I enjoyed my annual visit to the Chelsea Flower Show this week. There was a good variety of show gardens to enjoy as well as the usual fabulous displays in the Plant marquee. It was hot, and as crowded as ever and I wasn’t prepared to queue for ages to see a couple of gardens which – unusually – you could walk through rather than gaze on from afar, but all in all it felt like a good show this year.

The M&G Garden
The M&G Garden

Voted ‘Best in Show’ was ‘The M&G Garden’, designed by Andy Sturgeon.   And this was one bold garden!

Green planting with the backdrop of burnt timber, simple, bold and very effective.
Green planting with the backdrop of burnt timber, simple, bold and very effective.

The planting was lush and green – with virtually only shades of green – and the garden was divided by lines of burnt oak timber which set off the planting beautifully. The timber was created by Johnny Woodford and was very striking, though probably not something I’ll be trying to recreate in my clients’ gardens.  I’d have loved to get inside the garden for a proper look.

A complete contrast to this was ‘The Resilience Garden’ by another veteran of Chelsea, Sarah Eberle.

The Resilience Garden by Sarah Eberle.
The Resilience Garden by Sarah Eberle.

The centre piece of this garden was a grain silo, not something you see every year at Chelsea, but included as part of the rural farmyard setting the garden is based around. Trees and plants in this garden were selected for their resilience to changing climatic conditions, and the bee count was amazing!

Also a far cry from the lush greenery of Andy Sturgeon’s garden was ‘The Dubai Majilis Garden’ designed by Tom Hoblyn.

The Dubai Majilis Garden
The Dubai Majilis Garden

I really liked the openness and strong curves, and the walls and timber pavilion inspired by sand dunes. The walls made a lovely backdrop for the brightly coloured drought tolerant planting. It felt like a very inviting space to wander around, with a beautiful teardrop shaped pool I would have loved to paddle in!


Dubai Majilis walling

Set in a very different landscape, far far away from the desert land of Dubai, was ‘The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden’ by Mark Gregory. Having grown up in God’s Own County, as we Yorkshire folk like to refer to it, I can vouch for this garden’s authenticity!

The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden with canal and lock keeper's cottage.
The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden with canal and lock keeper’s cottage.

The garden was based around a canal with reclaimed lock gates & lock keeper’s cottage, and must have been incredibly challenging to build in 3 weeks. The wild planting detail, with nettles, weeds, brambles & self-seeded plants, was superb.


stone wall
A tumbled down wall with weeds & wild flowers

Helen Elks-Smith designed ‘Warner’s Distillery Garden’ which had a beautiful stone pavilion with really attractive metal detailing and numerous simple water features.


Warner's Distillery Garden
Warner’s Distillery Garden

I visit Chelsea with a friend and fellow garden designer, and we always make a beeline for the Artisan garden section of the show simply to see the latest amazing creation from Kazuyuki Ishihara – and he never disappoints.

Green Switch garden by Kazuyuki Ishihara
Green Switch garden by Kazuyuki Ishihara.


The attention to detail in his Japanese gardens is always astounding. With its moss balls, Japanese maples, Iris, ferns and falling water this garden (‘Green Switch’) was a lovely cool calm space to enjoy on a hot day.


Green Switch planting

Another artisan garden with very different planting was ‘The Donkey Sanctuary: Donkeys Matter’ garden. It had a lovely relaxed feel with soft Mediterannean-style planting.


'The Donkey Sanctuary- Donkeys Matter' Garden
‘The Donkey Sanctuary- Donkeys Matter’ Garden

In the ‘Space to Grow’ category of gardens, I particularly liked the ‘Kampo do Niha’ garden with it’s very simple bold pergola and high stone wall incorporating water falls running into a stone-edged rill.

kampo no Niha Garden
Kampo no Niha Garden

This garden celebrates the health-giving properties of medicinal plants and a lot of the plants in the garden are native to Japan.

More very beautiful planting inspiration was provided by Tom Stuart Smith who had created a lovely garden to ‘herald the creation’ of the new RHS Garden Bridgewater near Salford (due to open in 2020).


Tom Stuart Smith planting
Cornus and Thalictrum, impeccable planting by Tom Stuart Smith.


Photos: copyright Janet Bligh