This year’s Chelsea Flower Show is worth visiting for its new plants alone. Expect, for example, to be dazzled by flame Iris Carnival Time from Todd’s Botanics, delighted by two container clematis — blush Corinne and lilac-striped Endellion — from Raymond Evison and enchanted by David Austin’s three new roses, including myrrh-scented white rose Desdemona. Naturally, Austin’s soft yellow, beautiful English rose Charlotte is given a fresh airing.
Meanwhile, the show gardens look especially exciting this year, with some designers seeming to set themselves impossible tasks, despite the fact that they only have days left to finish converting a patch of grass to their personal vision of paradise.
Youngest designers on the block brothers Harry, 27, and David Rich, 24, have not only had to represent the wines of their sponsor, New Zealand winery Cloudy Bay, through the planting — cue luscious Iris Dutch Chocolate and dainty white Astrantia Shaggy, among others — but they are also replicating the oak-slatted shack in which customers sample the wines. Visitors can expect a madding crowd at 11am, 4pm and 6pm.
Just as ambitious is Darren Hawkes. Starting with a model of cereal boxes on his kitchen table, he envisioned a garden for Brewin Dolphin of floating platforms suspended above woodland ferns, which resulted in five people cutting more than 40,000 pieces of slate by hand. Thank goodness he hired help.
By contrast, Fernando Gonzalez has chosen resin jesmonite as his material of choice for organic, flowing walls and seating in his Pure Land Foundation Garden, studded with apricot foxgloves. The resin is made in the UK and is dubbed the chameleon of the building industry. In this garden it resembles white marble, but costs less — although it might take a while before jesmonite, used at Buckingham Palace, filters down to your local DIY store.
Dan Pearson returns to Chelsea after 11 years with a gentle representation of the Trout Stream at Chatsworth House, complete with sandstone boulders from the Chatsworth Estate and delectable planting that is likely to signal a major move to flowering shrubs.
Despite the garden being sponsored by Laurent-Perrier, the waterfall and stream are not of champagne, but you can walk by the stream sipping Cuvée Rose. Email email@example.com with your name, address and phone number by Friday midday to win two tickets for Thursday 21 May.
Sissinghurst also comes to Chelsea — well, an inspired version — in a sylvan retreat from designer Jo Thompson for M&G Investments. Expect a natural swimming pond, romantic planting and, if you’re lucky, a view from the two-storey rustic retreat inspired by the writing room of Vita Sackville-West. Email your name, address and phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday midday to win two tickets for Tuesday 19 May.
An equally dreamy retreat is created by Fuminari Todaka in the Home Personal Universe Garden that features an idyllic circular waterfall and inviting day bed with a tactile turf mattress.
Practical, urban spaces are offered by three designers. First, Matthew Wilson of Clifton Nurseries, with a prototype weatherproof plot that has a harvested water system and drought-tolerant plants.
Next, Adam Frost offers inspiration with a Corten steel pavilion, water flowing down walls and columns of poured concrete for Homebase. Finally, Chris Beardshaw’s vibrant planting of clashing colours in his steel-tiled plot for Morgan Stanley suggests the diversity of east London, where this community garden, happily, is destined to settle after the show, forever preserving a little piece of Chelsea in Poplar.