Sunday, 25 May 2008

My Favourite Gardens at Chelsea

Thank goodness for digital cameras and thank goodness for mine and the 200 plus photos I took at the Chelsea Flower Show on Saturday.

I have looked at them a lot to remind myself of a perfect day and of the gardens I loved the best. But if I was to remember, without technology, the gardens that stayed with me were mostly small with a lot of elements that I found inspirational or do-able, one day in the far off future.

My top two favourites were Adam Frost's A Welcome Sight which won best Urban Garden (I think) and a gold and Mark Gregory's The Children Society Garden. I surprised myself liking these so much as they weren't on my dog-eared list of Gardens I Must See.

But love them I did, partly because they were both front gardens which I think are so much harder and paradoxically easier to design when faced with them at home. Harder because the space is usually so much smaller but easier because you don't have to take washing lines and climbing frames into consideration and you can go a bit wild (much like decorating downstairs loos).

In Adam's I loved the planting, the materials used for the landscaping, the three little pots lined up by the front door, the beautiful Tibetan Cherries with reddish shiny bark and the clever water feature which started off at the front door quietly dripping from metal spirals down into metal troughs leading to small pools.

Adam's ethos behind it, designing a front garden because no-one ever does, and making something that encourages socialising with neighbours and therefore adding to people's sense of community, also added something special for me.

Mark's garden was just full of brilliant ideas to copy; the living wall (of which I have downloaded the planting plan), grass-roofed bin store, the bench with the hard-to-spot outside tap and the unique bike store, which admittedly I wouldn't want on the front of my house but still, it was clever.

My other choices are on the whole rather boring I'm afraid. I loved the gardens that offered something to me, namely ideas to steal. Obviously I didn't want the gardens to be too realistic; I didn't want to be looking at a square patch of lawn bordered by narrow, mean borders.

Real Life by Brett was charming and could easily be replicated. I loved the pots, the paving, the different seating options but was slightly less keen on the prettified shed (no net curtains! No!).

And of course, vegetable gardens had a special place in my heart. I loved the willow hurdle raised beds of the Daylesford Organic Summer Solstice garden, the willow heart on the rustic gate and the outside fireplace. Now what I wouldn't give for an outside fireplace. I didn't know I wanted one until I saw this!

I loved, loved, loved the Dorset Cereals Edible Playground and am going to totally steal the idea of a whiteboard listing the watering rota. I just need somewhere visible to place it at school. It was brilliantly done; the welly boots kicked off by the classroom door made you feel the children had just left the garden.
Elements of other gardens will live on in my memory. I loved the white planting at the top of the George Harrison From Life to Life garden, the moss covered secret garden Midori No Tibera and if I were a wealthy cafe owner I'd be asking Diarmuid Gavin to move his entire Oceanico Garden to my place.

Surprisingly I didn't love the Marshall's Garden Kids Really Want. I tried as I was expecting it to be a favourite but for some reason I was disappointed. I liked elements of it - the large rocks for climbing and to make a cave, the shallow pond, the tiny palm trees, the succulent lawn on the hillside - but that's okay. I think there are plenty of ideas there to steal!

Now only 363 days to go until the next Chelsea Flower Show - hopefully.


  1. Plenty of nickable ideas for the gardening club too! The Dorset Cereals garden is going back to a school in Dorset - bet you're jealous now!

    I enjoyed your personal guide - it's made me want to go even more!

  2. Hi - enjoyed this post Like VP I am now thinking I might go next year

  3. I've wanted to go for ages. Every year I watch it on TV and sigh that I wish I was there. I'd say go, I don't think you'd be disappointed.

    And VP, I know, lucky school. Although we've been allowed such a teeny space that I'm not sure we'd fit it in!

  4. Kathryn/plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com28 May 2008 at 14:49

    Photos! We need more photos! :) It sounds really really lovely. Is it every May? I will google. Thanks for the peek!

  5. Oops, I think my comment didn't go through (computer glitch) so here tis again.
    Thanks for letting me visit Chelsea vicariously through your comments and photos.