Let’s Talk PLANTS

Not buildings, tropical fish, kitchens or TV’s. It’s called the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for a reason and the RHS is the UK centre for horticultural excellence and not TV’s, so let’s go with plants.

I’ve been to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show for the last two years. I planned to write a blog last year but I have to admit it’s quite difficult to write about; in part as it’s a collection of very different gardens by different designers, with big budgets which are a snapshot in time and not truly gardens that have to consider colour or structure throughout the year.  Added to which its’ covered ad nausea by the BBC. So what do I feel I can contribute to the tsunami of coverage and opinion?

I’ve decided to focus this blog on the smaller aspects of RHS Chelsea which are achievable to all; vignettes of various gardens which can be replicated on a smaller scale. The nub of this blog is my opinion of planting & design as that’s what I go to RHS Chelsea to see. I am also going to avoid the prize giving commentary; the Beeb covered that pretty well.


The five gardens I have chosen to focus on are all quite different in style but I then have always had quite eclectic tastes. The common threads; the atmosphere they created and the attention to detail. A great garden should always transport one to a place, where you dream of being.

The garden than most delivered on that was the Japanese’s small garden by Kazuyuki Ishihara. Inspired by the Japanese art of flower arranging, Ikenobo. This year his garden was even better, in my view as it has a more traditional building, the attention to detail is incredible, as always. If I had to sum it up in one word though it would be moss; soft, green, oh so inviting moss. The Hospitality Garden, yup it nailed the brief!

The Supershoes Garden was unexpectedly wonderful. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to have a planting scheme with so many colours whilst looking so harmonious a triumph. The photographs speak for themselves.


The garden I have mentally gone back to the most since Chelsea is The RHS Feel Good Garden, which did, make me feel good as it happens. The planting was beautiful; mauves, pinks, lots and lots of beautiful luscious foliage, familiar planting to us Brits but no less wonderful. The choice of small trees perfection; multi-stemmed Cercis siliquastrum and a mature Gleditsia triacanthos which provided height, setting the scene with lots of seating areas. It completely work in my view. The public could walk around and get up close to the planting too, more gardens like this in the future please!



I often daydream about different destinations and locations; I think it’s probably in my make-up as a designer, the next project even if it’s fantasy. The Pearlfisher Garden totally transported me to California, I could imagine re-creating this garden as the shady patio area, of a hot gravel garden in Palm Springs, adjacent to a Case House. Hey you gotta let your mind wander sometimes, right? The originality of the planting, mimicking coral and seaweed underwater, the figurative sculptures like people out of ‘Davy Jones’ Locker’ enhanced the design beautifully – utter genius! I think even the seasoned garden designers at the show, were wishing they’d thought of it.

Orange n’ PINK

My first sight of the M&G Garden was the back, which was full of broken roof tiles and I was thinking ‘oh here we go again, yet another industrial landscape like the Maltese quarry last year, groan!’ However as I walk around it my opinion quickly changed. I love oranges and pinks combined, a palette I often wear as well as design with. For the same reason, I also love Luis Barragan’s Gardens but I always wish there was planting. This garden was a softer, less Mexico more Mediterranean version of this colour scheme totally captivating, with beautiful naturalistic planting which complimented the rammed earth walls.

And finally, some advice to visitors of The RHS Chelsea Flower Show, as it’s a bit of a marathon session;

  • Get there early, I arrived at 8am (I am not a morning person). It’s still busy but much cooler so much more bearable than lunchtime on-wards when it can really heat up.
  • Dress up, it’s part of the fun of the event but do wear comfortable shoes. I warn you now there aren’t many places to sit down and there’s a lot to see.
  • Don’t follow like sheep, once you’re through the gate, cut down the ‘main street’ of shops then work your way up ‘The Avenue’ in the opposite direction from the hoards. That way you may get to see some of the show gardens without having to elbow your way to the front.
  • Oh and go to the Small Gardens, early on as they are hard to see with a crowd around and are often the real gems of the show.

RHS Chelsea 2019 – bring it!