Take-home ideas from Chelsea

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The Brewin Dolphin garden

What I like doing best at Chelsea is looking for ideas that I could replicate in my own garden one day. And as I may finally have one (fingers crossed – it’s all going through at the moment), this was a year when I could actually walk around noting ideas that I could actually put into practice. Hurrah!

There were quite a few roses around this year, and I liked the informal, lax habit of the Rosa rugosa in the Brewin Dolphin garden (above).

The Telegraph Garden
The Telegraph Garden

I liked Christopher Bradley-Hole’s garden but felt I’d seen many elements of it before – the multi-stemmed trees, blocks of box and yew, the meadowy planting, the cow parsley… Not only in previous Chelsea gardens but also at the Canal House in Amsterdam last year. That said, I love a multi-stemmed tree, neatly clipped box, and a bit of meadowy planting, and would definitely like to include them in my own garden.

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The Homebase Garden

I also the loved the way that edible and ornamental plants were mingled together in Adam Frost’s ‘Sowing the Seeds of Change’ garden for Homebase. I will definitely be doing this – I want to cram in as many edibles as possible.

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Un Garreg (One Stone) garden

I loved this simple oak bench in the Un Garreg (One Stone) garden. It may look simple but I bet it cost a small fortune.

Get Well Soon garden
Get Well Soon garden

The pebble path in the Healing Garden was designed to be walked on barefoot, stimulating reflexology pressure points.

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Get Well Soon garden

Ponds scare me. They look complicated to get right, and I’ve seen a lot of bad ones. But this looks really doable – it’s shallow (so not too much digging) and the pebbles cover a multitude of sins.

NSPCC Garden of Magical Childhood
NSPCC Garden of Magical Childhood

And for sheer flight of fancy, who could resist this kids’ treehouse in the NSPCC garden? I think it made everyone want to be a kid again.

So there you have it. This time next year I may be the proud owner of a garden that contains some multi-stemmed trees, blocks of box and yew, some meadowy planting, lots of edibles, a pond and a reflexology path. And a treehouse, obviously.

Amsterdam roses

Amsterdam

If the number one plant in Amsterdam is box, the second is most definitely the rose. Roses are everywhere, scrambling over doorways, steps and walls.


Here in the UK you don’t see many roses in pots, especially climbing ones. Somehow the message we seem to have absorbed is that they don’t grow well that way. However in Amsterdam roses are often growing in the tiniest pots imaginable (as you can see from the pic above) and are positively blooming.

Amsterdam’s open gardens

Amsterdam

Last weekend Naomi and I hopped on the Eurostar for a garden nerds’ getaway. We went to Amsterdam for its open garden weekend (Open Tuinen Dagen), when around 30 gardens open to the public. There aren’t many people I could drag around 30 gardens, but Naomi is definitely one of them.

We managed to see around 25 of the gardens in two days, and it was fun. We got to snoop at some pretty impressive canal houses, galleries and museums (the Dutch seem shamelessly nosy, so we were too). We discovered streets we wouldn’t normally have walked down, stopped off in some nice cafes, and in true garden visiting tradition, ate a lot of cake.

Box is most definitely the dominant plant in Amsterdam, and many gardens, such as the one at the Museum Van Loon (above), are formal parterres. They’re found in even the smallest of gardens, filled with roses and bedding. They’re lovely, and a novelty at first, but we were soon hankering to see anything that wasn’t a box ball, hedge or block.

Fortunately around half of the gardens were virtually box-free. All of them had a design idea or planting combination to take inspiration from. Here are my favourites.


The garden at the swanky Canal House Hotel on Keizersgracht was designed by a couple of Brits, Rose Dale and Laura Heybrook of Dale and Heybrook. The contemporary black and white theme matched the interior of the hotel perfectly, and the abundant, lush planting and gentle water features made it a peaceful retreat. The hotel is pretty posh, but the staff were more than happy to let everyone lounge on the outdoor sofas, drinking free iced tea.


The garden at Amnesty Internation HQ (above) was a tranquil, contemplative space: a canopy of robinia trees underplanted with Luzula nivea and campanulas.


My prize for the most original garden went to the Canal House on Herengracht (above). In a bold take on the traditional parterre, oodles of box were confined within a grid of corten steel. The effect was loosened by blowsy, cow parsley-esque valerian (Valeriana officinalis).


The garden at Kerkstraat 67 was extraordinary. Huge hedges of perfectly sculpted privet swept down the garden and pooled at the bottom in big fat blobs.


The private garden above was delightfully romantic and pretty, and a great lesson in how to break up a square space.


And my favourite? The garden at La Cuisine Française. It didn’t have the wow factor of some of the other gardens, but it felt the most loved and lived in.

Its layout could be adapted to any long, thin garden and the planting was a happy mix of edible and ornamental – towering herbs including lovage and sweet cicely, standard gooseberries and wisteria, foxgloves, tons of salad and alliums – plus a huge dining table. Its English owner, Patricia, was on hand with plant advice and Dutch poffertjes. Many Amsterdam gardens have a garden house, and Patricia lives in hers.