As gardeners, what we really want from the Chelsea Flower Show is a crammed notebook full of gorgeous planting combinations and beautiful trees and shrubs to add to our never-ending wishlist. And this year— in its glorious September slot—the flower show did not disappoint. Here are some of our favorite combinations to bring joy to gardens, balconies, and containers through fall.
Clare Coulson. M&G Garden Above: Charlotte Harris and Hugo Bugg’s garden for the show sponsors M&G was conceived as a city pocket garden, a post-industrial public space that features remnants of its past in the form of 100 linear meters of metal piping. It’s packed with the most delicious palettes and planting combinations, such as this Rosa glauca lighting up borders with its hips. Also in the mix: the creamy umbels of Selenium wallichianum, Solidago x luteus ‘Lemore’, and the soft blue Aster cordifolius. Above: Some of the most dazzling grasses—and indeed planting combinations—were in the M&G garden, where fluffy Pennisetum alipecuroides ‘Cassian’ dances with Echincea pallida and the foliage of Amsonia illustris. It was also where the most important lesson of all autumn planting was writ large across the garden: if you’re creating a garden for the soft light of these months, always consider the rising and setting sun because when these plants are backlit during golden hour, they are at their very best. Blue Diamond Forge Garden Above: The autumn setting has been a gift to the creators of the Blue Diamond Forge garden whose delicious planting scheme of burnt orange, yellow, paprika, and chocolate was created to echo the flames inside the thatch and stone forge where a blacksmith got on with his work. Aptly red hot pokers were key in this scheme along with heleniums, rudbeckia, and crocosmia (‘George Davison’ and ‘Emily McKenzie’). Above: In different areas the palette shifts: here, the gorgeous chocolate cosmos and airy Panicum ‘Rehbraun’ act as a calming note amidst kniphofia and echinacea. Florence Nightingale Garden Above: While many designers have opted for warmer autumnal schemes, Robert Myers illustrates perfectly how to combine pastel shades with richer tones in his Florence Nightingale garden. Here, billowing Verbena bonariensis as well as two grasses— Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberspinne’and Calamagrostis brachytricha—create a gorgeous haze around the deep burgundy dahlia ‘Verrone’s Obsidian’, Aster ‘October Skies’, and echinacea. Guangzhou Garden Above: The subtle and delicate flowers in the largely green Guangzhou garden pop against a deep black bamboo perimeter wall. Designers Peter Chmiel and Chin Jung Chen use Salvia uliganosa giving a rich sky-blue pop of color against more subdued perennials. Cop 26 Garden Above: Sometimes the backdrop doesn’t need to be a fence or wall but other plants: in the Cop 26 garden, stunning banana leaves work as a beautiful base to deep red and coral dahlias, crocosmia, and rudbeckia. Guide Dogs Garden Above: An autumnal garden doesn’t need to showcase dazzling perennials; trees and shrubs can provide a more subtle—and edible—beauty. In the Guide Dogs 90th Anniversary garden by Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith, ripening apples, brown seed-heads of teasel, and glossy copper beech leaves provide a beautiful harmonious supporting act to perennials and grasses. Elsewhere many designers have used spindle for its jewel-like autumn fruits, crabapples, and medlars or climbers such as Virginia Creeper to bring rich color to the season. Parsley Box Garden Above: Grasses were always destined to be the star of a September flower show, and they appear in various guises in almost every garden. In the bijoux Parsley Box garden designed by Alan Williams, the sun-bleached grasses provide a counterfoil to the jewel-toned perennials including sanguisorba, achillea, and rudbeckia.
For more on the Chelsea Flower Show of 2021, see: