Chelsea Flower Show

Growing Hardy Annuals

Most of us can’t afford ‘grand design’ in our gardens, bringing in professionals for TV-style makeover. But we are always looking for hints, tips and ideas that will give our gardens a distinctive look. It can be as simple as where to place a deckchair or arranging a group plants. Here Ruth Chivers takes a look at what we can learn from the major summer Shows.

It’s that time of year again. Flower Show season has started and visiting shows is all about taking ideas home with you. You’ll find new plants, new features, new design ideas. You don’t have to spend a fortune either.

Just take a good notebook and/or a camera. In fact, it’s a good idea to limit Show purchases, unless you have the ideal spot for a new plant variety that you fall in love with. That’s the theory anyway, and most plantaholics can’t resist temptation. Chelsea is different – unless you go on the last day of the show, plant purchases mean placing orders – delayed gratification! For many gardeners Chelsea is the high point of the Show season. In the last few years, design ideas at the Show have tended to illustrate our reluctance to look forward when it comes to garden design – a sort of collective gardening nostalgia. Still, it’s worth looking closely at the details. This is where ideas are found.

Plant combinations, colours, use of materials, container choices, individual features – something will invariably catch the eye. This is where cameras come out – it’s usually impossible to take pictures of whole gardens amongst the crowds – and pick up plant lists, mark the ones that interest you, or jot down notes. One of this year’s gardens at Chelsea will be a creation using small alpine and shade-loving plants with a stream water feature. Another, by the renowned contemporary designer Christopher Bradley-Hole, will examine the relationship between the natural world and the depiction of natural plant or landscape features in gardens. Yet another will be dominated by spectacular modern sculptures and water. So, whether you are looking for planting ideas, thought-provoking ecology statements, or an architectural spectacular, there will be a feast of ideas on show.

And it’s not only the show gardens that can give you inspiration. Garden design for lots of people is about grouping plants and the way the different nurseries do this on their stands in Chelsea and elsewhere provides a fantastic lesson. You can see how much difference grouping plants by their height, shape and leaf colour makes when it is done well, and this really is something you can easily reproduce at home.

Articles reprinted with permission from

Free Garden Catalog

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