While the Chelsea Flower Show will be the hub of horticultural excellence for just a week in May, one award-winning designer is aiming to inspire gardeners to create year-round interest
VISITORS to this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show will no doubt see spring flowers in bloom long after their natural flowering period, while late summer perennials and other flowering plants will be brought forward in artificial conditions to ensure they are flowering for the event.
But Arne Maynard, garden designer of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden at this year’s show, says his aim is to create a usable ‘gardeners’ garden’ that works through all seasons.
It’s his second garden for Chelsea – the first won Best in Show in 2000 in collaboration with Piet Oudolf – and Maynard comments: “The garden is designed to be an inspirational yet achievable realisation of enduring elegance – something that can be grown and enjoyed in a real situation. It will bear fruit and provide flowers throughout the year, with each element having its time to shine.”
Low-level topiary and pleached copper beech trees provide structure and beautiful colour all year round, as the copper beech leaves turn a stunning golden colour over winter.
Topiary box act as ‘sentinels’ or markers in the garden, drawing the eye to particular points of interest, while a specimen pear tree creates grandeur and will bear fruit in autumn.
Rich, deep burgundy, soft pinks and pale lilacs make up the colour scheme and plants which add a romantic veil during the summer months include roses, poppies (Papaver somniferum ‘Double Black’ and P. ‘Double Lilac’ are particular gems), as well as salvias, geraniums and dianthus.
“Creating a garden with year-round interest, for most gardeners, is a gradual process,” he says.
“It takes time to gather plants that work well in the different aspects of a garden and to work out successful plant combinations.
“There are no rules governing how you create year-round effect, but there are a few things you can do to ensure your garden is constantly evolving.”
He offers the following tips to create a garden with year-round interest.
Understand your garden. Look at its aspect, soil type and consider the effect you are hoping to create. Your choice, whether it be a neat, clipped look, or a billowy, natural feel, will affect your choice of plants.
Visit a local nursery or garden centre every month for ideas. Look for colours that will suit a particular area of your garden and include flowers and foliage. Look for unusual textures and differing heights. Check the labels to see what height and breadth the plant is likely to reach in maturity as this will determine where you place it in the bed.
Look for plants that seem to thrive in neighbours’ gardens and for those that appear naturalised in hedgerows or fields. These are the building blocks for your planting scheme and are sure to do well in your soil.
Don’t be afraid of trees. Even in small gardens, a well-placed tree can set everything else off. “I think all gardens should have at least one fruit tree, which can be trained or pruned to keep the shape neat,” Maynard says. He loves using topiary in his designs and stresses that a well-chosen tree can add either a contemporary feel or bring a touch of tradition to a garden.
Try to keep your planting scheme tight. Either choose a colour scheme or a limited palette of plants, to ensure your garden feels like one whole space rather than a series of separate spaces. Repeat a few plants throughout the scheme to give the garden an elegant simplicity.
The 2012 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, runs from May 22-26. For details, visit www.rhs.org.uk/chelsea. To buy tickets, call 0844 338 0338.