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Chelsea 2014 Newsletter

Welcome to our special show newsletter.

Gardens are beginning to show their summer promise. The fresh foliage and early summer flowers really lift the spirits.
The Show season has started and the Chelsea Flower Show epitomises the British obsession with gardens and gardening, yes it’s a razzle dazzle show with celebrities galore but there are lots of inspirational plants on display that are equally perfect for us mere mortals, both in the flower pavilions and in those amazing gardens.

If you’re going to Chelsea we may see you there but if not, sit back and enjoy the best ideas from Chelsea right here.

Pam Richardson

What we loved and ideas to copy from the show...

We loved ‘From the Moors to the Sea’
Alan Titchmarsh has gone back to his roots to design his first Chelsea garden for over 30 years, in collaboration with Kate Gould. The garden, called ‘From the Moors to the Sea’ is a celebration of 50 years of RHS Britain in Bloom together with Alan’s personal 50 year anniversary as a well loved and respected gardener.
It brings together the floral heritage of UK gardens from windswept Yorkshire moors to village, town and city gardens and finishes in the Isle of Wight where Alan now lives and gardens.
The garden has a strong message of conservation and it was good to see the diversity of flowers and plants that have been used and proves there really is a plant for every place in the garden, wherever you live in the UK.

Ideas to copy.
This garden makes use of the gardener’s favourite mantra ‘right plant, right place’ a saying that simply means giving every plant a place where they can thrive. It can be as simple as choosing a blue hydrangea for a garden on acid soil (on lime and alkaline soils those lovely blues turn muddy purple, but you can always grow them in a container of ericaceous compost).
Alan’s garden includes meadow plants and grasses that thrive on the moors in his native Yorkshire plus heat-loving agaves and echium that enjoy the mild climate of his current home on the Isle of Wight.
The garden also focuses on 50 years of Britain in Bloom, a brilliant competition for building community spirit as well as nurturing a love of gardening. Like us you’ll come back thinking about what to grow, whether it’s bedding plants and colourful baskets or a community project to make your town, village or community space look amazing.

We loved the large gardens
The BrandAlley Renaissance Garden is inspired by formal Italian gardens and at first glance with its colonnades and statuary it could seem a far cry from a typical back garden but look closer, and don’t let the grand title fool you, because it is a design that can be interpreted in a small suburban garden too.  With a lovely airy mix of plants this garden combines loose, country style planting with formal box hedging.
Favourite perennials such as achilleas and salvia mingle with foxgloves and grasses to give a relaxed feel to the plot. Fluffy fennel and herbs such as oregano combine with lavenders and cardoons for a scheme that uses every inch of space vertical and horizontal. The design also features an under-planting of ornamental grasses; this is a clever piece of planting that looks sensational and also helps to smother weeds. The Brewin Dolphin Garden is another large garden but one that has plenty of plants and ideas to translate into smaller plots. Copper arches may not be on our shopping list but the pretty planting is! Shade loving aquilegias and astrantias are mixed with some distinctive shrubs, perennials and grasses to give a moody colour scheme that is punctuated with vivid shots of colour. The garden looks amazing and best of all these plants are almost maintenance free once planted. The shrubs give a strong outline all year while in spring and summer the lush foliage really comes into its own.

Ideas to copy
Take away inspiration from the show gardens whatever their size.
Don’t be scared to adapt ideas you see at the show into small pockets of your own garden. A clipped hedge bordered with loose country style planting is an idea you can take away from these large show gardens. Use shrubs and perennials for a low maintenance, designer style garden that has colour and structure all year and gives a great garden with very little work, other than an annual trim to keep everything in shape.
Add seating areas and water, even a small barrel pond will lend a tranquil air to your outside space. Plant thickly and use plants to carpet the ground and smother weeds, and don’t be frightened of adding tall, architectural plants, even in a small space.

We loved these smaller gardens
The Topiarist Garden at West Green House designed by Marylyn Abbott is based on the personal garden around a potting shed (often known as a bothy). The walled garden is a delightful mix of clipped evergreens and favourite perennial plants.  Tightly clipped hedges and topiary shapes are a great counterpoint to the prettily haphazard planting that includes bulbs, annuals and perennials.
This garden stole our hearts and we’d love to step out of the potting shed into such a glorious space!
DialAFlights Potter’s Garden was equally inspiring.  It commemorates World War 1 and conjures up both the horrors of 1914 and the charm of a time long since passed. It is also a garden based on the real life restoration of The Farnham Pottery in Wrecclesham. Romantic and beautiful it is undeniably a piece of theatre but utterly enchanting with plenty of ideas to take away and copy.
The WellChild Garden is one of the exhibitsin the‘Fresh’ conceptual gardens at Chelsea. Itis a family space with a poignant message because WellChild provides support for seriously ill children and their families. The garden is striking and combines the theatrical and sensory with some very practical raised beds, beautiful soft planting and amazing sculpture.

Ideas to copy.
If country style is your passion, team wildflowers with close clipped hedging plants and topiary. Add quirky sculpture and water features. A tiny pond or water feature will bring in plenty of wildlife such as bathing birds and dragonflies, or add an insect hotel to attract bugs.
 If you want a traditional English country garden that overflows with flowers never underestimate the power of scent to add an extra dimension.
Don’t be afraid of injecting some romance and theatre into your garden, if you have old or vintage items use them as ‘props’ to help tell a story and make your garden unique.
Most importantly whatever your style of gardening, choose plants you love and use them in the way YOU want to, it’s your garden after all so anything goes!

We loved the Great Pavilion
Hookstone Herbs had a display with Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit at its heart and was packed with vegetables and herbs. Peter popped out of a watering can and his coat was hung up as a scarecrow.  Whatever your age you couldn’t help but be enchanted with it!  
Pennard Plants’ evocative exhibit was called ‘The gardeners have all gone’. The garden was divided in two and depicted the affect the 1914-18 war had had on a previously neat and manicured allotment once all its gardeners had gone off to fight.
Birmingham City Council’s also had a Great War inspired theme. The exhibit even had a sand bagged trench with bi planes made of 3D carpet bedding flying over. An ambulance train and folding bike (all with a link to Birmingham) were also incorporated into this amazing display.

Ideas to copy.
There was so much to like in the Great Pavilion that we could have spent at least another day exploring the stands. The exhibits are always varied; from the amazing floral sculptures, fabulous vegetable, allotment societies and specialist nurseries that take our breath away with their displays. From alpine plants to trees, shrubs and perennials to show quality vegetables there is something for everyone but one thing stays constant.  Pristine plants in the peak of health epitomise the exhibits at the show, nurserymen and women work all season to produce wonderful displays.  At home in our own gardens similar perfection IS achievable. Give your plants some tender loving care with enough food, water and a programme of pest control to keep leaves and flowers, fruit and vegetables looking pristine.

 

What to do in the Garden Now...

The Chelsea chop
You often hear gardeners talking about the Chelsea chop, it sounds painful doesn’t it!  But it’s actually just a way of extending the flowering season. Chopping some of a plant’s flowering stems can help to delay flowering, to give colour over a longer period instead of everything blooming at the same time.  The process is called the Chelsea chop because it’s traditionally done at the same time of year as the Chelsea Flower Show.
If you want to Chelsea chop your early summer perennials here’s how: Leave the most advanced spikes to bloom but any stems that emerge without flower buds can be cut back, they’ll branch to produce more stems and flowers later in the season. It’s a bit like a large version of pinching out the growing tips on a young plant. Although it feels as if you are sacrificing flowers you’ll actually be doubling the plants’ potential flower power. This spring has been amazingly mild in many parts of the UK so flower spikes have appeared very early on plants such as delphiniums, but you can still  ‘Chelsea chop’ for lots more flowers!


Add new plants
This lovely garden designed by Cleve West and based on a Persian Paradise garden won Gold at Chelsea. It is a fairly large space but there were lots of small planting schemes within it.
There is always plenty of Chelsea coverage on TV and it inevitably makes us look hard at our own gardens; are they full of colour or are things looking a bit uninspiring? If it’s the latter don’t panic there is still time to get a beautiful summer garden. Mature shrubs and perennials will instantly fill a gap in the garden and containerised fruit bushes or small apple trees add designer style to any space, even a sunny balcony.
If your outside space is a paved area or balcony one of the simplest ways to add colour and interest is to plant up containers and hanging baskets with summer bedding plants. If you want designer style colour schemes at a down to earth price try one of our colour themed mixes they’ll add pizzazz to any garden!
If you are struggling for inspiration for a tiny courtyard or paved garden take a look at the show garden celebrating the 75th anniversary of the famous Kensington roof gardens.  It’s been inspired by one of the most famous of these roof gardens; The Spanish Garden; created in 1936 by Ralph Hancock. The original Kensington roof gardens are truly inspiring, if you are ever in London with time to spare a visit is well worthwhile. They show what can be achieved on minimal soil depth and by planting in containers. The secret in shallow soil is to plant small and let the plants establish slowly so they grow naturally into their allotted space.


Keep deadheading
Summer seems to have come early this year, there were roses blooming with the tulips in some gardens at the start of this month and some hardy annual flowers such as marigolds have never stopped! We may be several weeks in front already but to keep this riot of colour going for as long as possible deadhead spent blooms as soon as they fade. Tulips and daffodils repay deadheading once the flowers fade. Rather than waste energy on producing seed the plant’s energy is diverted back into the bulb for next years display.
Some plants such as pansies, fuchsias and petunias can just be nipped off below the flower heads but others such as pelargoniums (geraniums) need to have the whole stem removed. Do this carefully if you’re deadheading pelargoniums; gently but firmly snap the stalk from the main stem.
Cutting flowers for the house is another good way of deadheading; roses and Sweet Peas are a good example. Cut Sweet Pea stems before they produce pods and the plants will flower all summer. You should get at least a vase full of flowers every week.
Cut roses with long stems, cutting them just above a leaf node. This encourages the plants to send up a new flush of flowers and, as an added bonus, deadheading this way gives you a spectacular supply of roses for the house.


Grow your own
As many of the exhibits proved you don’t need masses of space to grow your own food.
Even a small space can yield enough salad crops to provide salads and fruit through the summer.  Keep sowing salads and herbs for a steady supply of fresh tasty leaves and keep harvesting; cut and come again lettuce varieties are very cost effective and all are easy to grow from seed.
If you are growing tomatoes keep on top of the watering, regular watering is essential for greenhouse crops but tomatoes are particularly susceptible. Not enough water or a haphazard watering regime results in split fruits and a poor crop. If you grow your tomatoes in a hanging basket add water retaining gel or crystals and never let them dry out. In the greenhouse, pinch out the side shoots of indeterminate (cordon) tomatoes and stake bush tomatoes growing indoors or outside to stop them flopping; Determinate (bush) tomatoes won’t need to have the side shoots pinched out.
Integrate decorative plants such as ruby chard, globe or Jerusalem artichokes into the borders and grow fruit such as redcurrants, black currants and gooseberries as productive and beautiful shrubs.
Blueberries and patio fruit trees make excellent container plants, earning their keep in the smallest spaces.

 

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