The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been held on the grounds of the Chelsea Royal Hospital for 100 years. The centenary show, which starts on Tuesday May 21, promises to be suitably fabulous, with old-timers such as peony and iris nursery Kelways, which has exhibited since the inaugural show in 1913, meshing with the new: the centrepiece of its spectacular 10-metre stand will be a floral display by the experimental hip Hackney florist, Rebel Rebel.
And alongside veteran delphinium nursery Blackmore & Langdon, which also exhibited at Chelsea a century ago, is 19-year-old horticultural whizz Jack Dunckley, who has designed a plot that explores the contrasting textures of equatorial plants, in the innovatory Fresh Gardens category.
Win a VIP ticket
Head for the 15 show gardens, though, if you want glamour on the grand — and global — scale. M&G’s ambitious Windows Through Time Centenary Garden, designed by Roger Platts, aims to capture the design trends and themes of Chelsea Flower Shows past and present; this is the garden from which to filch designer Roger Platts’ legendary pick ’n’ mix planting schemes.
One reader and their guest can visit the garden, sip Laurent-Perrier champagne as well as meet Roger Platts, by emailing Mandgchelsea@wildcard.co.uk with your name, address and phone number by next Monday midday. The winners will receive tickets, for Wednesday 22, sent by post.
Meanwhile the Laurent-Perrier Garden, designed by Ulf Nordfjell, is a cool, contemporary take on a classically romantic garden in, what else but, the Champagne region of France, but if you want practical, down-to-earth ideas, head for Adam Frost’s Homebase Garden, which shows how to provide a small family with space to garden, relax and entertain, as well as provide a wildlife corridor, without looking squashed. Now that’s clever planning.
Prince Harry’s charity, Sentebale, teams up with B&Q for the Forget-me-Not Garden, designer Jinny Blom’s evocation of Africa’s Lesotho landscape. Sentebale was founded in 2006, by Prince Harry and Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, in memory of their mothers, and provides health care and education to needy children.
New plants, as ever, are thick on the ground and include Clematis Chelsea from supremo Raymond Evison; ideal for small-space gardeners, this compact, creamy-white clematis is one for the pot. Cayeux Iris will launch several new varieties of its French irises including Saphir Jaune, a rare bicolour iris of lavender-blue, yellow and white, while Harperley Hall Farm will unveil a stunning silken red perennial poppy, Sichuan Silk, discovered on the Tibetan Plateau.
The sweet fragrance on the air might lead you to one of David Austin’s finest roses yet, the soft gold Leander rose, Carolyn Knight, but it could also be the scent of Liz Earle’s Botanical Essence No 100 Perfume. Charged by the RHS with creating a fragrance that celebrates the centenary, botanist Jennifer Hirsch blended Damask rose, orange flower and Indian jasmine cypress, sandalwood and Bourbon vanilla, mandarin and bergamot, evoking, she says, a hand-tied bouquet; sounds more like an exotically perfumed paradise.
You can be part of this extra-special flower fest by voting for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Centenary. Either assess the 10 candidates, ranging from wallflower workhorse Erysimum Bowles Mauve to cottage-garden Russell lupins, in the Grand Pavilion on stand GPG5, casting your vote, or vote online at rhs.org.uk/ chelsea/potc until Friday May 24.