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  • Writer's pictureSarah Kay

Chelsea 2021 - my highlights

I was lucky enough to visit RHS Chelsea 2021 last week and was excited to see how the change of date would inspire a new planting palette for a show which too often relies on Alliums and Lupins for planting inspiration.

These are my highlights from the show gardens:

This Gold medal winning garden, imagines an industrial space repurposed as a community space, represented by the 100 linear metres of metal pipes which weave themselves through the planting and water in the garden. The planting is a beautifully soft representation of Autumnal colour and textures with seed heads, golden hues and resilient multi stem trees mixed with vibrant Autumn blooms including Aster hybrids and Eurybia divaricata. This garden will be relocated as a permanent pocket park.

Based on the Yeo Valley Garden in the Mendip Hills and with all plants grown organically, this garden is a distillation of the landscape it is inspired by including a perennial meadow, Birch grove, stream and Mendip stone. The egg shaped hide is a fabulous focal point to the garden and as you can see was very popular with visitors. This garden won a Gold medal and the People's Choice award.

This garden represents the ongoing work of NHS staff throughout the pandemic and beyond, with the tall verticals of the wooden arches to the entrance of the garden highlighting the fear at the beginning of the pandemic and leading you along water pools and rills toward the vibrant planting and hope.

I loved the planting in this garden with the hot colours of Dahlias, Salvias and Echinachea, interweved with softer Agastache and ornamental grassess. A masterpiece in Autumnal planting. Not sure why this garden was given a Silver medal - I think it deserved Gold.

The new Balcony Garden category was a welcome new addition, providing some real life inspiration for potential and future clients. I particularly liked the Green Sky Pocket Garden which managed to cloak the balcony with as many edible and fragrant plants as possible, from gaps between the paving to window boxes and two Arbutus trees in large planters. Wasn't too sure about the wall art though, which I thought distracted from the concept.

Another new category, the Container Garden category is great for renters or those who wish to take their garden with them when they move. I particularly liked this garden which was inspired by coastal living in an urban environment. The corrugated steel containers were repeated in the wall panel and offers an example of how a small shady courtyard, roof garden or balcony could be transformed for a reasonably small budget.

There were a couple of key gardens that I missed due to it going dark before the end of the show, Sarah Eberle's Palm 23 garden and the COP 26 and Arit Anderson's BBC One Show and RHS Garden of Hope displays, but overall I really enjoyed the change of date of the show.

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