Chelsea Flower Show 2011 preview

The flower show is full of surprises this year - including a nine-metre wall of edible plants.
This year's Chelsea Flower Show, which starts Tuesday 24 May, will not disappoint. Expect dramatic designs, innovative landscaping and planting ideas by the trugful.

'Despite impending summer drought, there is an abundance of water in many of the show gardens'

Where else would you see, cheek by jowl, a floating glass viewing platform, jungle streams lined with gold tiger pebbles, a nine-metre tower of edibles and curved garden walls of louvred concrete?

The glass viewing platform is the second tier of a see-through pavilion at the Modern Kitchen Garden, designed by six-times Chelsea gold medallist Bunny Guinness for the show's main sponsor, M&G Investments.

Based on a traditional template, raised beds built from woven willow are planted with a flower and veg melange of cabbages and beans, clematis and roses, while lollipop lemon, apple and quince trees are dotted throughout the garden.

Beneath the chill-out glass platform is a heated, light-filled space that, says Guinness, will suit both people and plants that prefer the warmth. There is a plunge pool, too, and that is, she says emphatically, for plants, not people: when potted plants are under stress through drought, you plunge them into the water.

Bunny Guinness garden
A glass pavilion and plunge pool for plants feature in Bunny Guinness's modern potager
Despite impending summer drought, there is an abundance of water in many of the show gardens. Half of James Wong's 20m by 10m garden will be under water - but then it is meant to represent the landscape of Malaysia, so expect winding jungle streams, waterfalls and tropical water lilies in full bloom. Look into the streams for the stones with maximum bling: exotic tiger pebbles striped in gold and orange.

A series of shallow, rectangular pools features on the Cancer Research UK garden, designed by Robert Myers, and these are interspersed with beds of colourful plants that are adapted to survive in tough coastal conditions — so should thrive in an urban garden.

This could be one of the most practical gardens of the show — though the backdrop of date palms, however, does mark it as more Tobago than Torbay.

If you'd never consider concrete on your own patch, Chris Beardshaw's design for the Bradstone Fusion garden could have you rushing out for a cement mixer. The green panorama will be framed by two elegantly curved louvred screens of concrete which give beguiling peeks of the planting within, a smart idea for a city garden.

Creating space in the city is the theme of the B&Q Garden, designed by Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins, who more than achieve their aim by building a nine-metre high tower of window boxes, with central staircase, to form a vertical wall of edible plants. There will be a 90-bed insects' hotel and a glass table with fish swimming in it. Seeing is believing.

If you're looking for glamour, Luciano Guibbelei will supply it, in spades. The designer who creates ultimate contemporary urban spaces offers a contemplative retreat with Oriental overtones for the Laurent-Perrier garden. Imagine a serene space shaded by 40-year-old twisted Parrotia persica trees, a pavilion framed in bamboo, a rectangular reflecting pool, and cloud-pruned mountain pine.

A patch of planting, however, offers a luscious maroon, bronze and pink combination from Astrantia Roma, oriental poppy Patty's Plum and Iris Dutch Chocolate.

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