A Very Early Chelsea Preview

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.


  1. Korean toilet = fertilizer = recycling natural materials? With a clear mind of course.

  2. Hazel - welcome and thanks for following :)

    You could be onto something there, though I wonder whether the planting should focus on the filtering possibilities of Phragmites australis rather than Hedera?

    NB There's 2 showgardens hailing from down under this year - I'm trying to find out more about the other one :)

  3. How quickly the year goes around!

    Crocus (the plant people) also do an occasional blog and the link is


  4. Thanks Karen - if they blog about this year's show I'll add it to a later update. I've also found Andy McIndoe (Hilliers MD) also occasionally blogs, but is still firmly stuck in 2010 - another one I'm keeping an eye on.

    It would be really good to find some of the Great Pavillion exhibitors and show suppliers blogging to even out the loads of attention the show gardens get.

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  6. I seem to have lost the ability to post a link, so here's the raw details of the Hilliers blog I'm keeping an eye on:


  7. Here's a link to the story i wrote about the korean lavatory garden:

  8. Thanks Victoria :) I was worried after the 'pink tap'at Hampton Court last year that there's a bit of a running theme beginning to develop!

    Everyone - Victoria's piece highlights quite a few of the Artisan gardens for this year's show, so is well worth a look.

    I see there's a couple of Welsh themed gardens which are intriguing.

  9. I feel strangely depressed to realise that Chelsea is already just around the corner. I never get there, and since you can't buy plants there I doubt I will ever get around to it, so I "visit" it via the BBC coverage which seems to be getting more and more banal. I always want to know more about the gardens, so thank you for posting the links to blogs, maybe they will fill in some of what I am missing. Not that I am totally disenchanted - I really like the idea behind the toilet garden, (read Victoria's article) and anything Cleve West plants is worth looking at. I think it is the massive hype around Chelsea I tend to react against. Sorry VP, I'm obviously feeling a little curmudgeonly today...

  10. I've always wanted to go but the best I can do this side of the pond is the Philadephia one (and happily, I've been to that one, twice).

  11. Just found Thomas Hoblyn's website which shows his design for Chelsea 2011:


  12. Janet - I wasn't going to go to Chelsea but now I'm really looking forward to it. I used to feel the same as you do until I went there for the 1st time 2 yrs ago. I think it's because I can choose what I see and at my own pace.

    Do you watch/record the lunch time coverage? That tends to be more plant focussed and so might be more up your street?

    Eliza - welcome! :) Have you written about the Philadelphia show? It would be good to see how things are done across the pond...

  13. VP,
    Strangely enough life made me planning Chelsea this year :) So, we shall get together for a coffee or something more sparkling!

  14. Hi Ewa - if you're coming all that way from Poland to Chelsea, it's definitely got to be something more sparkling!

  15. Hi VP, you are right about the lunchtime coverage, though last year there was an enormously - to me - irritating female presenter who kept spoiling it for me. Or maybe I was just in a bad mood all that week! The occasional bursts of JAS helped though.

  16. Thanks for the post, and the comment sending me here! I'm looking forward to our Chelsea visit -- and even more now after I've viewed some of the links (and videos) you've provided. I wish I could share some of those videos on my blog. They don't appear to be "shareable."

  17. Janet - I know exactly who you mean ;)

    Jim - welcome! I'm so glad this post's helped to stoke up your excitement for your amazing trip over here. I hope the reality matches your expectations :)


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