The Chelsea Flower Show: what to see at the biggest event of the year

The M&G Garden from Chelsea 2012
On 19th May, thousands of horticulture fans will head to the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea to take in some of the most stunning displays the garden world has to offer.  The Chelsea Flower Show remains incredibly popular, and it’s not hard to see why.

If you’re heading down to the biggest garden event in the world, you might be a bit stumped as to which of the many hundreds of displays on offer you should check out.  We’ve already earmarked these…

It’s a mouthful of a name, but this garden looks like it will be a superb representation of the 105 acre Chatsworth Garden, all slotted into a smaller Chelsea space.  Inspired by both the ornamental trout stream of Chatsworth and the Paxton Rockery, this garden will reflect the lightness, freshness and delicacy of the almost iconic Champagne House.

The Royal Bank of Canada have contributed a garden at the event for the last five years, and they’re returning again with this Matthew Wilson-designed space.  Exploring sustainability through design, the garden is split into three sections: a zero irrigation ‘dry garden’, a central water harvesting and storage zone and then an edible garden complete with a full dining platform.  It’s set to be one of the most unique spaces at the show.

For history fans, The Living Legacy
Created to mark the 200th anniversary of Wellington’s victory at the battle of Waterloo, the Living Legacy garden will take in the fascinating atmosphere of the battle and work through into a brighter look that represents the progressive and positive future that occurred post-battle.  Elements of the garden are in fact directly inspired by the terrain at Waterloo itself.

The debut of John Tan and Raymond Toh at the flower show, the Hidden Beauty is heavily inspired by the suburb of Singapore known for its lush natural landscape, tropical plants, orchid farms and wetlands.  The garden is filled to the brim with tropical plants and ferns and is flanked by coconuts, palms and figs.  If you want to be whisked away to a foreign shore, The Hidden Beauty is a must-see.

For traditionalists, The Retreat
The brainchild of award-winning designer Jo Thompson, The Retreat is the work of show sponsors M&G Investments.    With a beautifully crafted oak-framed building, a natural dipping pool and an assortment of irises, roses and geraniums spread across the plantation, it almost resembles a classic English country garden: a must for any flower show in itself.

Where to stay?
If this is the first time you’ve headed to London, there are three main options you should look at in terms of where to stay.

·         Hotel rooms.  This might well be the best option if you want to be as close to the event as possible.  Given that the event is in central London, it should come as no surprise that there are hundreds of rooms within easy reach!  Chelsea is one of the most expensive areas in the capital, though, so rooms won’t be cheap.

·         Bed and breakfasts.  A budget option if you don’t want to stump up for a hotel room, B’n’Bs can cheaper than hotels.  The one thing to consider is that you often don’t get the mod-cons such as breakfast and dinner or daily cleaning that you’ll get in a hotel.

·         Serviced apartments.  A great option for those travelling as a family or as part of a larger group.  For the price of an equivalent hotel room, you can enjoy a full apartment with a complete living area and kitchen.  If you’re staying for the full show and want something bigger than a single hotel room, a serviced apartment from the likes of Refresh Apartments could be ideal.

Above all else, remember to have a brilliant time: the Chelsea Flower Show is something that every single gardening fan should visit at least once, but preferably more.  Get your tickets, and get down to London on 19th May!

Making the most of your Water

With the latest water bill landing on the door mat recently, I thought it would be worthwhile to explore some of the many ways of saving water in the garden in particular. As well as the garden there are lots of ways to save water in the home as well. However being a garden blog we will concentrate on what you can do in the garden.

Water butts
One way to reduce the amount of tap water you use in watering is to collect rain water. Water butts added to the guttering on your greenhouse, shed or ever the drainpipes on your house will soon fill up and give you a renewable source of water for a one off cost at the start.

Almost any container can be used to collect water, and old IBC containers can be bought for a similar price to a water butt, however they can hold 1,000 liters which is a huge amount of water to save.

Choosing the right pots and containers
Terracotta pots dry out much quicker than plastic ones. Most people however prefer the look of terracotta, so line the pot with plastic, to get the nicer look, but the water saving properties, Also make sure you mulch the top of the soil with gravel to reduce water loss. This will also cut down weeds and may well look better too.

Selecting the best plants
By choosing plants that prefer dryer conditions your water needs will be less. Choosing Mediterranean plants such as lavender, rosemary and plants with silvery leaves, all have lower water needs and so can tolerate less frequent watering.

Reusing water
Watering the garden with so called Gray water- if water that has had a use already means less goes to water. If you select washing liquids and powders that are ecological and safe for a septic tank then your garden plants will have no problem in being watered with this water. Using a washing up bowl and then putting the waste water on the garden will keep the plants healthy and slash your water use and costs. With the reuse of water in the the garden you need to consider whether you need to engage in any form of waste water treatment. In general most of the waste water from your home can be reused. But care should always be taken to ensure that sensitive plants do not get water with un-wanted chemicals. 

Mulching the borders
As well as pots mentioned above you can mulch the borders with bark chippings that will reduce weeds, keep the moisture in and also look good. The bark gradually breaks down improving the soil, and will need to be topped up from time to time. By reducing weeds your plants will have less competition for water and nutrients so should perform better.

With the ground still nice and damp it is a good time to mulch as you will prevent evaporation and thus reduce the water requirements of the garden.
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