Highlights Of RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2008

Posted on: 20 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

50connect pick the best of the bunch for this year's visitors.

We take a tour through the unmissable highlights of RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2008.

2008 seems to be the year of the allium at Chelsea. Nearly every other garden features their elegant spiky spheres. There are a few cream but mostly lilac, a colour that also appears to be everywhere. The many lilacs, purples, mauves, violets, indigos and blues are complemented by a fair amount of deep reds. This year is also notable for the apparent absence of colour - or at least, a predominance of green.

As usual these days many of the gardens incorporate sculptures and water features, but popular this year are steamy streams and pools.

There's also an oriental flavour to several of the gardens.

Though popular with visitors - including Ringo Starr - for its super-bright colours and imaginative narration through the life of George Harrison, 'From Life to Life, A Garden for George' missed out on gold, securing a silver-gilt medal instead. The Material World Charitable Foundation.

The garden centres around an unusual theme, incorporating a mosaic path featuring the Liver building with its birds and clock towers that turns into a psychedelic profusion of colour to represent the 1960s. George's journey is also charted by an Arnold Grove road sign, old bike and weedy lawn that gives way to flower beds planted with orange, yellow, purple and blue. A waterfall cascades over a large photo of George whimsically holding an umbrella, into a river. Finally, a temple-like gazebo on a dais surrounded by white planting creates a relaxing space, befitting George's spirituality and eternal peace.

The Laurent-Perrier Garden - RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2008. Designer: Tom Stuart-Smith. Contractor: Crocus.co.uk.The Laurent-Perrier garden picked up the award for best show garden. Like many of this year's gardens it's extremely green, but stands out because of its beautiful thirty year old hornbeams. Herbaceous planting forms an undulating tapestry throughout the garden, and key plants include Rodgersia, Molinia, Epimedium, Asarum, Hosta 'Devon Green' and Astrantia, with an emphasis on form and texture, rather than colour. The contemplative garden was designed by Tom Stuart-Smith.

Fleming's Nurseries & Trailfinders Australian Garden, presented by Melbourne, Victoria, picked up gold too. One of the more striking gardens at this year's show, it features traditional Australian aboriginal artwork on rammed earth walls as a backdrop. Key plants include Xanthorrhoea (grass tree) and Brachychiton (bottletree), both unique in habit and typically Australian. Also included in the planting will be the new Anigozanthos 'Bush Diamond'. This is a brand new release and the very first white flowering kangaroo paw which is a true colour breakthrough.

At the front of the garden, a large shallow pond of water gives way to a serpentine timber deck. Incorporated into the deck are some gentle undulations that function as ideal positions for lounging in the warmth of the sun. These undulations are cleverly mimicked in the pool to give the impression of curved water. Incorporated into a stone wall is a large day bed which offers another ideal location for relaxing. From one section of the stone, water gently spills into a secondary pool adding the gentle and calming sound of water to the garden, with a mesmerising plughole effect.

The Lloyds TSB garden is largely attractive, with lively water features, hard landscaping and planting, but a rather garish metal sculptured folly inspired by a Venus fly-trap and made of steel and Perspex. It received a bronze medal.

Towards the front of the garden there are plants that grow predominantly in dry, sunny positions, with mass drifts of Carex buchananii and Dianthus deltoides. An old olive tree sits to one side, and a Lagerstroemia under planted with Corokia cotoneaster to the other. Further in to the garden the planting becomes more tropical and vibrant and incorporates canna lilies, tree ferns, palms, Helenium and bananas, and plants in rich orange, red, yellow and blue. Verbena bonariensis repeats throughout the section, alongside purple textured plants, linking the planting scheme and leading the eye. The planting colours to the rear of the garden are gentler, with pinks, blues and greens and some subtle yellows.

There are some interesting courtyard gardens, gold winners are the Shetland Croft House Garden, the Dorset Cereals Edible Playground and the Good Gifts Garden.

Shetland Croft House Garden - RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2008Inspired by a typical 1940s Shetland Croft house garden, the Motor Neurone Disease Association's design was developed by Nottingham Trent University. Shetland's unpredictable weather conditions and harsh salt winds make it one of the hardest places in the British Isles to garden, and this is reflected in the design. To shield the garden from winds it features an original croft façade transported from Shetland, and the walls are topped with turf to give them protection from weather erosion. These are planted up with wildflowers to become a haven for insects and small mammals.

The garden path leading from the old croft door is dressed in 'Briggy Stane', the Shetland name for flat stone washed up on the beaches, and the fence will be made of driftwood lashed together with twine - there are no trees in Shetland so wood is a rare commodity. Planting consists of heritage vegetables and rare varieties of Shetland potatoes, such as the Foula red, alongside colourful herbaceous planting capable of withstanding the elements. Plants include Edmonston's Chickweed, which can only be found in this part of the world, showcased on an alpine table in one corner of the garden. A walking stick to symbolise Motor Neurone Disease leans against the wall.

Urban garden golds include The Children's Society, and Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust's featuring a plug. Rachel de Thame's pretty garden for fashion house L K Bennett won a silver.

The Front Garden tackles controversial issues regarding loss of front gardens for alternative purposes such as parking. The Children's Society Garden explores future urban living, giving practical solutions for the environmental concerns of city families. It sits in front of an contemporary house façade and uses vertical features to make the most of its small plot.

Water gently flows down a basalt wall, flanked by living walls; dry plants at the top, wet thriving plants at the bottom. Two large Saphora japonica trees overlap giving dappled shade under umbrella-pruned canopies. Secure vertical bicycle storage is provided under a cantilevered porch. The garden is encircled by a low fence and a variety of long grasses. Gravels prevent water run off from the garden, allowing water to return to the ground. This practical design provides a microcosm for birds and insects and incorporates discreet water harvesting and waste & recycling bin storage.

NAFAS, the Great Pavilion, RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2008In the Great Pavilion, NAFAS, the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies, achieved a silver gilt for their bright swirls covered in colourful flowers.

UK Horticulture's exhibit 'NFU: Growing for another century' celebrates the centenary of the National Farmers Union, and is inspired by the huge range of fresh flowers, plants, fruit, vegetables and herbs produced by British growers. It features a cornucopia of vegetables and flowers in metal pipes.

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