The Thrive garden at last year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show
It may only be early January, but already the well-oiled machine that is the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has rumbled into life enough for me to give a preview of what's in store for 2011.
Late last month the RHS announced the main Show Gardens, swiftly followed by the Artisan and Urban Garden categories. The Artisan Gardens replace the Courtyard ones (the smallest) and is meant to emphasise designs which 'use natural, sustainably resourced materials in an artistic manner'. Quite where a Korean toilet fits into all of this (click on the link to find out more) escapes me ;)
The RHS Chelsea website already has a video previewing the design by Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins, the progress of which will be updated monthly. You'll see it also shows a return to Chelsea by Bunny Guinness, Luciano Giubbilei and Sarah Eberle.
Nigel Dunnett makes a most welcome return - by me at least - with the New Wild Garden, which takes its inspiration from William Robinson's The Wild Garden, first published over a century ago. I first found out about this at the Palmstead workshop last September when I met John Little who's involved with the green roof elements of the design :)
Our own Cleve West has The Daily Telegraph gig, which means he'll be one the favourites for best in show - hurrah! On the downside I doubt 3 Men Went to Mow will be at Malvern this year as the dates (12-15 May) mean he'll already be hard at work on the build in London. The Telegraph are already showing Cleve's progress online.
Serendipitous fate has put me in touch with the designer of this year's show garden for Flemings. Ian Barker is already blogging about his progress down under which includes an insight into the pre-show meetings which happen in London. I'm particularly excited about this garden as it's all about the unique Australian flora discovered by Joseph Banks. I had the privilege of seeing one of the original books containing the vibrant pictures of Banksia when I organised volunteer weekends at Kew - a most special moment for me, as was seeing them for real in Australia in 2003.
Elsewhere, Ann-Marie Powell is to be found occasionally squealing with excitement about her garden for the British Heart Foundation on Twitter via @AnnMariePowell. She's probably more likely to tell us what's going on there rather than via her blog, though we must be due another post from her at some point before the show ;)
Still in Twitterland I'm sure @The_RHS and @BBCatChelsea will spring back into life to bring us the odd snippets of news, plus sneaky pictures of what's going on. I'm also certain more people, nurseries, suppliers, tweets, blogs and websites will be joining in very soon to bring us their stories about the 'road to Chelsea'. I'll update you - and do let me know if you've already made a discovery not mentioned here - when I find more of them to show you.