Chelsea: My Take Home Ideas

When I used to watch Chelsea just on the TV I always felt dissatisfied with my garden afterwards. However, after visiting I feel energised and come home brimming with ideas because attending allows you to see a lot of the fine detail and find something good even in the gardens which you might not have found inspiring as a whole. Here's just a few design snippets and plants which have caught my eye this year.

I'm seriously thinking of dispensing with fiddly little pots and just having large, dramatic bowls like those in Andy Sturgeon's garden. I loved the irises too (contrasting well with the rusty corten steel and such a good change from the usual purple iris seen at Chelsea), but I'll probably go for something longer lasting and more architectural for our garden. I'm thinking of having a couple of large planters on the plinths either side of the central steps leading down from our patio, once we've got rid of the conifers which are currently swamping them and the flow of our terraced beds either side. The patio gets extremely hot in the summer, so I'll probably choose something spiky and Mexican in feel.

I've always resisted having a water feature because we have a stream not far from our house, but seeing the one in Penelope Hobhouse's garden at Wisley the morning prior to Chelsea, then spotting this similar but smaller and more colourful version in the Dyslexia garden has loosened my resolve. I spent ages chatting to a lady who felt the same whilst we both discussed where to put it in our respective gardens. For mine I'm thinking it'll work well in the centre of the circle on my patio and would be a nice cooling feature on a hot sunny day.

I liked the coloured glass in Worcester university's pergola, an idea which could easily be adapted to the trellis fencing in my garden. I'm also thinking a lot more about scented plants for paving cracks as my nephew removed the moss from them a couple of weeks ago and after seeing plenty of examples at Chelsea, most notably in the bee friendly garden.

This idea's a bit early for me personally, but ideal for NAH's aunt who's in her 80s and is itching to get back into gardening after falling and breaking her hip a few years ago. These poles would be the ideal thing to help her. I'm thinking I'll have to watch how she's using the garden to mark out the best places for them with bamboo canes first and then get a local carpenter to make them for her. We have an excellent recycled wood project in nearby Castle Combe who made a wonderful tree seat for my friends S and L recently. It would be great to have the poles made in a wood she already has in her garden, perhaps decorated with some of the wildlife she sees. Thinking ahead, I also think this is a neat idea for our garden in my later years, especially for negotiating all the steps we have without having to resort to one of those ugly grab rails.

Stonework peering out from planting always looks good. I have some already but this example from Roger Platt's garden has made me think about adding more.

I've already told you about the aquilegia/grass combination from Mark Gregory's garden and the free Pictorial Meadow seeds handed out by Leeds City Council - the ultimate take home Chelsea idea don't you think? Other plants I saw which I'm considering for my garden are Cornus kousa and a mass planting of Persicaria bistorta 'Superba' which we saw everywhere this year (on the right in the above picture). Agreed, they're not very exotic or unusual, but they're still very effective garden plants and I have just the place for both of them.

And who knows, I might just be able to collect enough plastic bottles from my neighbours plus an old cable reel from somewhere to make my own greenhouse and potting bench for the allotment just like they did in Places of Change.

To see much more of the gardens I've featured here, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show website has lots of information. What ideas for your garden have caught your eye this year, at Chelsea or elsewhere?


  1. Head to a large local building site for the cable reels. Flats, commercial developmemts etc. They usually have them. I am trying to work out a way of using some too. Be warned though. They are very heavy.

  2. Hi Roland - welcome! There's a development just around the corner from my plot, so I'm keeping my eyes peeled for when the cabling starts. I should be able to roll it around the corner, if I get lucky!

  3. I came home from Malvern feeling 'energised' - major sorting out in the garden ensued during which I fell over so had to retire bruised, cut and battered for a few days :) I was most taken too by the water feature in the Dyslexia garden. Still have a backlog of Chelsea tv coverage to catch up on ~ no doubt there will be inspiration galore.

  4. Gorgeous stuff!!! I have never been, and had my sister in law here yesterday, saying how great it was when she went last Wednesday!

    My problem is that I don't like to throw away anything that's living. LOL! So I can't bear to take plants OUT. Even "weeds"- I like to say, "Oh, leave it and see what it does!"

    I did hear someone on the TV show say that if your garden is small, have a a few big pots and displays rather than lots of little ones. I did like that idea, though.... hmm..... maybe if I just put them all in one bug pot... I mean I wouldn't have to part with anything then, would I?


    I actually got a moment out in the garden the other day. There is nothing quite like soil running through your hands to relax you and empty your head of worry.....

  5. hehehe... I meant one BIG pot, not one BUG pot :)

  6. Yeah, big pots, definitely. You can never have too many pots...
    I also bought some metal calla lily sculptures. I'd been thinking about getting some kind of sculpture, but didn't want anything too shiny. These have a rusted finish and look fabulous "growing" out of my Phormium 'Maori Queen'.

  7. Thanks for your great coverage and this post sums it up so well.

    The Courtyard gardens certainly gave me some ideas. For me not to be so fussy and that a few good, bold statements and one theme wok best.

  8. Good to see some of the smaller details that you don't really get on the TV coverage - as you say, it's these bits you can actually use in a garden. Great photos.

  9. The big pots are fantastic, and your idea for something spiky and heat-loving sounds spot on. I love the Aquilegia/grass combo too. Need to find a place to do that.

  10. Anna - major sorting out required here too - another allotment inspection is due this weekend!

    Helena - hello! I'm with you on how calmimg gardening is. I've been feeling quite agitated lately and working hard in the garden and allotment over the last couple of days has been a great help.

    Victoria - ooooh I love the sound of those. Must investigate...

    Hermes - I think a lot of people find the Courtyard gardens inspirational.

    HM - thank you :)

    MMD - I've just planted some of the grasses Karen (An Artist's Garden) gave. They're not the same as the grass I saw at Chelsea but it'll be interseting to see how they fare.

  11. I'm with Helena on the pots - can't bear to get rid of anything, but I am trying gradually to move things from being in small pots on their own to being in big pots together. It actually makes them easier to move around, even though they're heavier, which is a consideration when you're trying to move as well ... .

    The bottle greenhouse is a great idea - I drink a 2 litre bottle of water a day (in case anyone's reading this who doesn't know me, I can't drink tap water as I'm allergic to chlorine) so that's something I could definitely consider (along with bottle top crocks for pots, and cut up bottles as crocks for big planters!).

    I liked the bug hotels and birds' nest spaces set in walls in a couple of the Chelsea gardens this year - I liked the ideas of using existing spaces and making the wildlife areas into something ornamental, rather than something you feel you ought to have but want to tuck away out of sight.

    wv is dozed :-D

  12. Juliet - looks like you've taken home some ideas too.

    How's the move going? Is the intention still to head over in this direction?


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