Someone once said that the British lack passion. And someone replied to him: "look at their gardens. That is where they show their passion." Few countries display such vibrancy , dedication and eagerness to horticulture. The Chelsea Flower Show, which opens on the 21st of May, is the finest example. It is an explosion of colour, shapes and forms that create an unpredictable painting in three dimensions. A painting that changes every second and it never fails to impress you.
The Laurent-Perrier Garden
The Chelsea Flower Show has been held in the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital every year since 1913, apart from gaps during the two World Wars. It used to be Britain's largest flower show (it has now been overtaken by Hampton Court), but is still the most prestigious. It is the flower show most associated with the royal family, who attend the opening day every year. It takes 25 days to put the entire show up and the current number of exhibitors are 550. A lot to see and it is all superbly executed.
The Woodland Trust Garden
The Woodland Trust has designed a very imaginative garden in the wagon of an underground train. It works. As Nicola Craven, the artist, explains:
"the idea for The Roots of London came from a concept to green the Jubilee line for the Queen's Jubilee. We want to highlight the benefit of trees in urban environments."
The Lloyds bank has commissioned W. S. Warmenhoven, a Gold Medallist winner Dutch company, to make a display of Amaryllis and Alliums which are their speciality. Over 600 stems of Amaryllis hang from the ceiling to mark their 25th anniversary of exhibiting at Chelsea Flower Show. As they say:
"We tried to represent the long history the company has with an eye in the future presenting a new type of allium created specifically for this show."
My top choice is the Laurent-Perrier Garden, designed by Ulf Nordfjell - the garden unites the classic style of French and English gardens, acknowledging the heritage of the family-owned champagne house while incorporating a modern elegance.
The design has been inspired by the work of two women, both pioneers in what we now view as contemporary horticulture, who incorporated the natural forms and beauty of the landscape beyond into their gardens: Nicole de Vesian at La Louve in Provence, France, and Ulla Molin in her private garden in Hoganas, Sweden. Ulf has used simple materials like stone, wood and metal, complemented by perennials in soft pinks and blues, as well as creamy oranges, yellows and whites. It is stunning, contemplative and very evocative of the past and the future at the same time.
Other highlights among the 15 show gardens include Jinny Blom's B&Q Forget-Me-Not piece, inspired by Prince Harry's charity, Sentebale, which helps vulnerable children in Lesotho, Africa. Other interesting gardens include Robert Myers' Brewin Dolphin garden; Chris Beardshaw's garden for Arthritis Research Uk, representing the personal journey of someone with the condition and Robert Platt's M&G Centenary garden, which explores past and present Chelsea themes.
A new type of allium created by W.S. Warmenhoven for the RHS Chelsea 2013
All photos copyright Lorenzo Belenguer