day: summer bedding, spring bulbs, trees and grasses are all at their peak. all pumping out pollen simultaneously.

Even if you haven’t displayed an immune reaction to the fluffy darts of the London plane tree, which pepper the site before the gardens are built, how do you know that none of the exotic specimens from South Africa (in the Sentebale garden) or Barbados (in the flower-arranging pavilion) will set your nose running and eyes streaming? And that’s before the ill-chosen perfume clashing with the scent of the flowers gets up your nose.

Be patient: Everyone wants to see those gardens. There are a lot of people there. Over 160,000. So expect polite jockeying for position to get the best views, and queues for the loos.