The Chelsea Flower Show kicks off on 21st May, marking the start of Summer proper.
And there’s even more hype than usual this year, with a Duchess of Cambridge-endorsed “Back to Nature” garden causing ticket sales to blossom at a record pace. “RHS Chelsea Flower Show is set to sell out some two weeks ahead of when it sold out last year,” said a spokesperson for the event. “When the duchess’s involvement was announced, visits to the RHS Chelsea web pages increased by 100% and there was a huge surge of people wanting tickets.”
Princess Kate’s garden, co-designed by HRH and landscape architects Davies White, promises to “build on Her Royal Highness’s passion for the outdoors and the proven benefits that nature has on physical and mental health”. It aims to be a “woodland wilderness” featuring wild-style planting with a treehouse in the middle.
The Duke and Duchess of Suffolk are also involved in the event, albeit more tangentially. A charity supported by the Royal couple, The Campaign for Female Education (Camfed), will be showing off an African-inspired garden to help promote the cause – although there has not been any direct Royal input as far as we know.
Camfed’s “Space to Grow” garden has been designed by Jilayne Rickards to evoke a Zimbabwean landscape, with red soil, rocks, vibrant colours and bold foliage. It includes an outdoor learning space, and will move to the Eden Project in Cornwall once the Chelsea Flower Show wraps up. “For 25 years, Camfed has worked to educate girls and empower young women in sub-Saharan Africa,” says CEO, Lucy Lake. “This innovative garden design illustrates how we support girls in the classroom and beyond, to reach their full potential. We are working to equip more Camfed alumnae to become sustainable agriculture experts, using their horticultural and entrepreneurial skills to provide nutrient-rich food, education and employment for people in their communities, and to build resilience to climate change.”
Property firms are getting in on the action too. Savills is returning for a second year in cahoots with the artist David Harber. This year’s effort, on the Main Avenue, is an “immersive space” created by celebrated garden designer and Managing Director of the Inchbald School of Design, Andrew Duff MSGD. Duff’s Savills-sponsored garden uses mainly native planting, including 18 mature trees (provided by Majestic Trees), around 1,000 perennials, and some 10,000 bi-annual species.
A David Harber sculpture occupies pride of place in a pool of water at the centre of the garden, soaring 3.5 metres into the tree-tops.
“The garden will showcase how, in an urban environment, home owners and developers can include sustainable, environmentally-friendly features to create gardens and outside spaces that both add to the personal enjoyment of a home or community space and deliver wider environmental benefits,” says Savills’ UK Managing Director Richard Rees.
Other CFS highlights include a lavish treehouse created by whimsical specialists Blue Forest, in conjunction with Chewton Glen Hotel and Spa in Hampshire.
Celebrity florist McQueens will also be displaying some wares. The firm is creating two original installations for the show to highlight the plight of the bees. The interactive “Honey, I’m Home” allows visitors to make little bees out of bright yellow Craspedia flowers and dried leaves; these will be added to a hive, which will evolve through the course of the week.
McQueens second installation, “Per Oculus Apum” (Through the Eyes of Bees) is a 20-metre long tunnel which “immerses visitors into the sensory world of a bee.” The tunnel is being planted with wild, organic bee-friendly flowers, including an upside down lavender field. Visitors will experience how bees see flowers in ultra-violet, while listening to an “oscillating soundscape of electrostatic patters” that help guide bees to the flowers, while London perfumer Miller Harris is providing a honey fragrance that will waft through the tunnel’s blacked-out area.
The Show’s biggest garden is being created by RHS Bridgewater to mark the opening of a new 154-acre RHS venue in Salford in 2020. Designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, it will be double the size of most other Chelsea Flower Show gardens and offer a “collage” preview of next year’s grand opening of RHS Garden Bridgewater . As the Chelsea Flower Show’s Feature Garden this year, it won’t be judged. The garden will be moved up to Salford once the show is over, taking up residence on the former grounds of demolished stately home, Worsley New Hall. RHS Garden Bridgewater has been described as “the biggest gardening project in Europe”.
“Through RHS Chelsea we’ll be able to give the world a taste of what this extraordinary new RHS Garden will be like when it opens in 2020,” says the Society’s Director General Sue Biggs. “We hope to engage even more people with its development.”
David Harber: “Following the excitement and success of 2018’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, we are thrilled to be sponsoring another Show Garden alongside Savills. The delicate beauty of nature has always been a key inspiration behind my work. So, I am thrilled to have designed a new bespoke sculpture for a Show Garden that not only seeks to celebrate but improve the way we treat our surrounding environment – even in a city setting.”
Richard Rees, Managing Director, Savills UK: “We are very much looking forward to returning to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year as a show garden sponsor, alongside sculptor David Harber. The ethos of Andrew Duff’s design for the Savills and David Harber Show Garden is sustainability, something that is increasingly a focus for many of our property owner and developer clients. The garden will showcase how, in an urban environment, home owners and developers can include sustainable, environmentally-friendly features to create gardens and outside spaces that both add to the personal enjoyment of a home or community space and deliver wider environmental benefits.”
- How to incorporate sculpture into a small city garden By David Harber (May 2019)