Next week London will be a city of flowers, transformed not only by Chelsea In Bloom (theme, Carnival), Belgravia In Bloom (theme, the Queen’s 90th birthday) and Chelsea Fringe (theme, alternative and good fun) but by the world’s greatest horticultural extravaganza, the Chelsea Flower Show, starting on Tuesday, May 24.
As ever, the show is all about planting trends, but it remains to be seen whether landscape architect Sam Ovens — who, at 27, debuts at Chelsea with his naturalistic retreat of cedar cabin set in wild heathland of pines and grasses for Cloudy Bay — can single-handedly bring heather from the rugged moors of Cornwall into the back gardens of Muswell Hill.
Plant of the year contenders
Safer bets for must-have new plants to be launched in the Great Pavilion include apricot Roald Dahl, a peach of an English rose from David Austin, to honour 100 years since the birth of the storyteller; Zantedeschia Nashville, a raspberry-streaked white calla lily from Brighter Blooms; seven exquisite new French beauties from Cayeux Iris, and the prettiest pink alstroemeria, Summer Party, a one-to-watch entry in Chelsea’s plant of the year contest.
Chelsea preview and 2015 highlights
Chelsea preview and 2015 highlights
1/39 A plant of the year contender
This prettiest pink alstroemeria, Summer Party, is a one-to-watch entry in Chelsea’s plant of the year contest.
2/39 The Garden of Mindful Living show garden
Vestra Wealth’s Garden of Mindful Living, designed by Paul Martin, has no buddhas, but, with dappled shade from multi-stemmed trees, water rills trickling through low limestone walls and a long, lean terrace designed with yoga practice in mind, is for city lovers who yearn for a quite, calm space to restore life’s balance.
3/39 M&G Investments show garden
Winner of five Chelsea golds and twice winner of best in show, Cleve West is back with acontemporary garden inspired by the timeless woodlands of Exmoor
4/39 Calla lily Nashville
Must-have new plants to be launched in the Great Pavilion include Zantedeschia Nashville, a raspberry-streaked white calla lily from Brighter Blooms
5/39 Moustache Rose from Cayeux Iris
The Moustache Rose is another one of this year's must-have new plants
6/39 2015 highlights: Gold medal winner
Homebase Urban Retreat Garden designed by Adam Frost
Frost reveals how wildlife can flourish in the city among modernist materials such as poured concrete and Corten steel.
Image: Marianne Majerus
7/39 2015 highlights: Gold medal winner
A Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse designed by James Basson
This garden has seductive seats beneath a quartet of olive trees.
Image: Marianne Majerus
8/39 2015 highlights: Gold and Best in Show winner
Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden designed by Dan Pearson
Sponsored by Laurent-Perrier and inspired by the trout stream and Joseph Paxton’s rockery at Chatsworth.
Image: Marianne Majerus
9/39 2015 highlights: Silver Gilt medal winner
Royal Bank of Canada garden designed by Matthew Wilson
Wilson designed this sensual space to show that we can grow both edible and ornamental plants without turning on the tap.
Image: Marianne Majerus
10/39 2015 highlights: Silver Gilt medal winner
M&G Garden designed by Jo Thompson
A romantic space that incorporates an oak retreat reached by a stepladder, a natural swimming pond, a woodland of river birches, alders and acers, and tumbling roses and peonies.
Image: Marianne Majerus
11/39 2015 highlights: Silver Gilt medal winner
The Hidden Beauty of Kranji by designers John Tan and Raymond Toh
Tropical orchids the colours of parakeets, a multi-level waterfall and a pavilion is garlanded with jungle creepers.
Image: Marianne Majerus
12/39 Behind the scenes at Chelsea Flower Show 2015
Sean Murray, winner of BBC2's Great Chelsea Garden Challenge, has been given the award of building a garden at Chelsea.
All 'behind-the-scenes' pictures by Pattie Barron
13/39 Britain's first floodproof ark house
Chris Beardshaw, left, and helpers put the finishing touches to his Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden, which will be relocated after the show to become the central feature of a new community project in Poplar. The green box knot garden, richly planted with perennials, hints at the rope knots used in the East End's historical shipping industry.
14/39 A crisis looms with two thirds of Londoners already paying the higher-rate stamp duty
But if it's terracotta you're after, Pots and Pithoi has the genuine Cretan article - entirely hand-made - and very handsome they are, too.
15/39 Homes gossip: live above The Wolseley, the A-lister's favourite breakfast spot
Off with his head! A Chelsea Flower Show judge gets stroppy after seeing a wilting rose. Actually, it's a sculpture, one of a set from an Alice in Wonderland tea party that's the work of Robert James, who bases his fanciful bronze creations on classic literature.
16/39 Hot homes: houseboats on the Thames
Check out one of the highlights within the Great Pavilion, in which florists celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice's Adventure in Wonderland: The Mad Hatter's Tea Party, a feast of giant cupcakes topped with swirls of colourful blooms.
17/39 One-third of London’s £783billion-worth of homes are rented
Maverick designer Matthew Wilson - who is also the MD of London's popular Clifton Nurseries - created this contemporary town garden for Royal Bank of Canada with the help of his Clifton team. Based on principles of water conservation, the garden features a swirl of a deck, steamed-oak furniture and copiable planting ideas. Note the iris heads, under wraps so that they don't bloom a moment before the judges do their rounds.
18/39 Live next door to the Royal Albert Hall
Orchids, orchids and more orchids in this sumptuous and wildly colourful show garden entitled The Hidden Beauty of Kranji, created by Singapore designers John Tan and Raymond Toh. Will the orchids stay the course during a Chelsea week in which rain and wind are predicted? Who knows, but in the sunshine, this garden is spectacular.
19/39 Sam Collett: auction expert and property investor
The Fresh Gardens, small spaces with a build-up time of just nine days as opposed to the 19 days given to the main show gardens, are a chance for designers to showcase new ideas. Here, in the Pure Land Foundation Garden, this curvy white wall of Jesmonite contains a planting palette influenced by the principal colours used in Buddhist art.
20/39 Homes gossip: rent a flat in the former Westminster Town Hall
Who said cactii can't thrive in a garden pond? At Chelsea, anything is possible, and proving the point is this fabulous cactus display floating in the water of The World Vision Garden's rice paddy fields. A clever solution that throws the old-fashioned gardening notion "Right plant, right place," to the four winds.
21/39 Homes gossip: a luxury Art Deco apartment in the former Arsenal FC stadium is for sale
Meet glorious Ephemera, a woodland sprite composed of one thousand bronze leaves; and Aurora (right), an imposing head that just needs a ruff of box balls to show her to advantage. These are the work of sculptor Simon Gudgeon, whose work can also be seen at Hyde Park and Carriageway Drive.
22/39 Beach huts in coastal hotspots
Shell extravaganzas from Pollyfields are extraordinary works of art and there is no doubt they'd make an impact on your patio, but frankly, we find them rather scary. An interesting point to mention here is that this Devon company's other line is in lavender pot pourri.
23/39 Property search: this week's budget is £695,000 and takes us to Kentish Town, Suffolk and East Sussex
Fancy scribbling a novel in this two-storey oak-framed building? The Retreat, a romantic garden designed by Jo Thompson for M&G, features this idyllic hideaway, reached by a ladder, as well as a large, natural swimming pond and a riot of roses and peonies.
24/39 Homes gossip: live near Jemima Khan
Matt Keightley, designer of the Sentebale - Hope in Vulnerability garden, stands beneath the pavilion of wood and stone that is in keeping with the structures of Lesotho in Southern Africa. These artificial-looking flowers are in fact proteas, south African beauties that grow in the UK in only the mildest of regions, such as Tresco, but you might be lucky if your London garden is sunny and sheltered.
25/39 Russell Brand has bought Laurence Olivier's former home
Meet Kamelia Bin Zaal, a Dubai-based designer, who has created a contemporary take on traditional Islamic garden design. Marble and mother of pearl are the key materials in this show garden, The Beauty of Islam. The silvery palm is what we would call a Statement Plant, but don't expect Bismarckia nobilis to put in an appearance at your garden centre any time soon.
26/39 James Hunt's former Wimbledon home is one the market
Gaze Burvill make beautiful hand-crafted oak furniture and this tree seat, the wood gently steamed so it bends to the maker's will, we think is rather fabulous.
27/39 Uma Thurman's exclusive New York pad
Gentle genius Dan Pearson makes a triumphant return to Chelsea after an 11-year absence with a dreamy interpretation of a small and less-trodden slice of the Chatsworth estate that showcases Pearson's love affair with naturalistic planting. This garden is, in short, breathtaking.
28/39 Property search: this week's budget is £525,000 and takes us to Brook Green, Norfolk and Kent
David Harber makes sensational sundials and water sculptures that are shipped all over the world and stand in the grandest gardens. This new stainless steel creation unveiled at Chelsea will set you back a cool £40,800, but it does catch the light beautifully and would draw the attention away from lacklustre planting elsewhere on your patch.
29/39 Move into the Ascot home rented by Meryl Streep; and Cher's new Beverly Hills home
French outdoor furniture company Laorus might have half their stand under wraps, but we can still see that their colourful wall fountains, with low or high level basins, are a great idea for a modern town garden. Love!
30/39 Rent a room in a townhouse that starred in The Woman in Black
Glasshouses at Chelsea generally feature pots of perfect peppers and luscious tomatoes, but Alitex have gone one better and installed a bath. Why? Because this is Chelsea Flower Show, where everything grows and anything goes. And because it must be wonderful to bathe with the scent of all that white jasmine filling the air.
31/39 Diary of an estage agent: Canary Wharf
Many show gardens have a key plant and the Royal Bank of Canada's garden is no exception. The spectacular tree at the front of the garden, underplanted with drought-loving Californian poppies, is an olive tree that has been micro-bonsaied. Expect small-scale copies to pitch up at your local garden centre.
32/39 Diary of an estate agent: Chelsea
Possibly the most inviting seats at Chelsea this year are these, set under the silvery parasol of four olive trees, within a perfumer's garden in Grasse...Designer James Basson has done a wonderful job in recreating the magic of the maquis in this garden for Cote d'Azur-based fragrance company L'Occitane. A Perfumer's Garden in Grasse gets our vote.
33/39 West London residents reject Crossrail convoy
A tiny section of Dan Pearson's Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden inspired here by Paxton's original rockery. Bring in the boulders and allow those wildflowers - don't dare call them weeds - to naturalise.
34/39 Hot homes for techies: Richmond upon Thames
It's the attention to detail as much as the big picture that knocks us out each year at Chelsea. Matt Keightley conveys Lesotho's native environmental characteristics on the Sentebale - Hope in Vulnerability garden, as can be seen in these succulents growing out of the sandstone columns and the child's footprints that run down the paths; these footprints are actually those taken from a child in Lesotho. We're impressed.
35/39 Homes gossip: If Liam Gallagher needs a new home, his bandmate has a £7 million bargain
Chelsea is the place to find fabulous plant pots and one of the best stands is Capital Garden Products. We love these huge fibreglass pots that make a perfect match for the purple lupins; and those handsome linear planters need only the simplest of greeenery to complement.
36/39 Homes gossip: Robin and Lucienne Day's former Chichester home is for sale
Ideas at Chelsea are thick on the ground - as in this massive garden screen of Corten steel (right), an increasingly popular material with designers - and high in the sky -as in this hanging seat (left) from Cacoon, who also make it as a cosy two-seater. Best to hang it from a very strong bough.
37/39 Stamp duty deadline and decision day for solar tax draw near
Rusted tulips put in an appearance amongst purple-podded peas - find them at Architectural Heritage - while polystyrene ping-pong balls protect the sharp tips of a ferocious agave on the Sentebale garden.
38/39 Unveiled: this summer's Serpentine Pavilion
Spot the fantastic half-man, half-tree in both these views of the Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden designed by Chris Beardshaw, who has won the People's Choice Award at past Chelseas three times - can he do it again, this year?
39/39 Homes gossip: buy the flat where Robbie Williams lived
The Homebase team, led by designer Adam Frost, put the finishing touches to their outstanding Urban Retreat Garden, which is based on the geometric architecture of the modernist Bauhaus movement.
Winner of five Chelsea golds and twice winner of best in show, Cleve West is back with a contemporary garden for M&G Investments, the show’s title sponsors, and this time it’s personal. The garden is inspired by the timeless woodlands of Exmoor that West loved as a teenager, and the path is a metaphor for his journey into garden design, starting with rough stone then becoming smoother towards the central sunken terrace and pool of grey sandstone, sourced from The Forest of Dean.
To walk West’s path bordered with foxgloves, aquilegias and bear’s breeches, email your name, address and phone number with “H&P ticket offer” in the subject field to email@example.com by Friday noon for a chance to win two tickets for Wednesday’s RHS members-only day.
The RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden for Health, Happiness and Horticulture, designed by Ann-Marie Powell, and part of a collaboration between the Royal Horticultural Society, the Evening Standard and Angell Town, will be relocated to the Lambeth estate after the show.
This blueprint for a community garden incorporates a bee-friendly perennial meadow, edible plants in pots, vibrant flower borders and soothing water features. To stroll around the garden, email your name, address and phone number with “H&P ticket offer” in the subject field to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday midday to win two tickets for Thursday.
Vestra Wealth’s Garden of Mindful Living, designed by Paul Martin, has no buddhas, but, with dappled shade from multi-stemmed trees, water rills trickling through low limestone walls and a long, lean terrace designed with yoga practice in mind, is for city lovers who yearn for a quiet, calm space to restore life’s balance.
Harrods’ British Eccentrics Garden is showman Diarmuid Gavin’s witty homage to Heath Robinson. At first glance, the space is a gentle slope of terraces and topiary, but linger for a few moments and you will see the calm green spring into life, with box balls bobbing up and down, a herb bed that spins and conical bay trees that twirl as they’re trimmed by mechanical shears. However these, are regrettably, not part of Harrods’ new garden design service, spearheaded by Gavin.
Providing more theatre, Peter Eustance’s Together We Can garden for disability charity Papworth Trust is shaped like an ear, with a giant set of musical bars generating an acoustic pulse, soft planting swaying to music and floral soloists, all of which will surely render wind chimes obsolete.
The show gardens, as ever, have a global reach: Russian garden designer Tatyana Goltsova debuts at Chelsea with the Imperial Garden — Revive, which visualises the complex relationship between Russia, Ukraine and the UK and has 600 kilos of aluminium lace overlaid through it, symbolising harmony.
The Japanese have a reputation for exquisite gardens at Chelsea, and the Senri-Sentei-Garage Garden shows how planting can complement your car. You’ll need a rooftop tier on your garage with a winding access staircase.
Consummate plantsman Nick Bailey, head gardener at Chelsea Physic Garden, showcases the extraordinary precision of plant geometry through his choice of stems, leaves and flowers in the Beauty of Mathematics Garden for Winton Capital, and, just to ensure absolute precision of the planting, too, has flown in from Tokyo three Japanese gardeners with a scrupulous eye for detail.
The copper band that winds through the garden’s different levels is etched with algorithms and takes on diverse functions from bench to stair rail to viewing platform to planter, pitched high above the garden.
That’s versatility for you, Chelsea Flower Show style.