Even in the middle of February this year gardens were a delight of flowers with snowdrops vying for attention alongside primroses, daffodils, camellias, violets, celandines, Lenten roses, and hyacinths, (regular and grape); and overhead an early flowering Prunus was doing its best to clothe its brown branches with delicate pink blossom.
With the coming of spring our thoughts turn to one very special week in the gardening year; the third week in May when the latest trends and glorious plants and displays are unveiled at the magnificent RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
A Royal celebration
One very special celebration taking place this year is the 90th birthday of the RHS’s patron HM The Queen. No doubt there will be many tributes planned by the individual growers. We already know that amongst them will be special photographic exhibits and a spectacular floral arch.
Greening Grey Britain
The theme for the 2016 show will be Greening Grey Britain, demonstrating the health benefits and the sense of well-being achieved from greening-up our grey spaces. It is a theme that has been taken up by a number of the garden designers and promises to be inspirational, informative and lovely.
For example there is the garden created by Catherine MacDonald for Hartley Botanic who is donating the glasshouse to Horatio’s Garden Glasgow. Horatio’s Garden is a charity that creates, and cares for, gardens in NHS spinal injury centres as sanctuaries for patients, their family and friends, during months spent in hospital.
Also look out for Dickson Nurseries, based in County Down Northern Ireland, which has developed the ‘Modern Slavery Rose’, for the Modern Slavery Garden designed by Juliet Sargeant. This reddish-orange Floribunda rose will be formally launched at this year’s show.
The garden design will include bright front doors and colourful planting, representing the ordinary streets where we live. But there is a darker meaning to the garden, a hidden reality; even today people are still being kept in captivity and forced to work in every part of the UK. The garden looks forward, to a day when there are no slaves. The Modern Slavery Rose is intrinsically linked with the meaning and message of the garden, welcoming the British Modern Slavery Act 2015.
International Year of the Pulse
2016 has been designated the International Year of the Pulse by the United Nations to draw attention to the importance of pulses as a food resource in some of the world’s poorest populations, and indeed generally as an alternative source of protein. To draw attention to the humble pulse Capel Manor College will be exhibiting ‘Beans, Beans’ featuring a ‘rustic green wall’ and a ‘bistro garden’.
For some of us Chelsea would not be Chelsea without the stunning displays of iris from Richard Cayeux. The Cayeux nursery, near Gien, 150km south of Paris, the largest in Europe is open to the public daily, free of charge, including weekends and holidays during the flowering season (May). This year he will be introducing 18 new varieties.
Always inspirational Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants are growing around 6000 plants for the Brewin Dolphin Garden which will feature four distinct planting zones; shady, dry chalk grassland, part shade/damp and lush damp. Look out for four new plant introductions.
Slightly more unusual gardens are those from Horticultural showman Diarmuid Gavin is back with The British Eccentrics Garden featuring bizarre garden gadgetry that comes to life every 15 minutes and an acoustic garden inspired by world-leading percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie will play musical notes to visitors.
Commuting by train can be hellish, but travel on a luxury train is quite another matter and the Belmond British Pullman (sister to the famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express) is no exception.
Zena, a 60’ 1929 Belmond British Pullman carriage will take centre stage on the Monument site of the Great Pavilion depicting the days when trains played a part in carrying plant hunters in their quest to find new species.
Hand crafted poppies
Poppies will also be dramatically on display. Thousands of hand crafted poppies honouring the Commonwealth servicemen and women who have fought in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations over the last 100 years will spread from the show ground into the grounds of the Royal Hospital.
This year’s five-day event runs from Tuesday 24 May to Saturday 28 May. (24 and 25 May are exclusively for RHS members and for other visitors from Thursday 26 May.)
Opening times: Tuesday – Friday (24 – 27 May) 8am – 8pm; Saturday (28 May) 8am – 5.30pm.
For full information and tickets visit https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/tickets