The gloriously gorgeous Great Pavilion
At the heart of the show and home to the best nurseries from Britain and around the world. See the selection of the experts that exhibited this year
Front and centre of a bounteous display by Jacques Amand International, a specialist in bulbous plants, was a carpet of terrestrial orchid species and cultivars. Included in the display were the inflated lips of Cypripedium or lady’s slipper orchids, oriental Calanthe in diversity (inexplicably little-grown in the UK, despite some being hardy in sheltered areas or with a modicum of protection), together with Pleione, Epipactis and Dactylorhiza.
In a display that encompassed both ends of the bonsai-size spectrum, Derbyshire Bonsai’s stand included a collection of tiny miniature or ‘Mame’ (Japanese for ‘bean’) bonsai such as ivy, firethorn and cotoneaster. By complete contrast, the display also included what must be the Acer palmatum (Japanese maple) bonsai with the heaviest, thickest trunk in Europe, around 60cm (2ft) across at the base. Originating in Japan in around 1840, the trunk was developed by growing the plant in the ground for several decades and repeatedly cutting it back, before it was imported into Europe.
Mini hostas take centre stage
Staging only their second display at an RHS show, Hogarth Hostas stand featured the national collection of small and miniature hostas: dainty, lilliputian versions of their larger-leaved cousins with a similar diversity of shape, colour, variegation and form. It also featured a new cultivar, Hosta ‘Mouse Capades’, with wavy edges to its handsomely variegated leaves, no bigger than 5cm across.
Two centuries of blooms
Half of Dibleys Nurseries large stand celebrated two centuries of growing Streptocarpus in the UK. It showed the species from which Cape primrose hybrids, one of the nursery’s specialities, originated. The first species, Streptocarpus rexii, was collected in 1818 from near Knysna, South Africa, by James Bowie, a collector for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Hybridising only began in 1855, with the arrival of Streptocarpus gardenii. Just how far hybridising has come since then was shown by the plethora of colours among plants of Dibley’s breeding on the other side of the stand.
Adding a touch of drama
Bromeliads and airplants (Tillandsia) are increasing in popularity as easy-to-grow houseplants. Every Picture Tells a Story displayed them as they grow in nature, as epiphytes clinging to the trunks and branches of larger trees and shrubs. This is a popular way to show the plants at their best, but seldom has it been done with the panache of this lovely display. The display brought height and drama to the Great Pavilion, with Aechmea, Vriesea, Neoregelia, Guzmania and Tillandsia in diversity and many in full flower.
Ashwood Nurseries has delivered a show-stopping display of hellebores to Chelsea 2018. Usually flowering in winter and early the hellebores were at Chelsea in peak condition, despite the time of year. Stand out plants included white variegated Helleborus argutifolius 'Janet Starnes' and dramatic, fiery flowered examples of Helleborus × hybridus from Ashwood Evolution Group.
A sea of colourful clematis
Raymond Evison Clematis had a seaside-themed display. Boats overflowing with flowers from selections such as new pink flowered Clematis Sarah Elizabeth ('Evipo 098') and dazzling red Clematis Nubia '(Evipo 79') formed the foreground, while trellis waves, trained with clematis provided a coloured seascape.
And a fond farewell to...
This year, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show said goodbye to familiar faces in the Great Pavilion, including Harvey's Garden Plants (owned by Roger Harvey), specialists in shade-loving perennials, and cactus growers Southfield Nurseries (owned by Bryan and Linda Goodey), with their dazzling flowering cacti. Both had great final displays at this year's show.