Europe’s spring big freeze hit the 100th Chelsea Flower Show held in London this year. Not only did the week of the show include freezing weather, but the generally cold, late spring in Europe meant that blooms normally over by late May were still in full bloom at the show.

Apple trees in full blossom were major features in several gardens, together with sweetpeas, wisteria, bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos), paeonies and snowball bushes (Viburnum plicatum). On the other hand, exhibitor stands filled with bearded irises, which traditionally flower in May, were filled with large buds, but few flowers.

There were a number of trends to be seen at this year’s show:

 

Centenary celebrations

Not only was this year the 100th Chelsea Flower Show, but it was also the centenary celebration of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, the Garden Club of America and John Deere tractors and lawnmowers. Horticultural companies celebrating over 100 years in business highlighted their history by exhibiting 100 years of lavender introductions, orchids, delphiniums, gladioli, paeonies and vegetable seed. Keynote gardens also joined the centenary celebrations. The Windows through Time garden included traditional and modern sculpture, plants used in gardens in the 1900s and features that ranged from formal herbaceous borders to wildflower meadows.

 

Supporting marginalised communities

Prince Harry’s Lesotho charity, Sentebale, partnered with a do-it-yourself retailer, B&Q, to present a garden that reflected the “forgotten kingdom”. The garden aimed to draw attention to Lesotho’s “vulnerable children, many of whom are victims of extreme poverty and HIV/Aids”. Dominated by a high-tech “hut”, the garden featured forget-me-nots around paving which reflected motifs found in Lesotho blanket designs.

The Garden of Magical Childhood raised the importance of protecting children and ex-Beatle Ringo Starr drew attention to the inspiring work of WaterAid in India in a garden filled with marigolds inspired by last year’s comedy-drama movie set in India, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

 

Personal retreats

Several gardens designed as private havens away from the hustle and bustle of life explored different styles of outdoor room. At least three included sunken gardens, while vertical gardens offered endless ideas for living décor.

 

Therapy gardens

With increasing numbers of elderly gardeners, exhibits highlighted gardens for people with poor sight, arthritis and Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s Society Garden featured an edible garden with a wildlife corridor, while The SeeAbility Garden expressed the various visual conditions (diabetic retinopathy, blind spots and macular degeneration) in a conceptual way through design and planting features.

 

Invasive species

Britain’s Food and Environment Research Agency sponsored their first Stop the Spread garden devoted to highlighting the problem of invasive species.

Most British gardeners associate invasive species in the UK with alien pests and fungal outbreaks such as Dutch elm disease and sudden oak death syndrome, rather than the invasion of foreign plants into their landscape.

An exception was Britain’s National Trust call earlier this year for a national cull of the much loved Japanese Rhododendron ponticum. This common garden shrub is regarded as the host for two deadly new plant diseases from the phytophthora fungus, both of which are currently destroying hundreds of native plants in parks and gardens across Britain.l

 

Wildlife in the garden

Biodiversity in the garden was an important theme in almost all of the 15 large show gardens. To counter the drastic decline in honeybees and bumblebees, gardeners to the show could buy a box of bumblebees. The kit came complete with a queen, laying eggs and worker bees.

The ninth Australian garden created at the show by Flemings Nursery, Melbourne, was awarded the best garden on show award. It included a studio structure on a cliff comprising 300 tons of rock to create a waterfall dropping into a billabong (pond). A team member was so overcome with joy at the award that he stripped naked and jumped into the billabong.

The Royal Bank of Canada’s urban rooftop garden integrated recreational space with biodiversity and habitat features. Exploring the concept of skyrise greening, the garden included a bird-hide patio clad in insect-hotel panels and a roof planted with hanging plants. A boardwalk offered access to a wetland that captured harvested roof water and flower-rich plantings designed to attract pollinating insects.

The East Village Garden reflected the “designed for living” theme of the Olympic legacy East Village. Representing the sustainable regeneration of urban city environments, the garden celebrated London’s delivery of legacy gardens, now that the Olympic crowds have departed and the village has been converted to a local housing estate. - Saturday Star