Trends for Chelsea

CONTEMPORARY and minimalist will be the order of the day at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show, TV gardener Chris Beardshaw is predicting. But as a passionate plantsman, his own show garden will be breaking that mould.

CONTEMPORARY and minimalist will be the order of the day at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show, TV gardener Chris Beardshaw is predicting.

But as a passionate plantsman, his own show garden will be breaking that mould.

Beardshaw, presenter of The Flying Gardener, Hidden Gardens and Gardeners' World, is currently working on his show garden for this year's event - and it's a garden where planting is the prominent feature, he said.

The Chris Beardshaw Wormcast Garden incorporates a reflective lily pond, clipped yew hedges and long herbaceous borders, and will act as a platform for the launch of his new educational initiative, 'Growing For Life', aimed at promoting horticulture to the younger generation.

It celebrates the collaboration between 1920s designers Thomas Mawson and Gertrude Jekyll at Boveridge House in Dorset.

While in recent years, more natural, wilder planting has come into its own at Chelsea, Beardshaw reckons that this year's show gardens will be contemporary and minimalist, with a lot of exotic planting.

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He said: "Our garden is the only historic garden at Chelsea this year. Everybody else has gone down a very hardcore contemporary route. Ours is based on the original Gertrude Jekyll planting plans and the original Mawson drawings."

Beardshaw, who runs his own garden design business and has his own website, www.chrisbeardshaw.com, offering gardening advice, has helped on numerous Chelsea gardens and created two of his own show gardens at the prestigious show in 1999 and 2005, which won gold and bronze medals respectively.

"It's about time the horticultural world faced up to the fact that the best gardens involve beautiful, subtle plantsmanship and that's what our garden is celebrating. We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that gardening is about plantsmanship.

"You can disguise an awful lot of dodgy landscaping with fantastic planting, but you have to aim to excel in both areas. If you have a garden full of blooms, full of optimism, full of promises, that's what's going to win people over.

"There is a place for extraordinary structure and architecture, but Chelsea is a flower show - and that's what we should be celebrating. It's always the plants that win me over."

The atmosphere during the three weeks before the show, when bare patches of earth are transformed into stunning show gardens, is tense, hectic and often fraught, he says. But there is a genuine camaraderie among exhibitors.

"There are lots of members of the press who would like to think it's incredibly competitive and actually the only competition is with yourself. All of the guys building the gardens are fantastic at helping one another out. There's always somebody who will lend you plants and we lend other people plants. There's a fantastic camaraderie.”

He added: "You are working 12 to 18-hour days for three weeks and there is a fantastic team spirit. The project is nine to 12 months in the making and then three weeks of sleepless nights.

"But the vast majority of the people we deal with are real gentlemen and ladies. Horticulture is an old school profession and in all the years I've been involved, I've only come across one or two individuals who I've walked away from. The vast majority of people understand the challenge you've set yourself."

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The RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London, SW3 between May 23-27. Tickets are available (May 23, 24 and 27 now sold out) and must be booked in advance on 0870 906 3781 or at www.rhs.org.uk/flowershows

BEST OF THE BUNCH - Tulip

As daffodils fade, so tulips are emerging in too many different colours to mention and in many different varieties, some with almost frilly flowers which mingle happily with orange, yellow and burgundy wallflowers, others which look better grouped as stand-alone specimens.

If you're looking for a more flamboyant variety, look to the Parrot tulips which have frilly, fringed petals in late spring. good choices include the red and yellow T. 'Flaming Parrot' and or T. 'Estella Rijnveld' which is red and white, while more subtle varieties include T 'Spring Green', a Viridiflora variety with single cream flowers with partly greenish petals, or 'Queen of Night', a deep wine-coloured variety which looks great against a green backdrop mixed with acid-coloured wallflowers.

Tulips should be planted in the autumn in well-drained, fertile soil in full sun. Some need to be lifted after they have flowered and stored until planting time comes around again, while others can remain in the ground to flower again the following year.

GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT - Keep strawberries mould-free

As the fruits start to swell on strawberry plants, don't water the beds as wet ground tends to encourage slugs and also prompts grey mould to develop if the fruit is in contact with damp ground.

Another good deterrent is to slide some straw at the base of the strawberry plant or put a strawberry mat around the collar of each plant to protect the fruits.

If you have strawberry plants in containers you will need to water them, but try to avoid getting water on the fruit. Lift the leaves and carefully pour the water on to the compost, where it is needed.

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK

:: Take cuttings from summer-flowering clematis.

:: Plant out annual climbers.

:: Harden off hanging baskets and window boxes ready to put into position outdoors when all danger of frost is over.

:: Plant both dormant dahlia tubers and young plants.

:: Sow runner beans and dwarf kidney beans direct into the garden. Plants raised under glass should not

:: Continue to deadhead spring-flowering bulbs.

:: Start to buy tender summer bedding now if you have somewhere to keep them protected.

:: Clear blanket weed and duck weed from ponds.

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