One of the most eagerly anticipated horticultural events on the gardening calendar is finally here once again. The prestigious Chelsea Flower Show has been captivating audiences since 1913, and this year is expected to be no different as The Royal Hospital Chelsea opens its doors on May 23rd to showcase the best in garden design.
If you are lucky enough to be attending, you’ll be able to walk through the gates of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and be transported from Spain and Malta to China, Japan, Canada, Mexico and Bermuda. Many of this year’s gardens evoke exotic climes, while others look to the Yorkshire coast, the Norfolk marshes and Berkshire’s heathland.
The word on the street is that many designers are going for bright and cheery summer colours, including deep purple and burnt orange, we can probably expect to see diverse planting styles too.
We take a look back at previous ‘plant of the year’ winners at Chelsea and why they were so liked. All the plants mentioned below will be in stock at Coolings by 27th May 2017…
Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’ – won 2nd place for ‘Plant of the Year’ at Chelsea in 2016.
This beautiful, brilliant-scarlet Geum boasts early, large, slightly double flowers from early March right through to autumn. Geums as a genus have become more popular over the past few years particularly with the successes of ‘Totally Tangerine’ that was launched at Chelsea Flower show over 6 years ago.
‘Scarlet Tempest’ is a reasonably new and prolific hardy Geum developed by the breeder of the Anemone Swan series, Elizabeth MacGregor.
Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’ – won 1st place for ‘Plant of the Year’ 2015 due to its ability to perform a new trick during every season of the year. It’s like having four different plants for the price of one! In April, this unique deciduous shrub delivers beautiful, white lacecap flowers on tiered layers, blushing pink as they mature through the summer. Then, in autumn the foliage turns a fiery red before red berries appear in winter to provide a feast for the birds.
More upright in habit than the species, ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’ is perfect for the shrub border where space is at a premium.
Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ – won 3rd place for ‘Plant of the Year’ in 2015. ‘Love and Wishes’, bred by John Fisher of New South Wales, Australia, is the third colour in the Wish Collection of Salvia varieties and has a lot going for it: a long flowering period, sumptuous deep purple flowers with burgundy (almost black) stems, and paler purple calyces that remain on the stems long after the flowers have fallen.
Its deep purple flowers makes it a perfect compliment to the other Wish varieties and makes a fantastic specimen for a container centrepiece.
Hydrangea marcophylla ‘Miss Saori’ – won 1st place for ‘Plant of the Year’ in 2014.
This stunning mophead hydrangea was bred in Kyoto by young plantsman Ryoji Irie and named for his fiancé who has since become his wife. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Miss Saori’ is quite unique. Each fully double, white bloom is frosted with a soft rose edge, giving the large rounded flower heads a delicate, frothy appearance. This was the first of a new breed of Hydrangeas that remain the same colour regardless of your soil type, so you are guaranteed to see these beautiful blooms at their best.
The foliage complements the blooms perfectly, taking on an attractive burgundy hue in spring and autumn that only adds to the appeal of this exquisite specimen shrub.
Perfect for borders and patio containers where it will give a long season of interest. To add to its long list of accolades, Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’ makes a lovely cut flower too!
Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ – Plant of the Year Winner 2013.
‘Soft Caress’ breeder Ozzie Johnson did a stirling job with this slender shrub. Most Mahonias are notoriously prickly – but not this one! Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ is the first of its kind to have entirely spine free foliage, making it much more agreeable in the garden. This superb evergreen shrub has a useful autumn flowering period. The plant bursts into fragrant, bright golden flowers between August and September, with large clusters of blue berries appearing later in the year.
This compact and resilient shrub makes a useful addition to borders and containers for plenty of year-round interest.
Foxglove Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’ – Plant of the Year Winner 2012.
If you love foxgloves but hate how they die after flowering, try this. Thought to be an impossible hybridisation, this is the most spectacular foxglove you will have ever seen! Parentage from the little-known Isoplexis (Canary Island Foxglove) gives this exciting Digitalis its fabulous tropical colouring. Being completely sterile Foxglove ‘Illumination’ won’t set seed, giving it an incredibly long flowering period. Unlike most foxgloves which are generally biennial, this half-hardy semi-evergreen is a true perennial so you will be able to enjoy its year after year. A striking addition to summer borders and earns its keep in the garden much better than the lovely, but fleeting, native foxglove. Fabulous in drifts.
Anemone ‘Wild Swan’ – Plant of the Year Winner 2011.
This dazzling hardy perennial was discovered, and has been trialled for the last 10 years by Elizabeth MacGregor on her nursery in Scotland. It is believed to be a cross between early and late flowering forms, and the result is a plant which flowers intermittently over a long flowering period. Each pure white petal has a distinct grey-blue streak along the reverse, so when in bud, or when the flowers nod and half close the flowers look bluish, but when they are fully open they are a dazzling pure white. Ideal for the woodland garden or partially shaded bed.
All of the above plants are available in store and online from Saturday 27th May! If you would like to keep up to date with what is happening at Chelsea this week please follow our facebook page @coolingsnurseries
See our top picks from RHS Chelsea.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea runs from 23rd – 27th May 2017.