As the world famous RHS Chelsea Flower Show, sponsored by M&G Investments, opens it doors to the public this week (it has run every year bar two gaps due to the World Wars, since it started in 1913), our friends at Bowles & Wyer offer some helpful insights and tips.
Jonathan Bramwell caught up with John Wyer who comments as follows:
What do you think will be the big trend for gardens at Chelsea Flower Show this year?
Bold – big and bold without a doubt. There seems to be a confidence and decisiveness in the designs this year (perhaps it is to compensate for a lack of it elsewhere?). From the scorched oak sculpture by Johnny Woodford on Andy sturgeon’s M&G Garden or Sarah Eberle’s use (or re-use) of farmyard steelwork and oversize boulders (Forestry Commission garden), there is an assurance that I haven’t seen for some years at Chelsea. A subtle sub theme that is running through many gardens is that of woodland. Again, perhaps reflective of the times in which we live, woodlands are both a place of restoration and something with a hint of a darker past, but always evocative. Helen Elks-Smith garden for Warner Gin runs interestingly against theme, with a delicate design almost like the parts of a watch.
What’s your best tip for creating and maintaining a fabulous garden?
When you walk through the park, or go out into the garden after a while, what you notice is what’s changed since last time you looked. So try to keep some seasonality, don’t go for all evergreens – allow a little spring blossom and autumn colour into the garden. In practical terms, I can’t over-emphasise the importance of mulch. It keeps weeds down (so reduces your work) helps retain moisture and ultimately adds to soil health.
What is your favourite kind of garden?
That’s a difficult one! I have a voracious appetite for visiting gardens, but most of all I think I like gardens with surprises. Often that means gardens with ‘rooms’, so that you get a serial experience, but sometimes it is just going into a space and finding something you don’t expect.
What new technologies are being introduced into our gardens? (New water systems, robots mowing the lawn, more outdoor heaters for example)
Heating systems have come on a lot. Instead of the wasteful gas burners of a few years ago, there are much more effective infra-red ‘heat-bars’ which can be incorporated on to pergolas or parasols. Outdoor kitchens are still a big theme, with many more on offer now.
Do you have tips for designing a small London garden? (Would be good to ref easy to maintain plants etc)
London Gardens tend to be shady, especially the smaller ones. The difficult areas tend to be the shady parts around the bases of plants. Try shade-tolerant evergreen plants that are good at ground cover likeSoleirolia soleirolii, Pachysandra terminalis or Liriope muscari. Also consider trying things that add to the length of the flowering season such as Anemone x hybridus, A. japonica or Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’. Brush the paving regularly to keep it clear of leaves and detritus that will make it slippery and give it a good clean at the beginning of the season.
How is climate change affecting our gardens? (Are we seeing different plants introduced into English gardens for example?)
I think climate chaos is in many ways a more accurate description than climate change. Although the general trend is towards warmer wetter winters and hotter dryer summers, we are likely to see weather that we frequently think of as unseasonal, such as storms with gales in June or temperatures in the high teens in February. I am now growing quinces and apricots in my hilltop garden in Hertfordshire, and we are seeing banana palms surviving in some of our London Gardens. The biggest thing to watch out for is pests and diseases that have come in on the rise of summer temperatures and more humid winters, such as red spider mite, box moth and box blight.
Which gardens / designers are likely to scoop the awards? (Ones to watch)
Always a difficult one to call. I think Mark Gregory’s Welcome to Yorkshire garden will be a difficult one to beat for people’s choice. However, one can never rule out the ‘Royal effect’ that might benefit Adam White, Andree Davis and the Duchess of Cambridge’s garden. For best in show, Andy Sturgeon and Sarah Eberle both have enviable reputations so one would be foolish to ignore them, but there are a lot of good gardens this year.
On Twitter: @WyerJohn
Read his blog www.bowleswyer.co.uk/blog