Colin Hambidge reviews another great year for the Chelsea Flower Show.
One of the high spots, in more ways than one, of last week’s Chelsea Flower Show was the Road to Recovery garden staged by Birmingham City Council and B&Q in aid of the Help for Heroes charity.
Not only was the tranquil and productive garden well staged by Mike Hinton and his team at Kings Heath Park, winning them a silver medal, but the Chinook helicopter quietly hovering above the display became a focal point within the great pavilion.
Close by was the result of a truly worthwhile idea to encourage children to take an interest in where their food comes and to have a go at growing some for themselves. The Morrisons supermarket Let’s Grow Garden comprised wooden boxes in which superb vegetables were growing, one from each of the 25 winning primary schools.
I have to say the children’s efforts put my own vegetable plot to shame. The garden won a bronze medal, but the idea behind it is worth a gold medal.
Hay fever can cause misery to its sufferers at this time of year, so it was fascinating to see the University of Worcester’s low-allergen garden, designed by first-time Chelsea exhibitor Olivia Kirk.
Her aim was to create a tranquil spot for students and staff to escape the hustle and bustle of college life. I was impressed by her work and her use of such plants as Pulmonaria Sissinghurst White, Alchemilla mollis and Peony Buckeye Belle. The garden also featured other low-allergen plants and materials and sustainably sourced timber for its striking pergola.
Back to vegetables, stunning displays were mounted by seedsmen W Robinson & Son and Medwyns of Anglesey which proved the point that vegetables can be as beautiful as floral displays when staged by such experts.
Indeed, the President’s award was given to Medwyns for a virtually faultless display. Medwyn Williams is surely the finest exhibitor of vegetables in the UK, while W Robinson & Son is a rarity among British seed companies in still being family-owned.
Outside, the show gardens, as always, attracted much attention from visitors. My overall impression this year was that many were high on foliage and hard landscaping, but low on flowers.
The Children’s Society garden was designed by Mark Gregory, winning his third consecutive Chelsea gold for the society, as a practical garden for the urban family. It offered a place for families and friends to enjoy each other’s company and provided an outdoor space for children to be active, have fun, learn about the environment – and to eat pizza fresh from the outdoor oven.
I felt the large covered seating area, plunge pool and plenty of shade offered by the multi-stemmed Acer campestre created just the right feel to a splendid and informal garden.
It was not long ago when there were three or four displays of sweet peas at Chelsea, but this year there was just one, from Eagle Sweet Peas of Stowe-by-Chartley, near Stafford. Winning a well deserved gold medal, the display of superb blooms came very close to perfection. I have grown sweet peas for many years, but none to rival the quality of those blooms.
New for 2010 are the strongly perfumed white Lucy Hawthorne and the nicely scented carmine Julie Ann. Both are suitable for garden display, cutting and exhibiting.