It’s not quite as quick and easy to give your garden a fresh look as it is to update an outfit, but if you approach it like wearing an old favourite (your existing garden) with different accessories, you can achieve a new focus, says Adrienne Wyper at Chelsea Flower Show.
As you may recall from school art classes, colours found opposite each other on the colour wheel, blue and orange, or purple and yellow, mutually enhance each other, an effect demonstrated by The Cherub HIV Garden: A Life Without Walls, and the RHS Wellbeing Garden. As Cherub HIV Garden designer Naomi Ferrett Cohen says: ‘Stick to a limited palette…less is more’.
Swathes of a single colour abound in this year’s show gardens, whether spanning the whole plot, or in one patch. Green is the natural go-to for VTB Capital Garden – Spirit of Cornwall, inspired by Barbara Hepworth’s work, and designed by Stuart Charles Towner, who confided that he was ‘slightly disappointed’ with a Silver-Gilt medal. Blue is the hue in much of the RHS Wellbeing Garden, and co-ordinating citrus shades are used both for flowers and soft furnishings in the LG-Eco garden, an idea that’s easy to copy with a few cushions in the right colour (top photo).
Every year at Chelsea Flower Show, one or two species are seen in many show gardens. This year, as Nigel Slater noted in his Instagram feed, ‘If there is one flower dominating #rhschelsea this year it is the foxglove and I couldn’t be happier.’ And I couldn’t agree more. The tapering spires of the Digitalis family appear in white, lemon, apricot, pink and mauve, the innards of the bell-shaped blooms darkly spotted, rising up from the Skin Deep Garden, Welcome to Yorkshire and The Trailfinders South African Wine Estate, among others.
The Gold-winning Seedlip Garden takes a penchant for peas to new lengths: every single plant is from the pea family, and dried peas are even used as shingle!
Repurposing and recycling
Growing things is one of the most basic human urges, symbolic of putting down roots. In The Lemon Tree Trust Garden, which won Silver-Gilt, designer Tom Massey worked with refugees in Iraq to create a garden that reflects their resourcefulness in repurposing the materials they have to hand to use as planting containers, such as plastic bottles, drainpipes, tin cans and building blocks, all put to use in the garden to grow food and flowers.
The Weston Garden, balancing the traditional and modern, includes lots of recycled items, like the York stone and limestone slips, and many of the plants have visited Chelsea before, which brings to mind, on a smaller scale, moving plants or containers around in your own garden.
Feathery and frothy
Lots of gardens looked light and airy, with space to see between the plants, thanks to the use of grasses, fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace. These add movement to a garden, swaying and swishing in the lightest breeze. Sarah Price, designer of the gold-winning Mediterranean-influenced M&G Garden (who also designed the 2012 gardens at London’s Olympics Park) incorporated ground-hugging herbs punctuated with taller, wispy, diaphanous specimens.
Adrienne Wyper writes about gardening, and other good stuff. See her work at adriennewyper2015.com