Behind the scenes at Chelsea Flower Show

PUBLISHED: 15:36 15 August 2014 | UPDATED: 15:36 15 August 2014

The Hope for Heroes garden was undoubtedly inspiring

The Hope for Heroes garden was undoubtedly inspiring

Naomi Slade

Is the famous show missing its ‘shock factor’? Naomi Slade ponders this and picks out her favourite discoveries of the 2014 event

Chelsea Flower Show will forever be England. From champagne to sculpture to the gardens where elite designers create spectacular showpieces with even more spectacular budgets; it is more than an event, it is a legend.

For me, Chelsea is very special; it was the second show I ever exhibited at when I first started working in gardening and you only have to open a bag of damp bark mulch, or evoke a hot haze of London dust and itchy fibres from the plane trees that surround the site and I am transported back there to open mouthed horticultural innocence.

That innocence is long-gone; I am older and wiser but I hope not yet as cynical as some of my peers. I still love Chelsea, even if I can now make a decent fist of second-guessing the judges and commenting on passé planting schemes.

For the record, I thought the show was better than usual this year, crisp, fresh, floral and beautiful. But perhaps it is now too safe? With no Diarmuid Gavin there was no shock factor (although heaven forfend that should be Diarmuid’s only remit), and it had the sort of perfection you get at a top end hotel. And there is also the ‘style issue’ where, because there are only a limited amount of suppliers – shops or wholesale plant nurseries – you know that everyone has shopped at John Lewis and is sporting the same look, even if the colours are different.

Here, hopefully to entertain you, are a few of my favourite things:

• The Hope for Heroes Garden: I previewed this in the May issue and, landing a Silver-Gilt medal, first-time designer Matt Keightly ‘done good’. I particularly liked the sensory nature of the garden, the juxtaposition of textured granite and box cubes and the scented herbs in the planting.

• Glass sculpture: I am a complete sucker for light effects and the way that glass looks and performs in the garden never fails to excite me, particularly when it is on an epic scale.
• Black reflective pools: This is a slightly impractical but very exciting formal garden feature that I’ve regularly seen used at Chelsea. The reflection give an altered perspective which adds much to the design.;
• Japanese perfection: There is always one exquisite Japanese garden at the Show. Ishihara Kazuyuki’s delightful rounded moss hummocks and secret views rightfully won Gold and Best Artisan Garden.


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