So planet Chelsea has rolled around again and like many years the speculation is all about 'who will win the coveted best in show' and what trends are emerging.
For the first year in a few I was at the show not making a garden but as a shadow judge which gave me the unique privilege to go behind the scenes and walk onto any of the gardens.
Chelsea is perhaps the best platform from which to see what emerging trends will pass over to the smaller shows in the next 18 months and a great place to find out what we will be looking to purchase for our gardens as well. To prove its true just look at Digitalis 'Illumination' when that won the RHS's coveted Plant of the Year award it went on to sell over 100,000 plants in the same year!
So the colours which seemed to dominate at the show this year were deeper tones of bruised pink in the form of aquilegia, foxgloves (although not as much as last year) orange and deep purples. There were fair less alliums than we are used to seeing and many many designers trying to find the elusive not seen before specimens which was the reason, I imagine, I saw more than one garden using Maclayea for its exotic blue-green foliage.
Of course there was plenty of the usual fluffy cow-parsley mixed with a few grasses, pink cow-parsley and the umbel family still dominate but all in all the scene was more subdued. The reason for the subtle colours seems to the trend to embracing concrete.
Now Chelsea always had a love affair with highly expensive polished concrete but this year welcome amongst the over done naturalism which was neither natural or looking in anyway relaxed with the notable exception of the beautiful L'Occitane Garden by James Bassson and the Laurent Perrier Garden by Dan Pearson which was a master class in landscape, was a wealth of cast and brutally honest concrete.
Subtle shadow textures where case into beautiful wall panels on the daily telegraph garden whilst the Cloudy Bay Garden successfully combined cast concrete for a formal pool, surfaces and coping. The addition of natural stone walls made the hard landscaping in this garden very strong.
Elsewhere away from Main Avenue you can find concrete used in many forms, the fresh gardens always push the boundaries and here it is used to great success showing versatility and style! So the message seems very strong and building on from last year, the age of using brutalist and modern design with concrete is being revisited and revitalised making some wonderful garden which successfully combine the beauty of plants and nature with elegant and visually rich concrete surfaces!