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GARDENING: Blooming good ideas taking root

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Inspiring ideas from the Olympics of gardening to try out in your own green space

Last week’s Royal Horticultural Society Flower Show marked the 106th year of this world-renowned floral spectacular on the grounds of the Royal Hospital in London’s Chelsea. The show featured 28 gardens, 12 of which received gold medals.

Known as the Olympics of the gardening world, the Chelsea Flower Show sets design and colour, as well as horticultural and fashion trends for the year.
The Duchess of Cambridge with landscapers Andree Davies and Adam White at their woodland garden. Picture: RHS / Neil Hepworth

Big trends 
What are the big trends this?
“Green roofs, dramatic boulders and mini forests
are the hallmarks of this year’s show,” wrote Olivia Heath for Britain’s House Beautiful. “Pollution-busting and drought-tolerant planting, biosecurity and reusing plants and materials after the event were hot topics,” wrote Caroline Donald in London’s The Sunday Times.
Jane Perrone wrote in The Guardian: “Green was the dominant theme at Chelsea, literally and metaphorically: from an ecological point of view, parts of Chelsea finally seemed to be waking up to the issue of sustainability.”
What inspiring ideas from the Chelsea gardens can you incorporate into your green space this year?
Woodland landscape
A woodland landscape, with stone platforms and large blackened-timber sculptures symbolising nature’s ability to regenerate, was designed by Andy Sturgeon for the M&G Garden.
It received Chelsea’s top honour, the Best in Show award.
Plantings in the space were lush and predominately green and included trees, ferns, euphorbias and grasses. Capture this elegant contrast in a shaded area by painting a garden bench or containers black and adding a variety of plants in shades of green. Hosta spp., ferns and clivias grow well in shaded areas under trees and are popular candidates for green gardens.
Hosta spp. in various shades are popular in “all green” gardens. Picture: Kay Montgomery

Child’s play
Draw inspiration from a garden that encouraged young ones to explore and experience the outdoors by engaging the five senses.
The RHS Back to Nature garden, co-designed by the Duchess of Cambridge, the former Kate Middleton, was a child’s paradise, complete with nest treehouse and a rustic wooden tepee for imaginative play. Recreate the look in your own garden by
placing a swing in a sturdy tree.
The ultimate tree house. Playing sustainably in nature in the Back to Nature garden. Picture: RHS/Neil Hepworth

Wild spaces
The Welcome to Yorkshire garden, a gold-medal recipient designed by Mark Gregory, embraced wild plantings with a wholly natural feel. The beautiful wildflower meadow in blues, mauves and yellows attracted local wildlife. Re-wild your own garden by planting a patch of seasonal wild flowers. Autumn is a great time to sow African daisies for a glorious spring show
of colour. Cut down on your use of chemical pesticides and switch to organic products.
Future gardening
The importance of adapting a garden to climate change was highlighted in Sarah Eberle’s
gold-medal winner, The Resilience Garden.

The garden featured several areas, including a woodland, dry zone, water-logged zone and meadow space. Trees in the garden were used to demonstrate the importance of forests and the challenges they face in our modern world. In order to adapt to climate change in our own gardens, we need to include plants that are able to withstand changing conditions, including drought and the threat of pests and disease.

Drought-resistant gardening. The Dubai Majlis Garden offered striking lines of water and water-wise plantings. Picture: RHS / Neil Hepworth

Coastal landscaping
Joe Perkins, designer of The Facebook Garden: Beyond the Screen, a gold winner, created a coastal garden with plants from across the world that are able to withstand salt and sand-laden wind. The garden showcased the positives of social media, when ideas are shared and people connect, just like the oceans connect our planet.
Species able to withstand salty air for your garden: lavender, rosemary, statice (Limonium perezii), dune aloe (Aloe thraskii), confetti bush (Coleonema spp.) and osteospermum.
Coastal gardening. The Facebook Garden: Beyond the Screen included plantings that
are able to withstand coastal conditions. Picture: RHS / Sarah Cuttle

Elegant edibles
Growing vegetables remains a popular gardening trend. The Camfed Garden: Giving Girls in Africa a Space to Grow, winner of a gold award, featured a vibrant and colourful African edible garden designed by Jilayne Rickards. The garden included biofortified maize, bean crops, sweet potatoes, sorghum, turmeric and
egg plant.
If your space is limited, consider a living wall for vegetables and herbs. Jody Lidgard created an edible wall in The Montessori Centenary Children’s Garden. The structure included mint, lettuce, chives, beetroot and edible flowers.
Colour and edible gardens teach children about the natural world alongside technology. The Montessori Centenary Children’s Garden. Picture: RHS / Sarah Cuttle

Gathering places
The Dubai Majlis Garden, designed by Thomas Hoblyn, a silver-gilt Show Garden winner, captured a Middle Eastern feel, with gravel and terracing that mimicked the colours of the desert sand.
In Arabic, “majlis” means “a place of sitting”. The garden created a place for people from all walks of life to gather to share ideas and connect. Its water feature was a symbol of the life-giving oasis in the desert. Plantings included species from arid regions across the world, including artemisia “Powis Castle”, rosemary, lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina) and aloe vera.
Create your own majlis, a place where you can enjoy a sundowner and reconnect with your loved ones on a deck or patio area. Add a small, moving water feature for sound and serenity
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