Show time at Chelsea

Undated Handout Photo of a garden design from RHS Chelsea 2011. See PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Handout. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column.
Undated Handout Photo of a garden design from RHS Chelsea 2011. See PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Handout. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Gardening Column.

So, what are we going to learn from this year’s internationally acclaimed horticultural show?

While sustainability may be the watchword of this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, From May 21 to May 25,with emphasis on biodiversity, wild planting areas and inviting eco-systems, so many of the designs simply wouldn’t be feasible in our own gardens.

So, eminent designers ranging from Tom Stuart-Smith to Jekka McVicar are offering advice to gardeners based on their own experiences in a new centenary edition of Take Chelsea Home by Chris Young, which looks at how gardeners can adopt similar techniques to create beautiful spaces in their own residential plots.

Here’s a few tips from the award-winners:

n Organic herb grower Jekka McVicar, who has won 14 gold medals at Chelsea, on planting a summer salad crop container: “Salad rocket, dill and mustard are all great salad herbs that can be easily raised from seed and grown in a container.

“The trick is to choose a planter large enough to grow a crop for cutting; an ideal size is 23cm (9in) wide by 18cm (7in) high, or 5 litres/1 gallon, or larger. Fill with compost and water well, then sow the seeds and cover lightly with more compost.

“Set the container in a sheltered warm spot that is shaded from the midday sun. Once you start cutting your salad, feed the plants every week with a balanced liquid fertiliser.”

Landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith, who has eight Chelsea golds under his belt, on layered planting: “The idea behind layered planting in the garden is to repeat the ecological patterns inherent in complex plant communities.

“In an oak woodland, for example, there are various different levels: an upper canopy, often a middle canopy of medium-sized trees and saplings; a shrub layer, a herb layer, and then bulbs and corms at the bottom.

“By adapting this natural pattern to a garden, it is possible to have different layers flowering at different times, usually with the lower layers flowering first.”

n Professor Nigel Dunnett, three-time Silver-Gilt winner and designer of this year’s Royal Bank of Canada Blue Water Roof Garden and one of the principal planting consultants for the London Olympic Park, on green roofs: “Garden sheds, porches, summerhouses, balconies, garages and small extensions all offer great potential for planting green roofs.

“The most important consideration for such a roof is how much weight the chosen building will support. It must comfortably take the weight of a person if it is to be strong enough to have a green roof planted on it.

“You can create a simple green roof by securing a pre-grown mat of sedums over a pond liner on the roof surface, but it is referable to plant individually into a generous layer of free-draining soil or potting compost on the roof. “

n Water specialist Andrew Ewing, who is working on this year’s Daily Telegraph garden with Christopher Bradley-Hole, on edging water: “The use of an appropriate material around your water feature can substantially enhance its overall design and effect.

“For a minimal edging, say, between grass and water, stainless steel set upright produces a crisp line and can allow the water height to be almost level with the grass. Otherwise stone is a great edging material, whether cut clean in a modern style or left more naturalistic and jagged.

“Consider also wildlife needs, in terms of how amphibians may enter or exit.”