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Gardening with Hannah Genders

Chelsea style

Posted on June 30 2011 at 3:23:18 0 comments

The New Wild Garden

Hannah Genders picks her favourites from this year’s Chelsea show gardens.

Ihad a great time at The Chelsea Flower Show again this year and I’m sure many of you will have watched all the coverage on television and hopefully got down to see the gardens for yourselves.

Main Avenue, where the big show gardens are, was again very impressive – I like to get into the showground early to be able to get around all the gardens and take photos before it becomes too crowded.

There were several gardens that stood out for me, including Sarah Eberle’s Garden for Monaco. This was amazing and really eye-catching with its Mediterranean plants and very contemporary swimming pond at the front.

It apparently was four years in the making; can you imagine that? Four years to create something that lasts just six days! Although I must say she had a great subject to follow through and it needed plenty of trips to Monaco too, I’m sure.

Opposite the Monaco garden was my favourite show garden. This was one of the smaller show gardens, measuring ten by ten metres and was called The New Wild Garden (pictured above) – it was designed by Nigel Dunnett and was the first rainwater garden to be seen at Chelsea.

The centre of the garden was given over to three circular pools, collecting water from a wonderful studio space made from an old shipping container and painted bright blue. What Nigel and the team had managed to achieve here was a stunningly beautiful garden, a brilliant design with sustainability at its core.

I also loved the curved walls with plenty of places for wildlife to hibernate in, and the colour combinations of the naturalistic planting were quite outstanding. It only got a Silver-gilt medal and not a gold, which I was surprised at.

Further along from Sarah’s garden on the same side was the Laurent-Perrier show garden, which was really subtle in its muted colours of planting and hard landscaping, with very soft pinks and bronzes. The designer was Lucian Giubbilei and whilst I was looking round early on Monday morning he was doing what many of the other designers and builders were too – he was tweaking his garden!

After a year of planning, one month of building and however many sleepless nights you go through, the final job is to tweak the garden and get it looking as perfect as it can before the judges arrive. This involves sweeping the paving with a soft brush, arranging the leaves of plants and generally going over the whole garden, nervously checking all the elements. Most Chelsea designers would finish the final planting almost a day early, just to have a day tweaking – it’s that important!

After I had done the first section of show gardens, I headed into the floral marquee; always a joy and always a sight to behold. This year was no exception. I loved the flower arranging in the form of jockey jackets and spent ages just wondering at the intricacy of the work on them. It really was eye-catching and fun.

I also bumped into the comedian Bill Bailey on the Borneo Exotics stand; he is a very keen conservationist and for years has been involved in a project to save orang-utans. In recognition of this they have named a pitcher plant after him. As you can imagine he was very funny, but actually also very engaging and passionate about the charity he and his family support.

Walking back outside from the floral marquee I decided to have a look at some of the smaller gardens – these are often called the urban gardens and measure about five by five metres. So a nice size to design, although it is important to keep it simple in these smaller spaces.

The garden that really stood out for me in this category was Jamie Dunstan’s Winds of Change. It was very dark and full of steel and looked so different to all the others. Jamie had designed some small wind turbines and these were on frames in the front of the garden – everything in this garden was UK sourced and recycled. The back wall of the garden was made from recycled timber and the colours perfectly matched the magenta coloured bark of the cherry (Prunus serrula) in the front borders.

The last thing to mention, which you couldn’t have missed from almost anywhere on the showground, was Diarmuid Gavin’s flying garden. Love it or hate it, it was great fun and got everyone talking. I understand that, like me, he had lost a parent last year and in the pod there was a tribute to his dad. I know how that feels and I’m really glad he got his first gold medal. 


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