Showcasing new trends

Diarmuid Gavin's sense of fun shining through. Photo: PA Photo/Hannah Stephenson
Diarmuid Gavin's sense of fun shining through. Photo: PA Photo/Hannah Stephenson

Subtle planting, soft blue, gentle pinks and white palettes, plus a focus on naturalistic designs and a strong health and wellbeing message formed a big part of Chelsea Flower Show this year.

So, what trends will we be taking home? There’s no shortage of possibilities, says Sarah Eberle, who won Gold for her Viking Cruises Mekong Garden and also the Best Artisan Garden title.

“We are looking at subdued tones. All the gardens and their plantings are quite naturalistic. They’re not full of blousy plantings. We are looking to understand native plants and to protect them. There’s suddenly value in the ordinary things that are around us.”

The LG Smart Garden plantings would be quite easy to replicate, she says.

“It’s easy on the eye to use a soft palette. If you use things stronger in colour it’s more difficult because it draws attention to things. So, without a designer eye on how to use strong colour, you can make mistakes. With these paler, softer colours you can’t make many mistakes. It all blends together and is harmonious,” says Eberle.

The designer Hay Joung Hwang’s stunning display for LG featured Digitalis purpurea f. albiflora, with Rosa ‘Natasha Richardson’, Eremurus robustus, Iris ‘Jane Phillips’ and Salvia bullulata, but there are plenty more soft-coloured combinations which could add that natural and romantic look at home.

‘Hard power’ landscaping - the sharp, contemporary urban-style hard landscaping - is being surpassed by landscaping which complements the plants, rather than the other way round. Briza grasses were in abundance at Chelsea this year, as natural plantings took centre stage.

“The ‘lifestyle’ garden has become a quite subtle environment to be in,” she observes.

Another theme which may take off is using gardening as a way to alleviate stress and planting plants with health-giving properties.

Aspects of a wellbeing plot, like ‘Queen of Herbs’ Jekka McVicar’s Modern Apothecary garden, could add style and substance to borders in many gardens.

“Herbs such as lavender and thyme are not only good for animals, but also us,” says Eberle. Terracotta pots filled with lavender are ideal for cottage gardens, while certain varieties such as Lavandula angustifolia ‘Munstead’ are great fragrant evergreens to edge a path.

Lavender will grow in any soil, provided it is well drained and is best in full sun, but will grow in partial shade.

Thyme, another pretty garden stalwart, needs planting in a sunny spot in poor, well-drained soil, so if you’re having a go at replicating some of McVicar’s thyme combinations and don’t have that type of soil, work in lots of grit or grow them in a raised bed or containers.

Diarmuid Gavin’s British Eccentrics Garden, with all its moving plants, may set a trend on people adopting some ‘Heath Robinson’ quirky additions.

“Compared to previous years, the focus was on fun rather than pomp, such as the moving British Eccentrics Garden and Bowden Hostas’ Pullman Train,” Eberle observes.

“You can add your own sense of fun by always having a sense of humour when you’re gardening and not taking it too seriously. Even a comic feature or a garden gnome will do the job.”

More naturalised and wild landscapes are features which amateurs may be copying in their own gardens, she adds.

Bee-friendly wildflower meadows, edible plants in pots and insect walls were all in evidence, along with a general feeling that we should be mindful that gardens need to adapt to their environments, as demonstrated in the L’Occitane Garden, a recreation of the beauty of the harsh yet varied landscape of Provence.

“Native planting is good for our native wildlife. There’s still an increasing trend to introduce plants which are good for our butterflies and bees, and providing food for moths and caterpillars. There’s a place for building bug walls and other elements which allow wildlife to thrive.”

If we are to follow in Chelsea’s footsteps, we will be creating gardens featuring all manner of plants with health-giving properties, trying to attract wildlife and which look natural, not too forced or formal, with schemes which are easy on the eye - and relaxing on the mind.