Chelsea Flower Show 2014 highlights

Beauty, ingenuity, sheer hard graft - London’s famous horticultural contest is a celebration of all three. Here is H&P’s pick of this year’s gorgeous gardens.
NO MAN’S LAND: CHARITY GARDEN IS WAR TRIBUTE
GOLD medal winner

Marking the First World War centenary, No Man’s Land: ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Garden shows how the heavily scarred strips of land between the frontline trenches regenerated over time.

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Regeneration: No Man’s Land: ABF The Soldiers’ Charity Garden by Charlotte Rowe. Image by RHS/Neil Hepworth

Designer Charlotte Rowe, better known for her crisp, architectural designs for London gardens, displays a light touch with chalkland wildflowers and gentle globes of yew, which were widely planted in the cemeteries of the Somme. Best of all, a former mine crater has become a peaceful, circular pool, edged in water irises. 

SHEER HEAVEN ON EARTH
GOLD medal winner

A paradise Garden, invented by the Persians more than 2,000 years ago, is a place where water, shade and planting make an idyllic sanctuary.

Cleve West shows that the Persian template can be applied today with sensational results in his take for the show’s sponsors, M&G Investments. Water flows from an octagonal fountain into four rills, a nod to the four rivers that are said to have flowed through the Garden of Eden (see below). 

As if it wasn’t enough to design and plant this paradise, West himself engraved the Tree of Life across five panels of the vast limestone  relief at the back of the garden.  That’s dedication.

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Image by RHS/Neil Hepworth

SEDUCTION: CHAMPAGNE LAURENT-PERRIER
GOLD medal winner and BEST IN SHOW

Creating a garden is about creating seduction, says Chelsea gold medallist Luciano Giubbilei, and his design for Champagne Laurent-Perrier, with its gentle planting and restful pillows of weeping beech beneath amelanchier trees, certainly does seduce and delight.

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Best in Show: the Laurent-Perrier garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei. Image by RHS/Neil Hepworth

“Every element should be easy to read, so it gives space for the light to play on it,” says Giubbilei, and though the design appears to be complex, the entire garden, amazingly, is based on the simplest layout — just six rectangles.
 
DRINK IT IN CLOUDY BAY’S PLOT
SILVER GILT winner


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Image by RHS/Neil Hepworth

“We’ve been living on Snickers bars and Coca-Cola for three weeks,” says design supremo Andrew Wilson, talking of his hard graft with partner Gavin McWilliam — though as their Cloudy Bay Sensory Garden was sponsored by the New Zealand wine company, you’d expect them to be fuelled on pinot noir. In fact it is the garden that reflects the wine, with giant backdrop panels of charred oak, channelling chardonnay, and a fabulous planting palette of sumptuous burgundies with fruity notes from raspberry bushes and wild strawberries.

MOORISH MARVEL: ARTISAN GARDEN
BRONZE medal winner

Bringing Mediterranean pizzazz to the Artisan Gardens is 75 Years of The Roof Gardens in Kensington, created by the venue’s head gardener David Lewis, who chose its flamboyant Spanish Garden as his inspiration.

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Spanish influences: The Roof Gardens in Kensington were the inspiration for David Lewis. Image: RHS/Tim Sandall

The trickling copper tree fountain is from Garden Arts and Design, the columns are originals, from a discarded arcade in the roof gardens, and the “ancient Moorish tiles” around the fountain are from Topps Tiles — they have been photoprinted with the real thing.

TAKE A BEHIND THE SCENES TOUR OF CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

 
CHELSEA FRINGEWATCH
  • May 23: no need to get on the train to Provence at St Pancras International to see and smell the region’s flowers. Clifton Nurseries has installed a pop-up Provençal garden at the station, with jasmine, lavender, rolling hillsides and gravel underfoot. It’s free to explore on the second floor, opposite the Betjeman statue, 9am-5pm, until May 31.
  • May 24: a weed or a wilding? You decide, at an exhibition of photos and paintings by Paul Debois, Lynn Keddie and Alys Fowler in the Oxford House Gallery, Bethnal Green, with a bookable talk, pop-up café and party in the evening. The exhibition runs until mid-June.
  • May 25: Urbanfarmacy’s River of Herbs meanders from Surbiton station down the high street to lead you into the community garden on Balaclava Road. Be guided by the orange marigolds, and spot herbs in tree pits and planters along the way.
  • May 26: visit the magical orchard of heritage pear trees at Chiswick Library. Navigate your way round the secret mini maze, book your bugs into the insect hotel, take the treasure trail and browse in the little outdoor library. Until June 8.
  • May 27: see the amazing urban living space designed by the honeybee to make a snug nest, part of an exhibition at the Chelsea Physic Garden that aims to promote the importance of bees to civilisation. From 11am-6pm, until May 30.
  • May 28: if you’re passionate about peonies, you can’t miss a display of dozens of unusual varieties at Neill Strain’s The Flower Lounge, West Halkin Street, SW1, along with demos, 10am-7pm, showing how to style them for the home. Until May 31.
  • Details of these and more Fringe events at chelseafringe.com

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