Walking into the Chelsea Flower Show you will immediately be wowed by the stunning floral archway of 10, 000 pastel blooms that towers over the entrance. This breathtaking display of British-grown flowers was created in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday, and sets the scene for what’s in store for visitors; there are amazing show gardens and floral displays, rare and unusual plants, and everything plant and garden related – from gardening tools and furniture to the trendiest gardening threads.
For me, however, one of the most exciting parts of the show every year is seeing what new plants are on display.
Standing right at the horticultural heart of the show is the Great Pavilion, where over 100 exhibitors are vying for attention and that elusive gold medal from the RHS judges. This is where the best of the best nurserymen showcase plants to get their fellow gardeners’ tongues wagging.
Here are 11 of my favourites from this year.
The pick of this year’s new plants starts with one of the Queen’s favourite flowers – roses.
‘Sandringham’ from Peter Beales is a deep pink, petal-packed and heavily scented shrub rose that was chosen by the Duchess of Cornwall from a selection presented to her at the Sandringham Flower Show in 2014. (www.classicroses.co.uk)
The English shrub rose ‘Roald Dahl’, from David Austin is also set to be a favourite. Its beautiful peach-coloured blooms have a stunning tea fragrance with fruity overtones – giving you the rich sensory experience of opening a new packet of leaf tea! Another gem in his collection is ‘Bathsheba’ with dynamic apricot-pink blooms and a complex myrrh scent. (www.davidaustin.co.uk)
Harkness honoured the Great British Bake Off host and RHS Ambassador, Mary Berry, with her very own hybrid tea rose, which has sweetly perfumed blooms in shades of clotted cream and honey. Also from Harkness this year are ‘Hamilton Princess’ featuring rose pink flowers with wonderful perfume, and the floribunda ‘White Fox Rose’, which is gorgeously scented with elegant pearl-pink blooms. (www.roses.co.uk)
White Fox Rose
Tall bearded iris never fail to impress at Chelsea, and this year was no exception. Cayeux Iris has come up trumps with the beautiful ‘Terre’ – a silex featuring white standards with aubergine muted edges over purple-black falls, and highlighted by a vivid burnt-red beard. (www.iris-cayeux.com)
Hilliers drew the crowds with a spectacular display of the new chartreuse-lime leaved Acer ‘Shirasawanum Moonrise’ – an extremely hardy, sun-tolerant and vigorous plant with carmine new growths. (www.hillier.co.uk)
It’s the 100th birthday of the Rhododendron Society and expectations were high among enthusiasts this year. Millais Nurseries did not disappoint, bringing out eight new varieties, including the outstanding Dutch-bred ‘Prinses Maxima’, which is hardy with smallish, weather-resistant heads of blush-pink flowers, heavily spotted in red. (www.rhododendrons.co.uk)
Hardy’s cottage garden plants have six new introductions including an unusual white form of the popular thistle Cirsium rivulare called ‘Frosted Magic’, which are perfect for prairie-style planting. Also standing out from Hardy’s are the Hebe ‘Celebration’, a vibrant and high-impact small shrub, and the beautiful red-petalled Geum, ‘Scarlet Tempest’. (www.hardys-plants.co.uk)
Cirsium rivulare ‘Frosted Magic’
Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’