For garden inspiration, a major resource is the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It is wonderful. And rather daunting to ordinary gardeners like me. But press and TV coverage offers great ideas and lasting images of wonderful plants and garden designs that, with a little effort, could create 'the look' and a corner of Chelsea in your (and my) patch. Here are my five suggestions to make the most of Chelsea at home.
1. Garden inspiration: a bright statement
Bright, vibrant colours were, for me, more dominant at Chelsea this year than in previous years. We know that reds and oranges look and can make us feel warm. If this is the look and feel you want, add red and orange plants to your garden this weekend, making sure you plant them well and water them every day for a few weeks.
Plants for larger spaces: kniphofia, achillea, rudbeckia and crocosmia.
Plants for smaller spaces: dianthus, zinnias, pelargoniums, nasturtiums.
2. Garden inspiration: go potty!
Wonderful pots in every shape and size spilled out of trade stands and made bold features in display and show gardens. Make a difference on your patio by using exciting pots. Stay with a bright statement and choose strong colours and textures that stand out from your home and garden. Mediterranean plants featured in silver gilt medal winner Manoj Malde’s garden ‘Inland Homes: Beneath a Mexican Sky’ like hot, dry soil and can be easier to care for in pots than as bedding plants. Apparently Manoj Malde’s favourite plant is Kalanchoe beharensis – described on the Chelsea Flower Show website as ‘a beautifully sculptured plant with tactile fleshy leaves, giving subtle colour and interest to the garden.’ I think that’s a must at my house!
Use pots for plants that live outdoors in the summer, and in a porch, conservatory or sheltered balcony in the winter for protection from frost and heavy rains. Try succulents such as Kalanchoe beharensis, the exotic and not hardy aeoniums, and common (and quite hardy) sempervivums and sedums.
3. Garden inspiration: damp and shady places
If bright and hot isn't your look, or right for your space, there is another Chelsea look for you.
Moss - a stunning ingredient in gold medal winner Ishihara Kazuyuki’s artisan garden: ‘Gosho No Niwa No Wall, No War’ garden.
Moss gardening isn’t a creation you can achieve in a weekend, but it could be a long term plan (if it's for you, perhaps invest in a good book to guide you).
For a wider ranging shady look, choose plants that like to live in areas that are shaded at different times of day or year. The British Ecological Society display 'Delight in the Dark' reminded us all of lovely shade loving plants for any garden. Their strong message was to match plants with the available shade - and they showed a wonderful range of plants.
4. Add animals!
Simon Lycett’s ‘Gateway to the garden safari’ was adorned with animals that enchanted visitors. Around the show, giraffes, pandas, deer, horses and other animals featured in gardens and displays. Rolling acres at home? Go for the fantastic horses created by James Doran Webb or Tom Hill. A smaller patch? Grow your own topiary animal to surprise you as you turn a corner or to invite you into the garden. Of course, this takes time and patience (but you can start now) so perhaps buy a ready made topiary creature? Or for something that needs less care, choose a wire or willow sculpture from the many lovely beasts in garden centres and specialist suppliers.
5. Buy plants that said WOW, and will suit your patch
Buy three of each of a plant that you fell in love with (and will like your patch), plant them near each other to create instant impact, love them, and be inspired in your garden every day. For me, it is going to be ‘Asarum splendens’ or Chinese wild ginger. It featured in the British Ecological Society display and the foliage is wonderful. It grows fast in shade that isn’t too damp: sounds perfect for many of the corners in our gardens.
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