26 May 2012

A Bit of Breathing Space at Chelsea

Amongst the frenzied and over-scripted coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show on tv it was a relief to see some calm, in the gardens themselves. As well as BBC presenters, the planting can get a bit excitable. Last year the garden that won Best in Show had patches of bare earth, with pillars lying on the ground. Cleve West, its designer, dared to leave well alone again this year and won Best in Show for the second year running. There's something going on here. Joe Swift's irises (above) look very happy with a bit of park sand around them, the euphorbia keeping a respectful distance, the cornus far enough away not to plunge these sun-loving plants into shadow. The gravelly sandy stuff they use in French parks is an excellent foil for the flowers and trees.

Why does every inch of a border have to be stuffed with plants - to prevent weeds? In her romantic meadow garden Sarah Price planted herb robert, red clover, horsetail and even - plantain. At Chelsea!! Weeds are allowed in and so is a bit of disorder, or an idea of disorder. Plants wandered on to the straight paths making them less razor sharp, and also bringing attention to that nice gravelly sandy stuff, which seeds love to germinate in.

Ditto Tom Hoblyn and his Lake Como-influenced garden. Plants grow hither and thither, as seen in this 360ยบ panoramic: possibly the best way to see the Chelsea show gardens without being there in person. Photos and tv can only focus on the broader picture or the minute detail of say, Nigel Havers. Three more panoramic gardens:
Andy Sturgeon
Arne Maynard
Diarmud Gavin

All images by Jim Powell.


  1. Joe Swift's park sand is called hoggin and is a mixture of gravel, sand and clay. It is the tarmac alternative of choice at chic outdoor spaces eg Petersham Nurseries. All info gleaned this weekend in the Wall Street Journal courtesy of Rita Konig.

    1. Thank you, and Rita. We're still doing tarmac out here...

  2. Why say "amongst" when you mean amid?