Chelsea continues to set the bar for garden design, from Sarah Price’s subtle and thoughtful take on the English countryside to Tom Hoblyn’s clean-lined reinterpretation of the gardens at Tivoli and Villa Lante – but overall I was left wondering if some designers were saving themselves for Chelsea’s centenary in 2013.
Opinion diverged strongly on the Korean DMZ garden with its derelict watchtower, barbed wire and rusting armoury in an evocation of the no-man’s-land between North and South. The planting was curiously English (many of the imported plants died in transit) which created an intriguing cultural confusion typical of Chelsea with its entries from around 20 countries.
Unluckily for Korea, Diarmuid Gavin had chosen this year to erect his 80 ft Westland Magical Garden scaffolding pyramid which swamped DMZ’s plot. On the other hand it gave a panorama of the showground and, inside, presented a bizarre cornucopia: roses, a Japanese area, lily pools, swinging chairs, greenhouses, a vegetable patch, bright pink chairs and lots more beside. Nuts – but Chelsea is a catwalk and catwalks demand the outlandish.
The centrepiece of Andy Sturgeon’s gold-winning plot for M&G investments was a magnificent sculpture based on bubbles – appropriate really, given the gallons of Laurent-Perrier that are downed at Chelsea.
Gold too for Joe Swift’s Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust garden with its green and brown planting framed by rich brown wooden structures – rustic versions of TV screens to tempt the screen-fixated into the garden? Who knows, but we certainly need something to convince the under-25s that horticulture is more rewarding than a romp around great aunt Gertie’s rock garden.