Peter Seabrook has been The Sun’s gardening correspondent for 40 years. As an aspiring garden writer it was a great pleasure to meet him in the Great Pavilion at Chelsea at 40 Sunbury Road, a 16mx5m plot put together by the Horticultural Trades Association and the Association of Professional Landscapers working with Peter to celebrate his four decades in the role. He explained that the idea behind the garden is to show what can be achieved in a normal, suburban back garden. There is a ‘Wonderwall’; a living wall of flowering plants and strawberries to pick as you pass by and a shed with a green roof, complete with miniature houses.
I didn’t used to be a fan of gladioli – we inherited a lot of the same hot pink colour in our new garden- but I could not resist the gorgeous blooms on display at gold-winning Pheasant Acre Plants and came away with Gladiolus Elgar, described as ‘lavender blue with a white throat’ and ‘pillar box red’ Gladiolus Red Balance. If I plant them now they should flower in September for some autumn colour.
I have been looking for a pure white lily for some time and the gold-winning Harts Nursery stand seemed like a good place to buy some bulbs. I opted for Lilium ‘Selene’ (named for the Moon goddess?). I may plant them in a pot as I am not sure if they will like our chalk soil. Other favourite stalls included Avon Bulbs, Eagle Sweet Peas, where I bought a packet of ‘plum on silver’ ‘Lisa Marie’ seeds which I plan to sow in the autumn, and the divine Cayeaux – Europe’s leading iris breeder with some great bi-coloured varieties such as the peach and purple ‘Cocktail Tropical’, all of which were grown for Chelsea by Iris of Sissinghurst.
Hillier’s Spring garden by Sarah Eberle was a delight. We were particularly taken by the garden’s edging, which was simply made from hazel sticks tied together with twine, complete with twigs and leaves.
The colour themes change subtly as you circumnavigate the garden, with certain plants interwoven between different areas such as the velvety dark red Clematis ‘Rebecca’. New for 2017 is the divine blue Corydalis ‘Porcelain Blue’ which I would love to grow in the new partial shade bed I am planning. I also gained inspiration for this bed underneath our fig tree and west-facing fence at the British Ecological Society’s ‘Delight in the Dark’ stand with its ferns, Lily of the Valley and Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’.
The roses speak for themselves at both Peter Beale’s and David Austin’s stands. I was reminded how much I want the deep wine red ‘Souvenir du Doctor Jamain’ and the starry purple ‘Charles de Mills’. Two new David Austin roses for 2017 were both yellow – ‘Dame Judi Dench’ reminded me of a perfect English summer’s day, while ‘Vanessa Bell’ was a bohemian pale yellow.
These are just some of my favourites from a wealth of wonderful stands in the Great Pavilion. Tomorrow I will be back with my impressions of the Fresh Gardens, the Radio 2 Feelgood Gardens and the Artisan Gardens.