Malibu Garden Column

Sail cloth, water elements, and blue iris enhanced the Boat Race Anniversary Garden. Photos by Peggy Harris / TMT

Lifetime dream achieved at Chelsea Flower Show

A lifetime dream of attending the Chelsea Flower Show in London was fulfilled on Member’s Day at the Royal Horticultural Society’s most extravagant presentation of the year. It’s a well known fact that the English are fanatic about their gardens. Try standing in a queue 20 abreast along a street leading to the frenetically anticipated show. Present a ticket, pass through security, and enter an array of pavilions displaying the latest products, including solar-powered spot lighting and fountains, designed to perform in Great Britain’s limited sunshine. Corporations sponsor the tediously designed plots, which draw crowds deep enough that one must work one’s way to the front to see the exhibits. The designed garden areas are constructed only a few days before the show opens and are removed from the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital after the weeklong show. There is also an indoor pavilion with eye-feasting displays of blooms showing off the latest and most aromatic varieties of anything that will grow in Great Britain.

With my training in design, I was fascinated with the graphics handed out with each display garden. For example, Stonemarket, a manufacturer of supplier of quality landscaping materials, hired Bunny Guinness, an acclaimed British garden designer and landscape architect. She also holds six Chelsea gold medals and has a horticultural degree. Her idea was to create the Stonemarket Boat Race Anniversary Garden, in celebration of the 150th boat race battle between Cambridge and Oxford. When a nonroyal reaches the site of the installed garden, he/she receives a brochure describing the evolution of the creator’s ideas, a plant list and a list of sponsors for each display garden. Being a judge at Chelsea would be challenging. The coveted awards are displayed with great pride.

Another garden worth mention in this brief column is a “dark to light” theme. I had the privilege of speaking briefly with the designer and he told me it fit with his religious beliefs. His dark, black foliage broke into an elevated lime green area of lightness where a harpist set up her instrument to play under a covered stage as the English skies threatened a light rain.

While the outdoor displays are knockouts filled with design ideas, entering the pavilion provides a sensory bombardment of visual, colorful and aromatic delights. Cut roses imported from Kenya were displayed in large hide-covered containers made in that country. Each blossom seemed to reflect a peak of perfection in color and scent. Equally astounding were displays of new varieties of sweet peas whose fragrance and color combinations were something to behold.

Plant more vegetables for

later crops

Malibu gardeners should have already planted some vegetables. Plant more and take inspiration from the award-winning display of wax beans created for the Chelsea Flower Show.

For gardening or design questions, contact Peggy Harris at 310.581.7956.