I have also got into the habit of placing my autumn bulb orders at the show, and it is here that I have often seen new introductions which have since become regular features in my planting plans. One such is Lilium martagon “Claude Shride”, available from Bloms Bulbs and Jacques Amand – the latter also stocks varieties in a range of unusual oranges and caramels, such as L “Orange Marmalade”.

I will also be looking to increase a collection of cool-grown houseplants for a client, and so will head to Dibleys for its unsurpassed range of streptocarpus and foliage begonias. And from McBean’s I hope to add to a collection of cymbidium orchids, with C lowianum “Concolor” and C tracyanum.

At last year’s show I was about to leave when I caught sight of Erythronium “Susannah” on the Harveys Garden Plants stand. It is supposed to be a great improvement on E “Pagoda”, and I immediately placed an order for 12, which are now doing very well in the studio garden.

There is no time like the present for following through on orders that can otherwise end up as undecipherable scribbles in your notebook. If you place your orders now, when the bulbs and plants arrive in the autumn it will be a delightful reminder of a show that takes place on the cusp of summer, and it will offer encouragement for next year’s growing season before the winter descends once more.

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My Highlight Show Gardens of RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014

I was lucky enough to be at Chelsea for almost the entire week that The Royal Hospital in Chelsea welcomed the public into its grounds to celebrate the very best that British Horticulture has to offer.

You can still take a tour of the show gardens that Chris Beardshaw and I covered for the coveted People’s Choice Award 2014 by pressing on the link here, but now the votings over, here’s a few of my personal RHS Chelsea Show Garden Highlights.

As a garden designer, it is always the show gardens that beckon me to their side on first entering the show. This year there was much to admire; Charlotte Rowe’s No Man’s Charity Garden, a conceptual space remembering World War One through landscape was exquistively interpreted and actualised (take an armchair trip through her garden by pressing here), whilst Andrew Wilson & Gavin McWilliam’s garden for Cloudy Bay innovated through their use of sculptural materials, perspective and planting design which was fresh and bold (see their garden by pressing here), and finally the new school of garden designers including Hugo Bugg, Auderset & Fischer, Matthew Childs, David & Harry Rich brothers and People’s choice Award winner Matt Keightly’s Help for Heroes garden should all be appluaded for carrying out their first Chelsea Main Avenue gardens with aplomb. Their gardens can be seem by pressing here.

However, my personal favourites from the Show Garden category included, on very first sight, Cleve West’s garden for M & G. His interpretation of the ‘paradise garden’ – a garden model first invented by the Persians over 2000 years ago, used water, light, shade and evocative planting to promote a contemplative mood which took my breath away. West’s designs are always left field of centre; his contemporary, always unique, twists and motifs delighting and surprising the eye. Four rills babbling from the base of a bold central columnar fountain represented the rivers of Eden, playfully adding light, movement and sound at the heart of the space, from which ripples of planting moved from the formal to the informal, with for me, the most joyous of plant combinations to be found in the foreground of the space.

Here, plant forms were surely combined to purposely innovate and astonish? And yet Cleve created the impression that self seeders had alighted without help amongst the gravel. Asphodeline lutea jostled playfully with Cerinthe, Iris, Sipa gigantea and a wonderfully simple annual poppy I couldn’t help but take a note of in a bid to light up my own plantings as he did so effortlessly in his – Papaver ssp. lecoqii. Genius.

Take a trip around Cleve’s wonderful garden by pressing here.

Patrick Collins garden for First Touch at St George, celebrated the work of the Neonatal Unit at St Georges Hospital in London and was also planted with obvious sensitivity. Designing a garden on the Rock Bank at Chelsea requires remarkable innovation and skill and I admired the sophisticated interpretation of a watercourse flowing through a stylised valley, the turbulent course becoming gentler downstream to finally meet an almost still pool. Like Cleve, it seemed as if Patrick had joyfully considered each singular plant and lovingly placed each of his selections in just the right spot – massed together the individuals formed a painterly, considered whole which was a joy to take in.

Take a trip around Patrick’s garden by pressing here.

Finally, to my mind Luciano Giubbilei’s garden for Laurent-Perrier was a masterclass in contemporary garden design. This was Luciano’s third garden at RHS Chelsea, and assuredly his best. It was the first show garden I approached when walking up main avenue where I instinctively stood stock still, transfixed, quiet and, held in the moment, just looked, looked, then looked again. My hand reached automatically for my camera, and I joined the quiet throng surrounding the space attempting to capture the finesse, confidence and beauty of the space on film. I was lucky enough to be given a tour around the garden and experience the finer details of material selection, layout, form, and textural, rhythmic planting from the inside looking out. The atmosphere from within Luciano’s garden was undeniable, and of a quality where one wants to continually breathe it in. The eye was lead around the space calmly, and introduced gently to discover the meticulous intricacies of the design, and carefully chosen architectural and planting detailing.

Luciano was awarded Best in Show – I congratulate both him, and the RHS judges! Take a look at Luciano’s garden by pressing here.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014: visitor guide

The Chelsea Flower Show – “Laidback is good, scruffy bad”. Photo: Paul Grover

The Chelsea Fringe (chelseafringe.com), the ‘alternative garden festival’ now in its third year, features London-wide events from May 17 to June 8. Resolutely grassroots (sorry) and a teeny bit haphazard, it’s full of creativity – and won’t be sold out by early May. You could also hang on for the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show from July 8 to 13.

For more information: 0844 338 7502; rhs.org.uk/chelsea

The Season: A Summer Whirl Through the English Social Season by Sophie Campbell (Aurum, £9.99) is available to order from Telegraph Books at £9.99 + £1.10p&p. Call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk

Where else to staynearby

These recommendations are taken from Sophie Campbell’s expert guide to London, which has advice on hotels, restaurants, attractions and nightlife across the area.


Myhotel in Chelsea, which has hand-painted walls and peaceful rooms, has rooms from £194 room-only during the Chelsea Flower Show. Read the full review here.

High Road House, a little further away in Chiswick, has rooms on May 20, 21 and 22 from £195, room-only. Sophie Campbell describes the hotel as having a “very welcoming, cosy atmosphere” and “very charming rooms”. Read the full review here.

B&B Belgravia is perfectly situated for the Show and has simple rooms furnished with white linen. It has availability during the Show with rooms from £199, including breakfast. Read the full review here.

Where to eat

Read our full guide to the Best restaurants near the Chelsea Flower Show

London city guide
London hotels
London attractions
London nightlife
London itineraries

The Chelsea Flower Show 2014 Is Blooming Lovely

Calling all green-fingered garden enthusiasts! Tickets for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014 are now on sale and this year promises to be just as lush, decorative and colourful as ever before. From 20-24 May, the gardens of the Royal Chelsea Hospital in London will be transformed into a bustling horticultural wonderland, full of carefully cultivated gardens and fresh flowers.

Themed gardens to commemorate WWI

Each year there are a number of gardens based on themes or built to certain specifications. This year, two military charities are backing show gardens that represent 100 years since the start of the First World War. Charity Help for Heroes is supporting a garden called Hope on the Horizon, which sports a layout based on the shape of the Military Cross, the medal awarded for extreme bravery. Another garden entitled No Man’s Land is inspired by the damaged landscapes of the trenches on the Western Front. These creative designs are the work of two young stars of horticulture, keeping with the Chelsea Flower Show’s tradition of putting the spotlight on fresh talent.

A breathtaking floral exhibit in the Great Pavilion will be staged by the Royal British Legion, charity Thrive and Birmingham City Council. Featuring wartime memorabilia, giant poppies and reconstructions of the trenches, this year the show has a strong WWI commemoration theme running throughout the event.

Gardens for a good cause

Other specially designed gardens include The RBC Waterscape Garden – Embrace the Rain, designed to illustrate global water issues and The Homebase Garden – Time to Reflect, which has been built by apprentices after completing 10 months of training.

Expert advice, shopping and champagne!

From garden furniture to fresh cut flowers and water features – you’ll be able to buy them all at the Chelsea Flower Show! The event has everything you need to spruce up your outdoor area. In true British summer style, there will be sandwiches, salads, cakes and glasses of Pimm’s on offer at the Rock Bank Food Court and the Refresh Champagne Bar adds a touch of luxury to the show. Royal Horticultural Society experts will be on hand throughout the event to answer all your gardening queries and provide a ton of handy tips.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014 is an incredibly popular event and tickets sell out fast, so get yours now! If you’re not in London this May, then check out the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2014 coming to the country in July.

Images used courtesy of Flickr users Karen Roe & HerryLawford

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