Posted on Tuesday April 13, 2021
Who doesn’t love a show? And when it’s the Chelsea Flower Show, it’s irresistible. Not only is this uniquely magical event a firm fixture in the London social scene, it has justifiably taken its place amongst the world’s great garden and horticultural shows.
A touch of glamour, grounded in commercial reality
Traditionally held every year in May in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, the show is organised by the Royal Horticultural Society. It is attended, naturally enough, by members of the British royal family. The Chelsea Flower Show represents the very best in horticulture, floral displays, and gardens designs.
Prizes in five categories and numerous specialist awards are highly sort after – not just for the honour of winning, but for the status they provide and the resultant commercial potential. Competition is fierce and produces stunning results!
If there’s any doubt about the importance of the Chelsea Flower Show, consider this: it’s probably the most visible such event in the world and certainly within the UK and Europe. Pre-pandemic, the horticultural industry in Britain was worth in excess of £24 billion annually. It employed nearly 600,000 people; probably a lot more once the informal sector is taken into account. So to have the Chelsea show as a flagship is crucial in supporting and maintaining a healthy industry.
Seeds of success
The show has a long history and was in fact first held, under the name of the Great Spring Show, in RHS gardens in Chertsey. It moved in 1862 to Kensington and again in 1888 to Temple Gardens, on the banks of the Thames near the law courts. Already it was established as something of a ‘must visit’ event in fashionable society – not forgetting enthusiastic amateur gardeners along with the backbone of the show, commercial sellers of plants and seeds.
As the show grew in popularity the Temple Gardens proved too small. Consequently, the early 20th century saw experimentation with several sites, including the gardens of the Royal Hospital where, by the early 1920s, the May show had become an annual fixture.
In 2020 the show was, inevitably, cancelled – the first time since the second world war – and for 2021 it has been moved to September in the expectation that Covid-19 restrictions will have been relaxed by that time.
Tradition, armed with the cutting edge of science.
The show today has a real sense of both glamour and tradition. There are dazzling floral displays and many of the marquees are rich with the intoxicating perfume of countless blooms revealing their full glory at just the right time. The show is a feast for the senses and food for the soul.
Visiting is an exciting event with few rivals, and for an industry insider to visit or, even better, to exhibit, is a tremendous opportunity to network and learn lots – and to marvel at the sheer magnificence of so many wonderful plants and gardens
There’s a curious thing about horticulture and garden design. It all seems so … natural. And so it should, but make no mistake. The whole industry relies on an intimate and interwoven relationship between the natural world and science. Even the ‘old fashioned’ trial and error approach to grafting and crossing different fruit trees relies on the scientific method of repeated experimentation. Add in soil types, and resistance to drought and disease, and one is quickly into some high-tech thinking – none of which would be supported so well without the publicity provided by high profile events such as the Chelsea Flower Show.
Don’t forget Design
Even the most stunning plants and flowers need the right context to show off their best. So whether it’s rearranging the pots on a patio or organising an entire garden around a theme and key plants, careful design is essential.
This is why, despite the new plants and floral masterpieces, the garden designs at Chelsea are so important. These compact creations take months to plan and prepare, masterminded quite literally to the last inch. Space is at a premium, so there is no room for error. Additionally, garden themes can be as important as their looks – in the future look out for designs incorporating only natural materials, recycled and re-purposed materials and plants which are capable of withstanding extremes of weather and climate.
Most of all, look out for the gardens that strike a real chord within you. Much will depend on your own mood and preferences, but some will stand out as universally beautiful. Look out for the handful of gardens which are, like blossom in springtime, quite simply perfect.
E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are 5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winners, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results with gardens both beautiful and practical.
Posted on Tuesday February 23, 2021
or how experience teaches us how to think ahead.
There’s nothing more frustrating than having a great plan that fails because it’s based on the wrong information. It’s the same with landscape gardening. Whether you’re rejuvenating an established garden or creating something brand new, careful preparation is key to success. The right planning will deliver gardens that are not just a long term pleasure, it will unlock the hidden wonders of the natural world.
Thinking: inside or outside the box?
And there’s nothing like experience to show us how things can be done better. Only through experience is it possible to properly understand quite why specific choices will have particular outcomes.
Of course, we can all do some research and find information online (and in books!) and we might even be able to produce appealing garden designs, based purely on theory. But it’s only with experience that the garden designer, plantsperson, and landscape specialist will be able to develop the sense of vision that produces truly great results.
“Right plant, right place.”
This now popular phrase was a favourite of Beth Chatto, the iconic garden designer made famous by her first book, The Dry Garden. In the 1960s and 70s, faced with cultivating a dry and windswept corner of Essex, she decided that a new approach was required. Rather than try and impose what she wanted on an inhospitable environment, she set about finding plants and trees that would flourish there naturally.
In this way she and her husband were able, very successfully, to create harmonious and dynamic gardens where their contemporaries had doubted anything would grow. Today, this seems fairly obvious. But at the time, it was a radical solution and we can all be grateful that she captured her experience in her ground-breaking book. It’s an approach that experienced modern garden designers use now, frequently. We make use of natural features, the soil specific to the location, and microclimates as well as the prevailing weather.
Adapt and prosper
Now, 43 years after the publication of The Dry Garden, the lesson has come full circle. We need to learn from those 20thcentury revelations and apply that approach to our own experience of climate change. Although the future is never certain, it seems clear that we are likely to have hotter summers and wetter winters than before. We need to translate that information into landscape and garden design, right down to the details of which plants go where.
Some plants, of course, will tolerate the changes. However, there is undoubtedly going to be shift towards plants that are more Mediterranean in style. In some areas this will also need to accommodate the possibility of water logged soils in the winter, which may become rock hard in a long dry summer. Choice of plant will never be more important. Getting it right will save money. More importantly, getting it right will mean that our gardens will continue to be places to love and enjoy for years to come.
As well as careful choice of plants, the whole design of a garden – whether domestic, corporate or civic – also has a huge impact. Exactly what goes where has always been important; and never more so than today. So consider how large features relate to small ones, how trees can be placed strategically to provide just the right amount of shade, and how thinking ahead can keep gardens easy to maintain as well as beautiful.
Don’t be afraid to seek advice from someone with experience. Most of us like to watch a good television programme, but relatively few of us know how to produce or direct one. If we had to, we’d need an expert to help; and it’s the same with gardens. Find a professional from whose experience you can benefit and listen to what they have to say. It’ll be worth it.
E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are a5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winners, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results with gardens both beautiful and practical.
Posted on Tuesday January 26, 2021
Where we live and how we live matters. The landscapes around us – rural, urban or suburban – influences how we live, what we take and what we give back. Finding the right balance can be tricky. And the landscapes we inhabit have a huge influence on how we approach the search for contentment – that sweet spot somewhere between ambition, happiness and satisfaction at what we do and what we’ve achieved.
The nature of a place has value
This is true regardless of location. The design of an office building influences mental health and productivity. The impact of how a garden is laid out can produce reactions as different as indifference, lifelong curiosity, wonder, and well-being. Thoughtfully landscaped open spaces around places of work can transform the whole environment for the better.
Carefully planned landscaping can also, quite literally, improve the nature of a place, encouraging wildlife and protecting animal and bird life that are otherwise under threat. Careful, thoughtful landscaping adds value.
Making and remaking
Throughout history men and women have repeatedly remodelled the landscape around them. On our small island it’s very obvious; there are few corners of the country that are not shaped by human intervention. Of course, it hasn’t always been good and that is all the more reason to get it right today.
In the past, landscape gardening might have included the idea of taming the wilderness, but this is not an adequate or helpful description. It’s true, of course, that the great landscape gardeners of the 18th century were shaping nature to their own purpose. But they also did so with great sensitivity, inspired by the natural world. In the 19th century, recognising virtue in managed spaces , ‘model’ villages such as Cadbury’s Bournville brought a similar attitude, albeit with a different focus.
New ideas spring forth
Modern landscape gardening requires a fresh new approach based on experience and expertise. Not only is our understanding of landscape, plants and planting constantly growing and evolving; changing priorities (including adjusting to climate change) means that new designs need to respond to the future as well as the present.
Experienced garden designers can do this, creating gardens that are suitable to their setting and purpose. A great design will bring great joy and pleasure alongside practicality and consideration for the environment.
Get ahead of the game
It’s always best to plan ahead. That’s why winter is the ideal time to give shape to ideas that you had last summer or came to mind mid-December. Planning and organising now puts you in the ideal place to get a project under way when days lengthen and spring is in the air.
Timing matters. Working within sensible schedules gives the experienced designer the edge in terms of flexibility and the best outcome. Even if you plan to have work done next year, not this, it’s still worth getting expert advice now. Rushing rarely works, especially when it comes to a living, growing ecosystem.
Whatever you have in mind, start in plenty of time. Let the designer get a feel for the property and its surroundings, its soil and existing flora and, indeed, fauna. Only with this specialist understanding and perspective will you get the best, fresh designs which marry old virtues with modern inspiration.
E. Williams Landscapes is a Hampshire based specialist garden design company, expert in creating perfect outdoor spaces. They are a 5-Star RHS Chelsea Flower Show Award winner, with many accreditations and a reputation for imaginative designs that complement any context. They have considerable experience in projects of all sizes, in both commercial and residential settings. They’re known for the care they take to achieve outstanding results and gardens both beautiful and practical.