ISSUE 73  |  The Garden Path

The Latest Trends in English Gardening, Brought to You from the Chelsea Flower Show

May 24, 2013 1:00 PM

BY Kendra Wilson

The parks of London are waist deep in cow parsley right now. Swathes of long grass and wildflowers, where once there was only very short turf, reflect a wider trend. It is no surprise to find the Chelsea Flower Show full of cow parsley, from the parameters of the showground itself to the carefully edited show gardens. Whether common-or-garden or the “posh” sort, cow parsley is a successful plant, immune to spring’s uncertainties. The good news for the flower show visitor is: you can definitely try this at home.

Photographs by Kendra Wilson.

Above: Posh cow parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ seen in Robert Myers’ show garden. Vibrantly painted backdrops are also a trend but beware: strong color needs sun.

Anthriscus Sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ is $2.98 per packet of seed (available seasonally, as fresh stock becomes available) from Seedaholic.

Above: And even posher, Orlaya grandiflora makes a number of appearances in the show gardens and in the Great Pavilion. Part of the fun of wandering around Chelsea when it opens to the public is hearing people thinking aloud as they translate what they see to their own gardens. There has been a lot of: “Oh, it’s that plant again. What is it?” After which other members of the crowd chip in with various ideas but no definite answer. Shown here: orlaya in the garden of Christopher Bradley-Hole.

Available seasonally, a 4-inch pot of Orlaya is $4.95 from Annie’s Annuals.

Above: Speaking of Mr Bradley-Hole, his angular platforms of box, yew, and hornbeam were part of a male-oriented topiary leaning. The women, very much in the minority, chose to create looser green structures and parameters.

Above: Roundness was another Chelsea trend this year, from Jinny Blom’s little mounds of Baby’s Tears in the garden she designed for Prince Harry, via Roger Platt’s loosely clipped box balls, to these blobs of lavender in pebbles, alternatively shorn or allowed to flower. The whole show would have looked unrecognizably different if the flowers had actually bloomed. This alternate clipping could look very effective in a small town garden with plenty of light.

Above: Reliable color came from the “blue poppy” which is not a poppy at all but Meconopsis lingholm. It likes cool growing conditions, thank goodness, and was perhaps the most photographed plant in the show gardens. The specimens here are part of Nigel Dunnett’s water roof garden, water conservation and sustainability being other big messages in this centenary year.

A 4-inch pot of Meconopsis Lingholm is $9 (available seasonally) from Far Reaches Farm.

Above: Growing things in a good-looking family garden is an ambition of many. We don’t all want to harvest industrial quantities of food on an allotment, but we’d like to grow a few vegetables among the flowers. This ideal was realized very convincingly in Adam Frost’s show garden. Here, salad leaves provide an edging which is both decorative and edible.

Above: The opium poppy made several appearances. Since almost all of them were in bud, one must assume that they were richly purple like this papaver somniferum from Avon Bulbs in the Great Pavilion. The opium poppy is is unlikely to succeed in a neat and tidy garden. Those of us who enjoy a bit of self-seeding let them alone, hoping they will open up as doubles, in a magnificent shade of magenta or purple. Special strains should be kept away from their more insipid cousins if you don’t want them to revert.

Above: Show Garden designers may be reluctant to go down the cottage garden route but they reference it, perhaps unconsciously, all the time. Aquilegia Kristall, shown here, is a refined version of the classic cottage garden columbine and was spotted in gold-winning gardens designed by Paul Hervey-Brookes, Harry and David Rich, and Martin Cook. 

Coveting it? Aquilegia Kristall is available to UK gardeners for £7.49 apiece from Crocus.

Did you miss any of Kendra’s daily reports from the garden show? Catch up at Gold Medals Awarded at the 100th Chelsea Flower Show.