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Five trends to watch

Words: Julie Hollobone, of The Garden

Variety is the watch word at Chelsea, but every year there are some common themes. This year sculptures, water and offices in the garden make a strong stand. Trees clipped into architectural forms and wild flower planting also link many of the gardens.

Still waters run deep

Water features in several show gardens: circular pools, a swimming pool in A Monaco Garden, and gentle streams in many artisan gardens. The coastal theme of The Cancer Research UK Garden includes shallow water with pebbles reminiscent of rock pools (above), while the large swirling pool in The Homebase Cornish Memories Garden is fed from crossing rivulets of water that echo water draining on the beach.

Circular pools of dark water in the RBC New Wild Garden contrast with the surrounding planting in bright oranges and blues. For less formality a wildlife pond often features a softer edge with mud banks where plants grow to the water's edge, a great example of this effect is shown in The HESCO Garden, where the wheel of the watermill gently turns and feeds the mill pond.

In stark contrast are the formal lines and bright blue of the tiled lined pool in A Monaco Garden where which the cool water invites the swimmer to take a dip away from the Mediterranean heat.

Wild flowers bring a softer touch

Among the bright garden plants there is a softer feel to Chelsea where wildflowers make an appearance. The semi-natural setting of The HESCO Garden where wildflowers mingle with plants more usually seen in the garden borders, gives a particularly vivid display. The orange buttons of hawkbit sit next to the upright spikes of woolly-stemmed Verbascum (above) and give vertical structure against the natural stone paving.

Elsewhere, wildflowers dot through the turf on the bank in A Child’s Garden in Wales. Wildflowers such as ox-eye daisy are even seen on the green roof atop the office in the RBC New Wild Garden.

Shaped trees

Tall plane trees sit as a backdrop at Chelsea to many of the larger show gardens but trees also make an impact within the gardens, often giving extra height and softening some of the harder architectural structures.

The B&Q Garden is not short on height with the ‘green’ tower supporting trays of vegetable plants, but the middle tier is filled with pleached limes and the horizontal ‘tables’ of four mulberry trees (above). The close planting of these trees forms a horizontal canopy above the lower planting of edible herbs and flowers and would usefully provide a natural shade on hot, sunny days.

The muted colours of plum and dusky pink sit in the dappled shade created by the canopy of Parrotia persica (Persian ironwood), but these have a distinctive shape themselves. Their natural spreading habit has been tamed by clipping, by raising the canopy to reveal several clean stems per plant, but the top of the canopy is also clipped horizontally so that it appears to float above the softly swaying planting below.

Sculpture for all tastes

Modern or classical, sculpture features in many of the gardens on different scales depending on the space and the desired impact. In the British Heart Foundation Garden the sculpture is symbolic of the arteries and veins in the body and how they feed this most important organ (above).

The bold red colour may not suit everyone's taste, but when softened with bright red heads of peony and a lush foliage planting in a contrasting green the effect is startling. For the traditionalists, a couple of hares sculpted by Theodore Gillick gambol together on the flowery turf in The Skyshades Garden.

The garden office

What could be a better place to work than in an office in the garden? At Chelsea two contrasting office structures show how this can be done with 'green' credentials. Photovoltaic panels on the roof of the office in The Skyshades Garden provide sufficient electricity to power a laptop and other office equipment and sit beside sedum planting on the sloping roof.

In contrast, the bright turquoise office in the RBC New Wild Garden affords a panoramic view onto the garden through a large sliding glass wall, yet it is built from an old refurbished shipping container (above).

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