Four key ideas to take away from Chelsea

The camera-ready look of the show gardens at RHS Chelsea might seem unobtainable in our own gardens – but there are plenty of tricks and tips to steal. Abbotswood MD Rob Chew shares the best bits from this year’s show...

Clash those colours

Colour was key at RHS Chelsea this year – and the more vivid the better. For many years, the colour pallete has been all about restrained whites and greens, but these had been replaced by cheerful and exuberant oranges and yellows, and a wide use of rich purples. Lemon yellow was particularly evident, used in the lupins in The Seedlip Garden designed by Dr Catherine MacDonald, but there were also burnt oranges, acid greens and red and pinks. 

 The Seedlip Garden used clashing purples, yellows and reds

The Seedlip Garden used clashing purples, yellows and reds

In the LG Eco-city Garden, Hay-Joung Hwang mixed yellow lupins with orange geums and coppery verbascums to great effect, and in the Trailfinders South African Wine Estate garden by Jonathan Snow, reds, oranges and yellows jostled for prominence in a clashing parade, with red hot pokers intermingled with agapanthus and proteas. Formal box hedges were coupled with pink roses against the Cape Dutch homestead.

 The Trailfinders garden was ablaze with red hot pokers

The Trailfinders garden was ablaze with red hot pokers

 The Silent Pool Gin Garden

The Silent Pool Gin Garden

Jo Thompson used Iris ‘Carnival’ and ‘Kent Pride’ in her Wedgewood Garden, set against the pale yellow of Trollius and primulas, while pale blue meconopsis and orange geums dominated the Silent Pool Gin Garden by David Neale. Inspired by the Silent Pool Distillery in the Surrey Hills, the planting scheme blended beautifully with the copper sculptures. Not sure how to transfer these ideas into your own garden? See my blog on injecting colour.

Go native

There was a definite move towards more native plantings, particularly when it came to trees and shrubs. A growing appreciation for indigenous plants and local flora has been bubbling under the surface for many years – and it was good to see it feature more prominently here. I think people have become tired of the Himalayan birches and betula nigers, and want something a little different. With environmental concerns at the forefront of people’s minds, designers are looking closer to home for stand-out specimens. Find a tree that might work for your own garden in my native trees blog.

Get touchy feely

Interesting textures and surfaces, from paving to pavillions, were in evidence in many of the show gardens, with a continuing sense of ‘bringing the indoors out’. The cedar wood pavillion in the Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC looked serene nestled amongst lush green plantings.

 The Morgan Stanley Garden's wood pavillion

The Morgan Stanley Garden's wood pavillion

Tony Woods’ Urban Flow Garden also took my breath away with its rusting corten steel ‘fretwork’ set against rich plantings of salvias, acid yellow euphorbias and purple lupin. The grey leaves of rose glauca perfectly complemented the steel structures, and I loved the use of hand-crafted clay bricks and porcelain cladding. 

 The Urban Flow garden had beautiful 'fretwork'

The Urban Flow garden had beautiful 'fretwork'

Think green

The idea of ‘growing with nature’ and using more naturalistic plantings was in abundance this year, with lots of eco ideas to take away. Looser, meadow style planting with long grasses, wildflowers and nettles were evidence in many of the gardens – and showed just how you could be mindful of wildlife but also create a lovely garden. There were eco-friendly additions such as rainwater harvesters and bee bricks (with small holes for hibernating bees) too. Running water was used to show how it can dampen noise pollution in urban areas, and in the Urban Flow Garden, rainwater cascaded down a trough first before being filtered out into the flower beds. A pretty but practical way to water the garden. In the LG Eco-City Garden, the emphasis was on trees, focusing on how they can control oxegen, humidity and reduce carbon dioxide levels.