Chelsea Flower Show Highlights

Here’s my photo highlights of Chelsea 2016. If you have limited time and energy to see everything at Chelsea. Just follow this route to see my favourites.

Start at Diarmuid Gavin’s Harrod’s British Eccentrics Garden. You have to see it really. You just can’t go home without spying those twirling bay trees. And remember that while we are all worrying about box blight, Diarmiud has got mechanical failure to contend with. He’s got no one to blame but himself. 


You can’t hide in there, Mr Gavin. Diarmuid heads for the potting shed as the judges inspect his creation. 

Just along the Main Avenue is Ann-Marie Powell’s Greening Grey Britain garden, sponsored by the RHS.The  planting is a glorious combination of pink and orange. Wins my award for most cheerful garden at Chelsea, and there are lots of ideas to “borrow.” I love the edible planting in pots, the scaffolding pergola swathed in climbing Westerland Rose, and the seating where you can relax and watch the wildlife. It’s a  welcome change to be allowed to walk through a garden at Chelsea. That’s what we do in real life- we don’t stand at a barrier and just look into a garden.


Cross over the Main Avenue – and be transported to Provence. James Basson’s L’Occitane garden makes you feel as if you are standing right on the edge of a lavender field in sunnier climes. The scent is something you’ll remember long after the show. Wins my award for most relaxing garden at Chelsea. I needed to stand there for quite some time after battling my way on the train and underground.

Also on Main Avenue, The Telegraph Garden by Andy Sturgeon takes you to the semi-arid foothills of the Andes in Chile. I love the orange isoplexis. Beautifully captures the spirit of the place. I stood in wonder.

Virtually next door on the Main Avenue is Cleve West’s M&G Garden, inspired by the ancient oak woodland of Exmoor National Park. I love the woodland-edge planting and the little pools of water in the rocks. 



Don’t  miss Rosy Hardy’s first show garden, on Main Avenue, the Brewin Dolphin Garden- Forever Freefolk. A reminder of the fragility of beautiful chalk streams- and a plea to value and protect them.


Turn the corner onto Royal Hospital Way and find Jekka McVicar’s first show garden, created for St John’s Hospice- called A Modern Apothecary. This is the garden  I most wanted to transport home. A place of calm in the midst of all the busy chaos.


And finally, on the Rock Garden Bank is Matthew Wilson’s triumph- A Garden for Yorkshire. It really is a sight to behold. Inspired by the Great East Window at York Minster, it simply transports you to God’s Own County. 


What are your highlights of Chelsea 2016? Let me know what you think of this year’s gardens. 

┬áChelsea Flower Show 2016

The words Fun and Happiness sum up Chelsea 2016- for me.

Diarmuid Gavin, as always, provides the fun. And Ann-Marie Powell has the word Happiness written in 10 different languages all through her paving. 

The moment I set eyes on those words, I thought Ann-Marie  had perfectly summed up the mood for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.

For the first time, it’s not all about how much money you’ve got to spend- it’s about making the best of what you’ve got- and just enjoying gardening.

Ann-Marie’s garden- commissioned by the RHS – perfectly captures the message that gardening is good for you. It’s good for mental and physical health. And it’s not all about big budgets. Or big spaces.  The rose covered pergola -is made from recycled scaffolding poles. And the potting shed roof is packed with containers growing fruit and veg. I even spotted a beehive up there.

As for the planting-it’s a joyous riot of pink and orange. It shouldn’t work- but somehow it does. Maybe because the pink is lychnis flos-cuculi- a wild flower that has such happy childhood memories for me. I grew up on a farm with water meadows- waist high in those pink flowers, commonly known as Ragged Robin,combined with bright yellow buttercups. Ann-Marie has partnered the wild flowers with orange geums which give the same bright meadow look- mixed in with lots of grasses. 

It’s a sight guaranteed to lift the spirits- and sets the scene for the rest of the flower show. If you are heading to Chelsea this week, Ann-Marie’s garden is located directly in front of the new-look RHS Hub. But to be honest- you really can’t miss it.

Cheerful combination of pink Ragged Robin with Orange Geum Prinses Juliana and tufted hair grass Deschampsia cespitosa. The bird feeders are made by blacksmith Alex Moore, mooredesigns.co.uk  @MooreDesignsUK. The benches are also made by Alex. If you are like me, and notice beautiful small details, you can also spot his work on the Jekka McVicar garden. The pretty rose arch and twisty metal border edging is by Alex.

Ann-Marie working on the planting on Sunday. The flowers include alliums, lupins,salvia, geraniums and aquilegia. This is a garden to walk through,rather than just look at from a distance. 


I loved this bright pink geranium (possibly palmatum) waiting to be planted on Sunday. How do they get it to look so perfect by Monday.

All finished by Monday-and still smiling. Ann-Marie Powell in front of the scaffolding pergola with climbing rose Westerland. The garden was commissioned to promote the RHS Greening Grey Britain campaign. I think it succeeded. 

And finally- a photo of Diarmuid Gavin’s British Eccentrics Garden, inspired by the cartoons of William Heath Robinson. It’s wacky, a bit  bonkers, and mesmerising for 10 minutes. But don’t take it too seriously. Go on- smile! It’s good for you!