RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

The David Harber & Savills Garden at Chelsea 2018

The Chelsea Flower Show 2018 is finally here and nobody could have wished for better weather.  With a mainly warm and sunny outlook for the week, my blog features a snippet of what to expect if you are lucky enough to have a ticket.  Here’s a selection of my favourites…..


The David Harber and Savills Garden designed by Nic Howard (main photo and above)

This is the first show garden for sculptor David Harber and what a magnificent set piece in which to display his exquisite designs. Nic Howard has created a transient timescape to reflect mankind’s evolving relationship with the environment. The garden marks the passage of time where a natural landscape evolves towards controlled, densely packed planting and culminates in a sculpture representing the earth’s core.  Each section is planted around a David Harber sculpture, starting with a magnificent free-form vertical bronze, which took 476 man hours to create.  Stipa Gigantea, Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ and Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ are punctuated with purple splashes of  Iris ‘sable’ and peachy foxgloves.  The planting becomes more lush towards the centre, where birch trees and corten steel wings are densely underplanted with  purple lupins, pink peonies and apricot geums creating a metaphorical worm hole through which can be seen the show-stopping bronze and gold-leaf sculpture of Aeon – described by David as ‘an explosion of time which represents the earth’s nucleus of energy’.

The LG Eco-City Garden by Hay Joung Hwang (photos above and below)

The LG Eco City Garden differs pleasingly from the artist’s impression which confusingly illustrates an apartment block.  This charming show garden illustrates the green space allocated to an apartment block and utilises this space to the max.  A handful of maple trees (Acer tataricum subsp. ginnala) cast dappled shade over a sunken seating area which is surrounded by glorious yellow planting (whoever says they don’t like yellow flowers should think again!).  The garden leads directly from the ‘kitchen’ across horizontal stepping stones beneath which goldfish swim lazily in the pool that surrounds the building. The filtered water system uses nutrients from fish waste to feed the vertical salad and herb garden planted within the building.

The garden is designed to highlight environmental issues and the careful planting includes a solar panelled sedum roof and cushiony mosses planted in the pool area which help to reduce city pollution.  The garden team informed me that moss cultures feed on pollutants and one handful of moss is equal to one mature tree! When it comes to removing pollution, the planting in the LG garden is equivalent to six hectares of forest!

The Trailfinders South African Wine Estate Garden

The Trailfinders South African Wine Estate Garden by Jonathan Snow (above)

The instant appeal of this charming garden is the Dutch-gabled house with wide verandah overlooking the cutest formal garden, lushly planted with lupins which appear to be something of a theme this year.  A low wall and garden gate lead to a tiny vineyard which looks towards the wilder Fynbos landscape beyond.  The Fynbos area recreates the unique South African region and is planted with native plants such as Protea cynaroides, Kniphofia and Agapanthus growing amongst Mediterranean shrubs.

In case you were wondering, the name comes from the Dutch ‘fijnboch’ which translates as ‘fine bush’. As with similar Mediterranean ecosystems, Fynbos vegetation needs regular fire at intervals of approximately 10-14 years in order to germinate seed and retain its condition. The fire rejuvenates older vegetation and indeed some flora only grow immediately after fire which is demonstrated in the planting at the front of the garden where small dots of colour lie beneath the burnt stems of older plants and shrubs.

The Lemon Tree Trust Garden by Tom Massey (above)

The Domiz refugee camp in Northern Iraq not only provided inspiration for Tom Massey’s garden; he was aided in his design by camp refugees who themselves have created ingenious planting schemes in their own harsh environment.  The Lemon Tree Trust garden recreates ideas used in Iraq incorporating scavenged materials such as concrete blocks and tin cans.

Tom Massey’s interpretation emphasises the importance of horticulture and the unexpected beauty of greenery in the austere climate of a refugee camp. Drought tolerant plants such as pomegranate and lemon trees are underplanted with colour and a central water feature highlights the fact that grey water is reused in the refugee camps.  Along one wall, edibles are grown in tin cans and crevices within concrete blocks, reminding us that growing food not only nourishes the camp’s residents but provides the people with a community space in which to nurture nature.

The M&G Garden by Sarah Price (above)

Described as a ‘romanticised haven designed for a warm sunny climate’ this large show garden commands a corner plot with bisecting paths and great views for the visitor.  Its honeyed hues derive from the clay and aggregate chosen to represent a Mediterranean garden which are matched with the plant choices: soft grasses, Dianthus, Cistus, and Euphorbia – all the sort of wispy, drought tolerant flowers that you might expect to find in the sunny southern Mediterranean.

Rammed earth walls (created by making a virtual mud-pie within panels of wood) enclose separate spaces which are broken up with gravel pathways interspersed with pools into which water trickles from corten steel spouts whilst shady height is provided by pomegranate trees. The overall effect is a dreamy, blurred landscape that reminded me of the Lithica quarry garden in Menorca, a centuries-old quarry that has been made-over to horticulture.

There were so many gardens to choose from, but my final favourite was one of the Artisan gardens.

O-mo-te-na-shi no NIWA – The Hospitality Garden by Kazuyuki Ishihara (above and below)

O-mo-te-na-shi no NIWA is my new favourite word (try saying it, it’s marvellous!). It’s derived from the Japanese culture of omotenashi – the concept of wholehearted and sincere hospitality.  Any visitor to this piece of Japanese perfection could not fail to be enchanted by the tranquil setting where a perfectly executed Azumaya (garden house) overlooks a pool planted with Iris Ensata into which water flows gently downwards over the rocky banks.  Mosses and maples are present in abundance, and the little garden sits comfortably within its natural woodland setting where a copper beech is mirrored by the red Japanese Maples beneath.  Walk around the garden and you will see that the walls behind flourish with mosses and ferns, showing that another garden designer has consider the concept of moss cultures improving the environment.






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