Chelsea Flower Show 2017 preview:the hot tip on this year's medal contenders and show garden highlights

The world's greatest horticultural extravaganza opens next week, with many of the show's medal contenders showcasing ideas from around the globe.

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Some of the smartest shops and streets of central London will be transformed by a bouquet of flowery events next week that will include Chelsea In Bloom, Belgravia In Bloom, and the anarchic flower show, Chelsea Fringe.

But the hot ticket, as ever, will be the world’s greatest horticultural extravaganza, the Chelsea Flower Show, which opens on Tuesday 23 May.

Designer James Basson, with Gold Medallist form and a penchant for naturalistic planting, will showcase the ecological diversity of Malta in his M&G Garden.

The investment firm is also the show’s sponsor. An abandoned quarry with monolithic pillars is the dramatic backdrop for the indigenous plants that have reclaimed the nooks and crannies of the Maltese limestone. This is the first time many of these native plants have been seen in the UK.

For a chance to view them up close as your stroll around the garden, email your name, address and phone number with “H & P ticket offer” in the subject field to by Friday noon, to win two tickets for Wednesday’s RHS members-only day


Japanese delight: the pond garden in Kyoto’s Imperial Palace is depicted by Ishihara Kazuyuki

Many of the show gardens draw ideas from around the globe. Designer Sarah Eberle channels the Spanish Catalan architect Gaudí in her Viking Cruise’s Garden of Inspiration, while Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins link East and West landscapes with a Silk Road Bridge of fabric banners and flowers.

Jack Dunckley’s Bermuda Triangle Garden will show tropical planting you might expect on an active volcano, depicting lava with laser-cut aluminium sheeting, and the Royal Bank of Canada Garden, designed and planted by an all-women team — a first for Chelsea — will give an impression of Canadian forests and freshwater lakes.

Beneath A Mexican Sky, designed by Manoj Malde, is inspired by the modernist architect Luis Barragán, and promises colour-washed walls of clementine, coral and cappuccino that offset agaves and Mediterranean drought plants.

Expect another triumph from landscape gardener Ishihara Kazuyuki, now in his 12th year at Chelsea, with Gosho No Niwa a depiction of the pond garden in Kyoto’s Imperial Palace, using pines, Japanese maples and moss.


Beneath A Mexican Sky, designed by Manoj Malde, is inspired by modernist architect Luis Barragán

Closer to home, there are many ideas for Londoners to bring into their own gardens. As part of the RHS Greening Grey Britain campaign, Nigel Dunnett, who designed the Olympic wildflower meadows and the Barbican’s new roof garden, will show, within the setting of a high-rise apartment block, how we can meet the challenges of climate change and rapid urban development in the RHS Flagship Garden.

Kate Gould, in her City Living garden featuring bamboo decking and giant Anglepoise lamps, might inspire you to ditch the fencing for a concrete wall that transmits sparkling light via 3.8 miles of fibre optic cable. Although for that, you might want to call in an electrician.  

Sponsored by its landowner, Capco, in partnership with Westminster charity Sir Simon Milton Foundation, 500 Years of Covent Garden, by Lee Bestall, is a garden designed to showcase the area’s horticultural heritage, including Westminster Abbey’s original orchard garden and the 300-year-old fruit and flower market, complete with steel replicas of the old metal arches.

If you miss the show, you can still see elements of the garden at Covent Garden Piazza from June 1, including planters packed with flowers and pop-ups of the finest fast foods and English sparkling wines.


Gorgeous newcomer: Iris Rachel de Thame from French house Cayeux

Mark Straver, owner of Hortus Loci nursery, which is supplying plants to five show gardens, believes Verbascum Violetta will be a hot contender, as well as ethereal white flowers including the fragrant wild rose Rosa multiflora.

New plants launching in the Great Pavilion include a fruity-scented apricot rose with red-tipped buds from David Austin, named after Dame Judi Dench; Taiga, a multi-petalled violet and cream clematis from Thorncroft Clematis, and a copper and lilac iris named after gardener and TV presenter Rachel de Thame, from French house Cayeux. 

For its 50th anniversary, BBC Radio 2 has commissioned five Feel Good Gardens, each named after a DJ and each focusing on one of the five senses.

The Jo Whiley Scent Garden has been created with perfumer Jo Malone, Anneka Rice’s Colour Garden will be masterminded by Sarah Raven with input from Tricia Guild, while Chris Evans has keen gardener Mary Berry to help him create his garden based on taste.

Interesting to see how cake will come into play, but then at Chelsea, anything goes.

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