RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014

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Which was your favourite garden and did you agree with the judges?

I visited the Chelsea Flower Show on Tuesday, escaping most of the rain. As ever, the quality of Show gardens was superb with 6 golds for the main show gardens, plus another 5 amongst the Fresh and Artisan gardens. On the whole the judging seemed about right, though of course from the limited view we have as onlookers and without the designer’s detailed brief to hand, we are never likely to agree with every one of the awards. I know the designers and construction teams have appreciated the feedback they’ve had from the judges this year, helping them to understand the decisions. Even for the gold medal winners, it’s nice to know what did or didn’t appeal to the judges.

On the whole, although the quality was excellent, the Show gardens did feel a little bit ‘safe’ and there wasn’t one that totally stood out above the rest. To be fair the lack of innovation in the Show gardens is probably because new ideas are steered towards the Fresh category. The winner of the Best Fresh garden was “The Minds Eye” for the Royal National Institute of Blind People. I thought this did an excellent job for the RNIB by combining metaphors for what it’s like to be partially sighted with practical ideas to include in a garden for the blind and partially sighted. It wasn’t however particularly ground breaking and I think even in the Fresh category it’s obvious the judges like to play it a little bit safer at Chelsea than in the Conceptual gardens at Hampton Court.

Of course gardens don’t have to be cutting edge and many are there to say something specific. Two gardens in particular picked up on the theme of the WW1 centenary but from very different angles. Charlotte Rowe’s Show garden “No Man’s Land” for ABF The Soldier’s Charity, which I was lucky enough to go into and see from the inside, was I thought extremely good in it’s narrative, whilst the Artisan garden The DialaFlight “Potter’s Garden” was more of a stage set with some great little details such as spent cartridges and shells, and a barbed wire design on the pots.

Such gardens as these are not designed to be suggestive of what you might have in your own garden, although there are usually elements that could be used. Some of the others though could be (perhaps with a little reigning in of budget!) and it was a pleasant change to see a lawn in the Telegraph Garden (see above). In fact this one was for me the Best in Show: I thought the squidgy looking Box cushions were a beautiful contrast to the straight edged formality, with the soft planting and architectural roof-trained Limes also working perfectly for a very cohesive look. The choice of marble was perfect for the concept of an Italian garden for the modern era, but a different stone would help it translate into a British garden.

Finally, there are always one or two plants that seem to pop up in lots of the Show gardens. This year it was bright blue Anchusa which obviously saved the day for several of the gardens when other planned for plants didn’t quite come up to scratch on the day. You can see this in the Telegraph Garden above, and it looks great as an accent amongst the greens.

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This post was written by Christine Whatley on May 22, 2014 6:00 pm

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