The Chelsea Flower Show 2013

An Alcove (Tokonoma) Garden

Every show garden at Chelsea tells a story – usually one that’s dictated by the sponsor. Often it reflects a landscape, ย an environmental issue, or a charitable cause. There’s rarely a garden without an agenda of some kind, which is a shame. The best gardens manage to nod to the sponsor’s brief while basically sidestepping it – I’d never have guessed that Roger Platts’ย M&G Centenary Garden was reflecting 100 years of gardening features, and it was all the better for it.

I never read the blurb that I’m handed about a garden. To be honest, I’m not interested in the story it’s trying to tell, or the ‘journey’ that it’s taking me on. Much as I care about some of the issues represented, I just want to look at a show garden and decide how it makes me feel. Do I love it? Does it inspire me? Could I wake up to it every day? Could I try some of those planting combinations at home? Are there elements of the design that I could emulate one day?

On that basis, here are my two favourites.

I’m never going to plant a Japanese garden, but I could happily wake up to An Alcove (Toknonoma) Garden by the Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory (above). It represents an alcove in a traditional Japanese tatami room, and in Japanese culture, people often meet with important people in such spaces. As I was taking pics, Cleve West was invited by the designer into the alcove – lucky (and important) chap.

The planting in Chris Beardshaw’s Arthritis Research UK Gardenย (below) stood out for being refreshingly different. There was an abundance of meadowy planting in many of the other gardens (I was cow parsleyed-out by the end of the day and think I might have gone off that style of planting a bit), but this garden had lots of zinging colour, and plants that weren’t found elsewhere (eg lupins, foxtail lilies and Echium pininana). I loved the splodges of Pittosporum tobira that acted like full stops at the end of the borders – a nice alternative to the ubiquitous box balls. I went back to look at the garden several times, and that’s always a good sign.

In other news, I went home with a red face. For once I hadn’t put my foot in it (or if I had, I hadn”t realised it) but had managed to get sunburn. Or was it windburn? Many other people said that their cheeks were also burning. How on earth did that happen on a chilly, cloudy and not-especially-windy day?

Arthritis Research UK Garden
Arthritis Research UK Garden

6 thoughts on “The Chelsea Flower Show 2013”

    • I think some of the best reviews of the show have been on blogs, not in print (am not suggesting mine is one of them!). Maybe you and Wellywoman could design a ‘piano garden’ next year? Louise could do the planting and you could serenade the punters ๐Ÿ™‚

        • I love the staircase! That could be so brilliant in a garden setting. You’d have to get Volkswagen to sponsor it for you… I look forward to seeing it in the Hampton Court conceptual gardens next year : )

  1. Not sure I am too bothered about seeing gardens with ‘issshooos’ either although I am keen to see Chris Beardshaw’s garden as I’m interested in his personal journey. Just hoping to see some great plants in fantastic colours really and spend a lot of time in the Great Pavilion. Unlikely I will be experiencing sunburn in any form with tomorrow’s weather forecast unfortunately. Still, I can’t wait to be in the clematis tunnel again – yes!


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