The great thing about RHS Chelsea is that there is such a diversity of everything. What ever your horticultural passion, you can see it at the show, or read about it somewhere in the media. It’s a cornucopia of plants, passion, art, accessories, gardens and expertise.
And after the wet, windy and difficult start to the show, perhaps there’s something to be said for some armchair gardening. Why not spend your (potential) ticket money on some plants and projects for your own garden and create your own take on the Chelsea spectacular?
Everyone understandably raves about the plants and gardens at Chelsea. They are truly sublime, divine and inspiring, but there is so much more in the detail of RHS Chelsea, that you might not have picked up. So, here are a few things that you might have missed, even if you have been hooked to the telly.
It’s no secret I’m rather obsessed with bees, so you may not be surprised to learn that one of my favourite things at Chelsea 2015 were the bee bricks, mortared in to the base of an Alitex greenhouse on main avenue. They are the perfect addition to a warm brick wall and provide essential nesting sites for solitary bees. Made by Green and Blue.
Baked bee cans?
If you aren’t building a greenhouse or wall anytime soon, you can take a tip from the winner of the RHS Great Chelsea Garden Challenge Garden. Sean Murray’s garden includes several large rusted baked bean cans stacked eclectically between tall timber posts. Some are filled with cut, hollow bamboo canes and sticks to provide natural nesting sites for beneficial insects. It’s something you can replicate easily in your own garden and help your garden wildlife.
There’s even a sculpture made from cans too. It’s a great alternative take on the aspect of decorating a garden without spending a fortune. A great project for the summer holidays perhaps and certainly a better way to recycle. Rusty tins as garden sculpture, I never thought I’d see the day it was acceptable and at RHS Chelsea, but the man deserves a gold medal just for that.
Cabbages for Kings
Chelsea showcases the most exquisite and these days highly bred flowers and plants. Every year there’s a new batch of plants launched at the show to delight the visitors and fuel the industry. But take a step back and look at the true beauty of every plant. You might not think a cabbage could be beautiful, but this kale growing in a terracotta pot on the Pennard Plants stand in the Grand Pavilion highlights what I mean.
If someone told you that you could create a garden focal point with a plant grown from seed and planted in a terracotta pot you might raise your eyebrows. But if they said it has huge blue green leaves with rich purple stems and veining in a rosette of leaves and it only costs pence to grow, you can’t deny you’d be interested. What’s more this one is edible too. It’s a winner in my book. Check it out at Pennard Plants. I’m pretty sure it’s the Siberian ‘Red Russian’ Kale called Russo. You can buy a packet of around 300 seeds for £1.75. WOW. That’s amazing value.
The simplicity of a pebble is a beautiful thing. Most of us have pocketed a pretty pebble from the beach as a child, marveling at its wonder still wet from the salt seawater. Then it dries and loses its appeal until once again the rain brings out its colours.
Pebbles are a great way to mark plants in the garden. You can write on a piece of slate or a flat pebble and use it to remember where you planted those precious bulbs, or to mark a line of seeds. These Stone balancing sculptures from Adrian Gray are very simple but effective and may inspire you to create something with a natural form yourself.
Food for thought
You don’t need a show garden or even a large garden to create something a bit different. Perspective is a fascinating subject, especially in the garden. In the Fresh area at RHS Chelsea garden designers are ‘allowed’ to design outside of the box a little more than normal and encouraged to expand and challenge design concepts. It’s a fascinating space with deep messages and themes in every show garden.
The World Vision Garden is inspired by the breathtaking beauty of Cambodia. It’s a space of dark black water, punctuated by bright greeny orange rods representing the fear of hunger (the rods are a representation of the paddy fields). Within the black water are mirrored boxes of hope, filled with delicate plants such as cacti, a complete contrast in needs to the waterlogged paddy field rice. It’s a lesson in not just how providing the right growing conditions means you can grow anything, but also an insight into levels in a garden. The sunken boxes within the watery background create a surprising, unexpected dimension and leave you mesmerized. Cacti and water plants growing side-by-side; only at RHS Chelsea.