Lazy Susan’s Chelsea Flower Show 2011 review

The Chelsea Flower Show 2011 was billed as being the biggest and most prestigious to date and it has always been a fertile showcase for our top designers, so its fair to say that Lazy Susan was looking forward to this year’s show with just a little more excitement than usual. And I’m glad to say we weren’t left disappointed! Five major trends in garden design were clearly shaping this year’s show, and these most definitely included the use of water features, wild flowers, shaped trees, sculptures and “the garden office.”

Water features ranging from Mediterranean-themed pools to gentle-flowing country streams were included in a number of gardens, while wildflowers interspersed with traditional garden plants were being used by several designers to bring a more ‘natural’ feel to their exquisite creations. In contrast, shaped trees and sculptures are, according to the RHS anyway, being used either as architectural features and canopies or, in the case of some of the bright sculptures we saw, as a means of creating contrast with the surrounding natural greenery.

Lazy Susan’s Chelsea Flower Show 2011 review

The Daily Telegraph Garden, designed by Cleve West, was awarded the top prize, Best Show Garden, by judges at the 2011 RHS Chelsea Flower Show and if memory serves me correctly, this is the third year in a row that The Daily Telegraph has won this coveted award. The winning design is also Cleve West’s fourth show garden at Chelsea Flower Show, where he has previously won two RHS Gold medal and the RHS/BBC People’s Choice Award for his 2008 design. The design for this year’s garden was loosely inspired by a visit Cleve made to the Roman ruins at Ptolemais, Libya, several years ago. This planted the seed in his mind to create a contemporary, sunken garden for The Daily Telegraph. The garden explored how juxtaposing traditional and contemporary elements can bring an interesting dynamic to a garden.

The key features in Cleve’s design included a novel sunken space, that utilised reclaimed Cotswold stone for paving and walls, beautiful trees (Sophora Japonica), and a simply stunning contemporary sculpture. Water flowed from pipes in the boundary wall brought a relaxed sound to the garden, as well as reflecting sunlight.  Retaining drystone walls and worn cobbles provided an attractive foil for plants, while sculpted columns offered a more contemporary note with classical overtones. The sunken space within the garden accentuated the height of the surrounding planting and, in turn, the intimacy of the garden. Structural yew and box offer familiar structure and a foil for looser plant associations, while self-seeders and colonisers suggested that parts of the garden will shift and change over time, albeit within a set framework.

I think it is also worth Lazy Susan offering some congratulation to Jamie Dunstan of Gardeners Boutique for bagging a Gold at the 2011 Chelsea Flower show in the Urban Garden section for his fantastic ‘Wind of Change’ garden. Jamie used reclaimed flooring that he sourced from McKay Flooring to construct the boundaries and create a unique contemporary backdrop for his loose, urban planting, integrating the reclaimed boards (with sports lines still intact) into the overall design to create a beautiful effect of aged timbers speckled with dashes of bright colour.

Lazy Susan’s Chelsea Flower Show 2011 review

The Art of Yorkshire garden, ‘All the colours came from David Hockney’, was also a highpoint for Lazy Susan. Taking inspiration from famous Yorkshire artists and those that have used Yorkshire as their muse, the garden reflects the work of Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney, Andy Goldsworthy and J M W Turner. At its heart the garden proudly featured an original Barbara Hepworth sculpture, Ascending Form, framed by a quirky iPad-inspired easel that allowed visitors to view the garden through the eyes of an artist. The easel reflected the current artistic practices of David Hockney and others who are taking landscape artwork into the 21st century. For Lazy Susan, the garden set the scene for Yorkshire just as J M W Turner set the scene for his landscapes – not necessarily a true depiction, but a reflection of Yorkshire as he saw it. Paving and planting represented the traditional field patterns in the foreground, rolling moors in the midground and to the rear the rocky hills of the Yorkshire Dales. The video below from the Gaurdian is the first of three films about the garden with head designer Kate Dundas talking to Martin Wainwright:

Year on year, garden designers at the Chelsea Flower Show are expected to put on a novel or quirky show, and this year certainly didn’t disappoint us. One of the big talking point this year had to be Diarmuid Gavin’s hanging, ‘Irish Sky Garden’, with its pink planted pod suspended high above the ground, overlooking his inspired horticultural design. And Lazy Susan was pleased that the man whom is often wrongly overlooked in terms of praise, finally managed to bag a well deserved Gold for his very clever creation. Though admittedly, being but a mere onlooker, unable to venture further than the boundaries of his green garden, and hence simply admiring the lucky few who were allowed to oscillate in the hanging Eden pod, the effect was a little diluted.

In terms of sheer madness and pure originality, none can top Diarmuid Gavin in Lazy Susan’s opinion. Nonetheless, most of the show gardens showed off interesting novel design ideas, such as planted walls, and the odd luxury swimming pool common to most Monaco backyards. Also, as expected, the planting schemes at the show, urban and artisan gardens, superbly demonstrated diversity, colour and plant texture optimisation. My favourites were those that looked like seamless tapestries of repeat, soft muted planting with fluffy textures, softening the over all effect, without the need for any bold feature planting.

The show gardens dominated the media headlines and the Titchmarsh fronted coverage on BBC2, although I have to say, its the Great Pavilion that represents true Chelsea to Lazy Susan. The sheer skill of the nurseries who exhibit their plants to such a high standard, with such attention to detail and more often irrespective of the respective natural flowering seasons, always astounds us. My favourite exhibitors, tend to be those that specialise in one plant type and Lazy Susan was especially taken with Bowden Hostas, David Austin Roses, Raymond Evison Clematis, The Botanic Nursery and Downderry Lavender Nursery to name drop just a few

Interestingly, despite all the exuberant designer opulence and fancy new varieties, in Lazy Susan’s humble opinion, it was the common Foxglove (and much used in the Lazy Susan showroom garden) that really stole the show for us. Amongst the bold colours of the displays and the hordes of visitors, the Foxgloves respectfully command attention. All were stunning, but it was the spectacular Digitalis x Mertonensis, that stood out foremost. The more observant visitor would have spotted it, sitting proudly amongst the fine planting schemes in many of the top winning show and urban gardens (and we were lucky enough to walk away from the Great Pavillion clutching a highly sort after seed packet). And finally, after all that intensive horticultural education, some serious retail therapy is in order. Without fail, every year, the best shopping destination is Centre Sales Marketing (CSM), where I always seem to buy more pairs of gardening gloves, than any gardener could possibly ever use. Roll on 2012!

About Lazy Susan

About Lazy Susan

Lazy Susan is a small family business that specialise exclusively in wicker, rattan and metal garden furniture, specifically cast aluminium. Visit to find out more and view our complete product range.

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