What to see at the Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Our pick of the show gardens to visit, plus stalls, sculptures and sights not to miss

Linklaters show garden for Maggie’s

The highlight of every horticulturalist’s calendar – and the unofficial start of the British Season – the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is set to be as memorable as ever, with eight show gardens, a host of new spaces and more than 100 floral displays. 

The show gardens are, of course, at the heart of the event, and this year offers a delightfully diverse mix. The sponsor of last year’s People’s Choice Award winner, Welcome to Yorkshire, will return to present a rugged space featuring cliffs, a beach, seawater and, as its centrepiece, a ruined abbey representing one of the many historic buildings for which the county is famous. Elsewhere, the West End will come to Chelsea with the arrival of the first ever Covent Garden show garden, sponsored by Capco, designed to celebrate the area’s early incarnations as a fruit orchard and a flower market. Look out for the 60-year-old apple-tree standing proud amid steel structures and herbaceous plants. 

Welcome to Yorkshire show garden

500 Years of Covent Garden show garden, supported by Capco

Wellington College’s Breaking Ground garden, sponsored by Darwin Property Investment Management, is set to be another highlight, with its transparent steel walls that symbolise the dissolution of boundaries in the education system. Rare species of violet and orchids will add subtle colour to the scheme, which will be dominated by planting reminiscent of lowland heaths – semi-wild areas that are home to birch, pine and oak.   

Breaking Ground show garden

Also worth a visit are the artisan gardens, which demonstrate the art of weaving horticultural magic on a smaller plot. Among this year’s particularly imaginative spaces are Sarah Eberle’s Viking Cruises Garden, with its Gaudí-inspired bright colours and mosaic-like motifs, and Ishihara Kazuyuki’s Gosho No Niwa garden, whose design is modelled on the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the former residence of the emperor of Japan. Planted with pines, maples and moss, it will have a serene, tranquil feel, conjuring up a sense of community spirit. 

Gosho No Niwa artisan garden

New for this year’s show are the ‘Feel Good’ gardens, which are designed to appeal to all five senses. The Chris Evans Taste garden will be filled with the best edible plants to grow in the UK; the Jo Whiley Scent garden will be suffused with wonderfully aromatic flowers; and the Jeremy Vine Texture garden will be a tactile space juxtaposing hard edges and geometric forms with a softer planting scheme. 

Jeremy Vine texture garden

While you’re at the show, make time to wander around and discover the hidden gems outside the main gardens, too, whether in the Great Pavilion – a 12,000 square-metre marquee featuring more than 100 exhibits – or along the Main Avenue, which is lined with stalls and displays including Simon Gudgeon’s sculpture-garden stand (his majestic new creation, Firebird, is pictured below). Even the entrance to the show is a design in itself – the Bull Ring Gate will this year be adorned with 15,000 colourful carnations, courtesy of In Water Flowers, and will be illuminated at night so that even if you can’t make it to the show yourself, you can still admire it from afar…

‘Firebird’ sculpture by Simon Gudgeon

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 23 to 27 May.

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