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Best-dressed garden

PUBLISHED: 11:23 13 April 2015 | UPDATED: 11:23 13 April 2015

Admiring the flower display

Admiring the flower display

© RHS

As the world's most prestigious horticultural event, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, opens later this month, Philippa Pearson looks at the latest gardening trends and who's exhibiting from Essex

FOR more than a century, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has witnessed numerous changes in horticultural fashion. The changing enthusiasms of garden designers and plantsmen has influenced gardeners across the world, from the Japanese and topiary gardens of the early days (Japanese dwarf trees, now known as bonsai, were seen at the first show in 1913), through the rock garden craze during the war years, the paved back yards and cottage gardens of the 1980s, to the contemporary sculptural gardens and natural style planting of the present day. At the heart of Chelsea is the Great Pavilion, a huge exhibition of plants staged by nurserymen and women, while scientific exhibits, model glasshouses and displays of tools and equipment have remained constant features from the outset.

Several companies and organisations from across Essex are involved with this year’s show, from showing off plants to garden art and showcasing lots of lovely sundries to enjoy in your garden. Gardening trends come and go and each year new ideas are spotted by gardening gurus and hailed as the latest theme, plant or planting style that we simply must have in our gardens.

RHS Chelsea is the definitive horticultural event to see these latest trends realised through the eclectic mix of show gardens large and small, wonderful plants and avenues of sumptuous goodies for your garden. But many trends aren’t necessarily founded in new ideas or innovations and are simply just good gardening traditions, with a new twist.

The fascination with growing your own produce shows no sign of abating. Celebrated soft fruit and fruit tree grower, Ken Muir from Weeley Heath near Clacton, started exhibiting at RHS Chelsea in 1967 and Roger Muir and his team have been busy planting up and growing on strawberry plants since late winter for their tantalising and sumptuous display. Thousands of plants are used to create the display, which is always popular with visitors.

Gardening in small spaces, whether a courtyard, balcony or windowsill, is all about finding plants that thrive in bite-size spaces and garden décor and sundries that fit the brief. You can grow plants in compact spaces with John Harris Products’ Clip n’ Hang range from Basildon, a unique collection of instant fit hanging basket, pot holder and bird feeder brackets that attach directly to posts, fences, trellis and drainpipes without the need to drill or screw in place.

A charming new clematis will be launched at RHS Chelsea by plant breeder and grower Raymond Evison. Clematis ‘Corinne’ has creamy white/pale pink flowers and is perfect for containers and patios. It is available to Essex gardeners from the family-run Poplar Nurseries at Mark’s Tey.

‘This is the perfect clematis for small spaces,’ says Ian Bayliss from Poplar Nurseries, ‘as it only grows to 4ft high and does well in containers. It will be fantastic grown through an obelisk in a large pot.’

Iris grower Clare Kneen from Little Walden is helping organise French Iris breeder Cayeux Iris’s display in the Grand Pavilion. Cayeux is launching several new irises at the show and flower colours fit perfectly with this year’s trend of vintage and rustic shades for gardens. Look out for Iris ‘Cigarillo’ with roasted, copper-honeyed tone blooms and Iris ‘Prince Eugène’, one of Cayeux’s 2015 favourites, a pretty mix of white flowers with a wide raspberry-red border.

Working with natural landscape features and habitats is still hot news in gardens. At Todd’s Botanics stand in the Great Pavilion you’ll find plants that are good for attracting bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects as well as their trademark range of unusual drought-tolerant herbaceous and architectural shrubs from this Coggeshall-based exotic plant nursery. Complement your natural garden space by planning accessories carefully to blend with planting themes. The New Eden from Brentwood always has an attractive stand with lots of tempting gardening accessories including lanterns, café furniture, signs, mugs and pretty containers. ‘Trends this year return to a more classic and traditional look,’ says Maggie Jeffery from Todd’s Botanics, ‘with items that would be more at home in a cottage or wildlife garden rather than a Chelsea townhouse.’

A growing trend is using our outside space as a place for entertainment and personalising gardens with beautiful products. Traditional and contemporary garden furniture designed and manufactured by Barlow Tyrie from Braintree offer something for every style of garden. New ranges include modern, elegant design lines, robust and rustic-style farmhouse design and low maintenance practicality.

Big is best for containers and Posh Patio from Halstead has a good selection of colourful contemporary planters. Personalise your outdoor area with garden art and John O’Connor’s bronze sculptures made by this Colchester-based artist.

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