Andrew Duff: How to make the most of RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017
With the RHS Chelsea Flower Show just around the corner I would encourage you to visit if you can. This year the RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 23rd – 27th May 2017. Chelsea is the main event in a garden designer’s calendar and a rich source of inspiration.
As with any great show it is essential to plan ahead. The RHS Chelsea website is excellent for this; it lists all the individual show gardens, their designers, a drawing of the garden and the plant lists. It also lists all the main exhibitors from the garden furniture stands right through to the nurseries in the main marquee.
My plan of action is to print off the map well in advance: this gives me an opportunity to plan a route through the site.
I start with the main avenue and those jaw-dropping show gardens, then work my way through the main marquee for a little light relief where I look at the nursery stands before embarking on the smaller gardens, the exhibition stands, and finally the gardens set amongst the woodlands.
Don’t forget the gardens are not always as they might seem; lots of the show gardens have their plants forced in heated glass houses or held back in a refrigerator so you can never be sure that the planting combinations you see are realistic. Instead look at flower shape. A few years ago Luciano Giubbilei’s blood red peonies and bronze fennel were amazing, this can easily be reproduced with roses or other round flower shapes with grasses.
Make sure you grab a plant list.
The designer or a member of their team is often on the garden and there is always the chance to ask them questions. That is what they are there for!
Watch for colour trends – last year’s brilliant-white and plum-red stole the show. The year before acid greens and pale blues worked their magic. Check out quirky ideas such as different mulches, different path edges and other innovations. Look at style. There is often a certain style running through the show; last year it was very strong and proud, all making a statement. This year I predict an altogether softer approach.
If you have not been able to beg or borrow a Chelsea ticket this year, all is not lost. The RHS website is still worth researching and you can get tickets for the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, which although it doesn’t have the same kudos as Chelsea, it is equally interesting and informative.