Chelsea 2017: Trends and themes

May 27th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Intermingling meadow style planting at Chelsea 2017

Every year at Chelsea, themes emerge and different design and planting ideas become popular and this year is no exception.

Gone, almost entirely in the gardens, is the traditional planting style: a clump of one thing alongside a clump of another. Instead, meadow planting was everywhere, plants mixed together in informal interminglings. Peonies and incarvilleas and primulas on The Chengdu Silk Road Garden; white ragged robin, white verbena, astrantia and white alliums on David Harber’s sculpture garden; salvias ,euphorbias , asphodel and thrift on the Greening Grey Britain Garden (above).

Although I have to say that mixing red campion with ragged robin, as was seen on the James Doran-Webb’s sculpture garden, gives the impression that they can be grown together at home when, in fact, ragged robin enjoys moisture and red campion prefers drier conditions.

Living walls featured on a number of gardens. Two, one entirely of edibles, featured on 40 Sunbury Road; a wildflower wall was included on the Greening Grey Britain garden; hostas, ferns and ragged robin, with a splashing waterfall, backed the driftwood sculpture on James Doran-Webb’s garden.

And that familiar waterside British native ragged robin, Lychnis flos-cuculi, was the plant of the show, turning up all over the place, in both the usual pink and also the uncommon pure white form. It even featured as the backdrop to the Great Pavilion exhibit of vegetables from Pennard Plants.

On the Mr Fothergill exhibit at the Show, David Turner has spent the week chatting to visitors, passing on his wisdom and selling seeds. I caught up with him on Friday afternoon and he told me which seeds he’d been asked for the most this year.

Chilli peppers have been popular this year,” he told me, “after all the publicity for the world’s hottest chilli. Although why anyone would want to grow a chilli that’s too hot to eat is a mystery. But the regular Jalapenos and Habaneros have gone well. Sweet corn has been popular and, this year, a strange one was scorzonera which quite a few people have asked for.

“In flowers, nasturtiums are always Chelsea favourites and lupins have also gone well; they’re featured on a number of stands. California poppies (below, at an earlier Chelsea), we’ve seen a resurgence of those; they thrive in poor soil so you’d expect them to be popular but there’s been a lot more interest this year.”

And while it’s a little late to sow chillies and sweet corn for this season, you can still sow California poppies , I’ve sown some myself today, and lupins sown in summer will make splendid plants for next year.

Orange California poppies at an earlier Chelsea show.

* OK, that’s it for my daily updates from the Chelsea Flower Show, I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Back to normal next Friday with my thoughts (and those of Christopher Lloyd) on why you should grow your own wallflowers.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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