The buzz has, until recently, been about the royal baby, but when Chelsea kicks off all eyes will be on Prince Harry, whose charity Sentebale is returning to Chelsea with a garden.
The Hope in Vulnerability garden by designer Matt Keightley is modelled on a children’s camp in Lesotho, adding to the authenticity of the Southern African-styled space. Coppiced, peeled sweet chestnut will form beautiful hurdle fencing nestled in amongst the planting.
Keightley was the man behind last year’s popular Hope on the Horizon garden for Help For Heroes, which won the People’s Choice accolade at the show.
Ribbons of colour will dance through the beds linking hard and soft landscaping elements. Matt is also attempting to germinate a native Lesotho Poppy, ‘Papaver Aculeatum’, to display at Chelsea for the first time.
There’s likely to be a lot of interest in Jo Thompson’s M&G Retreat Garden, based on a sylvan retreat, with a large natural swimming pond and writers’ retreat.
It features a two-storey oak framed building inspired by the writing room of poet Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst Castle, a swimming pond edged with water-loving plants, a woodland of river birches, acacias and acers, and a garden with tumbling roses and peonies in a palette of greens, punctuated by soft pinks, lavender blues and creams, with a touch of orange.
Visitors should also get a whiff of beauty firm L’Occitane’s scented garden, inspired by the perfume industry in Grasse, France’s perfume capital.
Some gardens will be lifted and moved to their final resting place after the show. The Laurent-Perrier garden, which represents a small part of the grand Chatsworth estate in Derbyshire, is being designed by Dan Pearson, who will be overseeing its final relocation to the Trout Stream area of Chatsworth.
Chis Beardshaw’s Healthy Cities Garden, sponsored by Morgan Stanley, is a theatrical representation of community which will be relocated after the show to form the centrepiece in a new community project in East London.
History has also inspired several of this year’s gardens. The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is represented in The Living Legacy Garden, designed by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam.
The garden’s design reconciles the drama and violence of the battle with a progressive and positive future. Elements are inspired by the landscape and terrain of Waterloo which Wellington used to his advantage, the battle formations that successfully repelled attack, the regimental colours of British and Allied troops and the eight aptitudes central to the teaching of Wellington College.
In the artisan gardens section, Chorley Council is staging a garden commemorating the anniversary of the end of World War Two, based on designer John Everiss’ father, who was a World War Two evader shot down in France. The focal point is a sculpture of a young flyer who, seconds after parachuting into France, hides in the ruins of a war damaged church, surrounded by a mass planting of perennials and annuals in shades from cream to purple.
Runnymede Surrey Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Garden in the same section marks the 1215 date with a medieval garden designed by A Touch Of France.
There’ll also be a plethora of new plants at Chelsea, including the deep pink Streptocarpus ‘Menai’ named by the Anglesey branch of the WI for their centenary celebrations this year (Dibleys, www.dibleys.com); and Lavandula angustifolia ‘Purity’ from Downderry Nursery (www.downderry-nursery.co.uk), a pure white lavender.
If you can’t get there, you can always watch the action on TV. Monty Don will be hosting coverage on BBC2, with Sophie Raworth presenting the BBC One early evening shows.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, runs from May 19 to 23. For more information visit www.rhs.org.uk