The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is on from the 24-28 May, and this year there will be more than 30 show gardens giving you a wealth of fresh ideas and trends to help transform your garden space.
Native British plants are expected to take centre stage, alongside wildlife-friendly gardening and innovative sustainable solutions to the challenges of our changing climate.
If you want to get the Chelsea look in your garden, but haven’t quite got a Chelsea budget, then don’t despair! Here are some hints and tips from our plant experts to help turn your garden into a horticultural paradise.
Kate Haines – Plant Manager at Squire’s Long Ditton
If you are gardening on a budget you do have to be patient, but there are a lot of popular plants that you can buy either as small plants or grow from seed.
There has been a big swing towards more naturalistic planting featured at Chelsea over the last few years, and some of the best plants for getting that look include Geums in a wide range of oranges and scarlets, Anthriscus ‘Ravenswing’ which is a deep burgundy coloured Cow Parsley, Lysimachia ‘Beaujolais’ a soft fluffy grass, and the tall red thistle Cirsium rivale ‘Atropurpureum’. Most of these can be grown either from seed or bought as small plants in April and May and then grown on. You might only get a few flowers the first year, but in a years’ time they will be looking fantastic.
It’s worth spending a bit on a tree for some height and structure. Two of my favourites are Silver birch (Betula utilis var. jacquemontii) for its dramatic bark, and Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) for fantastic Autumn colour and caramel scented leaves.
Lastly Alliums are always featured at Chelsea, but if you buy them in May when they are flowering, they will cost a lot. Make a note of the varieties that you like at Chelsea, and then buy them much more cheaply as bulbs in February to flower that summer. My favourites are big swathes of ‘Purple Sensation’, the slightly later flowering ‘Purple Rain’, and ‘Gladiator’ which is a really striking architectural variety.
Andy Dobson – Plant Manager at Squire’s West Horsley
Here are some plant ideas which will look good from early to mid-summer, are easy to grow, not too expensive and many will attract wildlife. A lot of the plant recommendations are classic British garden plants that will probably be popular with Chelsea designers this year with it being the Queens Platinum Jubilee.
Cottage garden plants
They are always a good look in an English garden and are great plants for wildlife, as they attract bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. Delphiniums and Peonys are very popular and are available in a range of colours such as white, blue and purple. Choose Lupins, Gladioli and Irises for their tall flamboyant flower spikes – they come in lots of bright colours which will add a great show in the middle of a border. Or try Erysimum Bowle’s Mauve, which is the ever popular and long flowering purple perennial which looks great in any border. English Lavender varieties such a Hidcote and Munstead are a classic for any British garden and their profusion of fragrant flowers are loved by garden bees.
For a shady border, groundcover plants such as Hostas and ferns are wonderful foliage plants and will create a tranquil woodland feel under a large canopy tree.
There are some fantastic shrubs that flower in May and June. Ceanothus (Californian Lilac) is a fast-growing evergreen shrub that is ideal for the back of a border or for growing against a sunny wall. The bees and butterflies will enjoy their abundant show of lilac flowers. Buddleja is another fast-growing deciduous shrub with varieties ranging from 1m to 3m high with a wonderful range of flower colours from pastel pink, reds, purples and blues. They attract butterflies throughout the summer. Or try Cistus (Rock Rose), which is a great smaller evergreen shrub for the front of a sunny border. It will produce lots of attractive white, pink and red flowers during the summer months attracting bees and insects.
Betula jacquemontii (Himalayan birch) is an ideal feature tree for an open sunny position with its attractive white papery bark. Alternatively, Betula alba is the British native silver birch which is fast growing and suitable for any sunny well drained site – it looks very natural and graceful in any medium to large garden.
A specimen Japanese Acer tree is an ideal choice for a more sheltered or shady garden, and it can even been grown in pot, so is ideal for small gardens. Combine it with shady ground cover plants (like Hosta and Ferns), a garden seat, water feature and stone ornaments, and you will give your garden a classic Chelsea feel.