The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Chelsea Flower Show 2013 - The small gardens

I'm sure that you are all a bit bored of Chelsea now, or have completely passed it by, but with everything else that has been going on I'm so behind in my blogging but I like to write up about my visit for my own memories so I hope you'll indulge me. It was the 100th year of the Chelsea Flower Show this year so was one to catch. I try and get down to visit as often as I can and nearly didn't make it this year but had a lovely day trip with my friend Tracy. We are in our element, a nice catch up of news on the train down, time for a relaxing lunch in Carluccios and then to the show for 3.30 entry. Then leave there at 7ish once we can walk round no more and catch the train back home. A long day but a great one and a much needed break.
First we aim for the small artisan gardens which are normally a bit quieter but I think everyone had the same idea this year and it was packed.
The first garden is highlighting the work of the charity WaterAid.
Awash with the cheery orange of marigolds.
Being an honarary Yorkshire lass, may take me longer than 6 years to get accepted fully, I was intrigued by the Welcome to Yorkshire garden celebrating the exciting news that Yorkshire will be hosting the Grand Depart of the Tour de France. The water feature at the front of the garden is highlighting all the towns that the tour will go through. So a quick skim through and there was Huddersfield!
I was quite surprised to find that this garden won the peoples choice for the best small garden.
Moving onto the Walker's Pine Cottage Garden, which I really liked especially the planting, this is my sort of thing lots of alliums, aquilegias and geums.
Not sure about the gold finials but I did like the cloud-pruned pine topiary.
The Un Garreg Garden, meaning One Stone, was designed by two brothers from Brecon in Wales and was another garden with a gorgeous dry stone wall, there were a few around this year.
There was a lovely oak bench very natural placed between two rocks, the planting was very naturalistic.
A lovely whimsical garden chock full of nostalgia was next, filled with old toys, a nice detail of the conkers on strings and the type of tree house you dream about as a child.
It had a gorgeous shrub which I had to search for when I got home, I knew it was a type of Viburnum and just googled Viburnum pom pom and there it was, the proper name is Viburnum opulus 'Roseum'. There was also one in the Roger Platt show garden on Main Avenue. Think I may have to get one of them!
The Hebridean Weaver's Garden was based on a traditional blackhouse on Lewis which is in the Outer Hebrides, the weavers make the Tweed cloth dyed with plants grown in the garden.
A really popular garden was next, it was almost impossible to get close enough to get a decent photo and I only managed one.
This is the exquisite tea house. Kazuyuki Ishihara is a popular designer of the Japanese gardens at Chelsea and his enthusiasm is so infectious when you see him so excited to get his gold medal as well as best small garden from the RHS judges.
Another dry stone wall was found in the next garden called Get Well Soon and a modern take on an apothecary's garden with lots of medicinal plants. A quirky feature was the pebble path which is supposed to walked on with your bare feet so that it can give you a reflexology massage.

So there is a quick tour of the more traditional small gardens, there is also a second category of small gardens which are the Fresh gardens. These tend to have more off the wall designs. Here are a few, we first found Chris Beardshaw being given a tour of the Massachusetts Garden, which is inspired by the poet Emily Dickinson. I did like the leather panels on the wall that were appliqued with common garden flowers.
The Digital Capabilities garden attracted a lot of media attention as it was an interactive garden in that it responded to online social media activity. The plot was divided into two diagonally by a white panelled screen. Every time anyone tweeted #RHSChelsea then one of panels opened letting you get a glimpse of the garden on the other side. I actually really liked the planting on the outside with some gorgeous dusky apricot Verbascums.
Inside was more tropical planting.
But my favourite Fresh garden was The Mindfulness Garden, designed to suggest the chaos of our busy lives where we should make time for quiet contemplation. The planting was inspired by a Jackson Pollock splash painting with dots of colour all round.
Again some of my favourite flowers, Poppies, Veronica, Geums, Aquilegias and Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'. A zingy mass of flowers going against all the rules of planting in drifts this was just a jumble but for me it worked.
So there is my tour of the small gardens, I'll focus on the main show gardens in the next post.


  1. Hi Annie, I didn't get to go to Chelsea this year, and haven't been for the last few years in fact, so really enjoyed reading your post. I love the look of the Pine Cottage and Un Garreg gardens, naturalistic planting is very much my style too.

  2. I have never been to the Chelsea Flower Show and didn't really know much about it so I have really enjoyed your post showing me a little of what it was all about. I only have a small garden at home and it opened my eyes a little into things I could put in it. I probably won't though as it's mainly for the children so is very minimalistic...maybe in a few years....

  3. A most enjoyable read, along with terrific photos.
    These are the gardens that I like to spend time looking at rather than the 'grand designs'.
    It's good to see that you had a good, if rather tiring, time and thanks for the tour. Flighty xx

  4. Most of us have to ignore the rule of planting in drifts as our gardens are too small and we'd only wend up with a couple of plant varieties.

  5. It sounds like have a lovely day out when you visit Chelsea. I enjoyed your post as the small gardens are more my thing rather than the large show gardens. I think they inspire more when you've only got a small garden yourself.

  6. I agree with Jo you can certainly get plenty of ideas from the small gardens - thanks for sharing.

  7. What a fantastic day out, you just can't beat Chelsea!

    I loved the small gardens, especially the tree house! And those sheep are fantastic! What a treat!xxxx

  8. Loved seeing the gardens through your eyes, you gave us a new slant on what we had seen on TV. I think people relate to the smaller gardens much better than the show gardens and they are just as full of good ideas to inspire us.

  9. I didn't watch Chelsea on the TV this year, so I enjoyed catching up with it here. I prefer to look at the small gardens, the larger show gardens look so expensive. And I like the idea of the pebble path and the foot massage!

  10. Oh thanks for the tour Annie - it's been a good few years since I've been to Chelsea. I must admit that the floral marquees are where I head for first, but I like the concept of the small gardens as they include ideas that us 'mere mortals' can aspire to :) I was most taken by the Un Garreg Garden. Glad that you managed to id the viburnum. Look forward to hearing more about your Chelsea visit if you have time.

  11. Thanks for the tour. I haven't been for a few years, but always head for the small gardens first. They pack so much into such a small space and are always so inspiring!