This year's Chelsea has given us some interesting highlights, from a new Plant of the Year to the D-Day Garden, which is about to be relocated to France.
Plant of the Year: the short list of 20 finalists is put before a large judging panel, comprising RHS Trials members, growers and other horticulturists, by a proposer who has a short time to talk about their plant and its values. The room then votes on each plant and the winner is crowned Plant of the Year. This year’s top three are:
1. Sedum ‘Atlantis’
2. Digitalis ‘Firebird’
3. Agapanthus ‘Fireworks’
Raymond Evison Clematis: good to see Raymond on form with a Gold Medal and some glorious new varieties, including ‘Vicki’ which made the final short list for Plant of the Year. Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants: Rosy, Rob and their team also won Gold and hosted another Plant of the Year contender, Digitalis ‘Firebird’, which took second place. Both David Austin Roses and Peter Beales won Gold for their magnificent rose displays and David Austin Roses also provided a touching tribute to the man himself, who died recently, around the Monument in the middle of the Pavilion.
Hillier Nurseries: not only won their 74th consecutive Gold Medal for their Stihl Hillier Garden, designed by Chelsea first-timer Lilly Gomm, but they also captured Press attention by having Dame Judi Dench (above) launch their new campaign to Re-elm the British Countryside. A new strain of elm, called ‘New Horizon’, has proved highly resistant to Dutch elm disease and may be a way to have elms growing to maturity here again.
The D-Day 75 Garden by designer John Everiss was not judged, but was a feature installation that is now destined to be relocated to Arromanches overlooking Gold Beach and the Mulberry Harbour, site of the D-Day landing 75 years ago. There it will be opened 75 years to the day after the landings and just 2 weeks after Chelsea closed as a lasting memorial to the men who landed there. This is only possible by the generosity of the British people, the Government, the Royal Engineers, Brittany Ferries (who offered free passage) and FreshLinc (who provided three articulated lorries free of charge to transport the garden).
The Show Gardens on Main Avenue were of their usual incredible standard, featuring both neatly planted and wildlife-friendly areas. The M&G Garden took Best in Show, but the People’s Choice Award went to the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden and veteran designer/builder Mark Gregory.
Whereas the Show Gardens are now film-set perfect, the smaller Artisan Gardens and Space to Grow Gardens tend to resonate more with show visitors because they are more akin to their own space at home. These are more likely to make you want to add certain plants at home or reproduce an effect.
There are a huge number of trade stands dotted around the show ground, some of whom create displays every bit as good as the gardens. Eastern Avenue is the place to go if you need any tools, seeds, pots, clothing or artwork and here you will find an array of “Gardenabilia” like no other. This place is well worth a visit, but try to time it for the beginning or end of the day when it is a bit quieter.
You may think that with all the TV coverage on the BBC there is no need to actually go to Chelsea and pay the entrance fee, travel cost and so on, but the TV has no way of conveying the atmosphere or the smell of the show. The scent inside the Floral Pavilion, especially first thing in the morning, is quite unique.
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