Kent’s contenders at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

PUBLISHED: 13:04 16 June 2016

Mary Berry is very involved in both the RHS and the NGS

Mary Berry is very involved in both the RHS and the NGS


Themes for this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show revolved around naturalistic planting, messages and metaphors. Kent’s talent again played a leading part

Pretty pastels in the LG Smart gardenPretty pastels in the LG Smart garden

The Chelsea Barracks Show Garden – Gold

Although garden designer Jo Thompson has moved to East Sussex we continue to follow her rise since we first featured her in Kent Life in 2010 with some of the stunning gardens she has designed in Kent.

Her show garden had a brief to present aspects of the redevelopment of the Chelsea Barracks’ site that is across the road from the showground, referencing the boundary’s bronze uprights and its architectural and park-like landscaping features. “The garden is a place where people can relax and socialise. A sculpted stone tidal rill references the lost River Westbourne symbolising its original path under Chelsea barracks,” says Jo.

Reflecting the historic rose window of the Garrison Chapel, which has been preserved as the development’s centrepiece, roses were the highlight plants with a mix of perennials.

Jo Thompson in her gold medal winning gardenJo Thompson in her gold medal winning garden

The garden also featured hardy annuals, such as Euphorbia oblongata, grown by How Green Nursery in Hever, who supplied two show gardens this year along with David Harber’s trade stand garden designed by Nic Howard that won Best in Show Trade Stand.

Jo Thompson, English Garden Design

How Green Nursery, Hever, TN8 7PS

The Meningitis Now Futures GardenThe Meningitis Now Futures Garden

NGS open weekend 20 & 21 August

Public weekends 11 and 12 June, 3 and 4 September

Steve Clark from Chilstone at the Meningitis Now Futures gardenSteve Clark from Chilstone at the Meningitis Now Futures garden

The World Vision Fresh Garden – Silver-Gilt

Kent-born John Warland designs stimulating gardens that are more art installation than traditional show gardens. The conceptual designs of the Fresh Category are always thought-provoking and John’s vision of floating waves of turf erupting above plantings of tulips and anemones was inspired by the vulnerable lives of children living in poverty and disaster areas.

“The undulations represent how unpredictable life can be and Tulipa ‘Ballerina’ the hope that World Vision brings to children living in fear. Chanticleer pear trees break through the waves, demonstrating the real difference a child sponsor makes in the life of a vulnerable child.”

John Warland,

John Warland and the World Vision Garden's undulating turfJohn Warland and the World Vision Garden's undulating turf

The Meningitis Now Futures Artisan Garden – Silver Gilt

Inspired by the spirit and energy of families whose lives have been irrevocably changed by this disease, the Meningitis Now garden celebrated the courage of the sufferers and raised the profile of the charity in its 30th year.

The centrepiece of a Greek-themed folly and five sculptures of real-life survivors who are training for the 2016 and 2020 Paralympics were built by Chilstone of Fordcombe.

The World Vision Garden gets the show touchThe World Vision Garden gets the show touch

“The garden looks incredible and tells a fascinating and moving story in a unique way,” says general manager Steve Clark.

Planting included herbaceous perennials supplied by How Green Nursery, with brightly coloured sunny Verbascum ‘Clementine’, spires of Digitalis purpurea ‘Anne Redetzky’, fiery Geum ‘Alabama Slammer’ and textural Salvia ‘Serenade’. “The garden has a very hard-hitting message that touches a lot of people and gives great exposure to the charity,” adds Simon Sutcliffe of How Green. The sculptures travel across the garden, hitting the first wall and climbing over the next, depicting lives changed, lost and a life different to the one expected.

Chilstone, Fordcombe,

The Chelsea pensioners are always a favouriteThe Chelsea pensioners are always a favourite

In the Great Pavilion

Downderry Nursery – Gold

Another glorious display of lavender by Dr Simon Charlesworth earned his seventh Chelsea gold medal. A new lavender in a deep mauve, named after Dad’s Army actor Ian Lavender, who unveiled the plant, took centre stage.

Downderry Nursery, Hadlow, TN11 9SW

Twiggy at the M&S press callTwiggy at the M&S press call

See website for Sunday afternoon Summer Tours of the display garden, nursery and field, £5, takes around an hour,

Brookfield Nursery – Gold

Paul Harris won his fourth gold medal in a row with his immaculate collection of hostas that included new wavy leaf varieties.

Brookfield Plants, Ashford TN25 4NX

01233 624934

Cayeux Iris – Gold

Sue Marshall from Iris of Sissinghurst displayed the irises on behalf of the French breeder Cayeux. She was assisted in the set up by our very own Andy Garland, Kent Life columnist and host of BBC Radio Kent’s Sunday Gardening, a team of Hadlow students and also Steve Edney from The Salutation garden at Sandwich.

A purple and white iris, ‘Terre a Silex’ was shortlisted as a finalist in the Plant of the Year for 2016. This is a first gold at RHS Chelsea for French iris hybridiser Richard Cayeux.

Iris of Sissinghurst, Marden, TN12 9NH

Marks & Spencer – Gold

Folkestone resident Simon Richards, product developer for horticulture at M&S, designed and created the retail giant’s iridescent floral display, which celebrated the spirit of summer.

Planted in blocks of sizzling colour from cut flowers in oasis and vases, sourced from the UK, Holland, Kenya and Columbia, there were golden sunflowers, candy-coloured gerberas, budding roses, intensely purple alliums and glowing tulips, to name just a few of the 30 different flower varieties in the 27,000 blooms.

Simon’s passion for flowers and gardening started in childhood and his career has seen him move from fashion to horticulture. “The exhibit is not only a collection of beautifully vibrant coloured blooms, it’s also a celebration of cultural diversity. It is important to educate people on the importance of flower production for all economies around the world,” he says.

Judge’s view

RHS judge and moderator Roger Platts, who heads up the Kent Life Garden of the Year Awards judging panel, gave his overview of the 2016 show.

“Chelsea for me was, as ever, of tremendous quality with perhaps a higher proportion of plants in all the gardens than we are used to seeing in recent times. The trend appeared to be of mixed planting, lots of grasses woven in with perennials especially umbellifers and in particular, Angelica which seemed to be on almost every garden. Shrubs did not seem to feature much. Large rocks were very popular of all shapes sizes and types, some used in a traditional way and others more innovative.”

Take-away ideas from Chelsea 2016

•The ‘in’ colour – purple

•Combinations – soft feminine hues of pinks with pastel purples - bright contrasts of yellow with rich purple

•The trend for naturalistic planting continues, evoking landscapes from across the UK

•Strong architectural statements from geometric shapes

•Stone boulders softened by free-flowing planting

•Dry-climate planting with stone and gravel paths

•Gardens with a message to convey

•Playful, quirky touches to add a sense of eccentricity

•Plants for healing such as apothecary herbs

•The benefits for health and well-being from gardening, its therapeutic qualities and creating a relaxing lifestyle environment

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