All images by B. Alter: Jamie Oliver Makes Pizza at the Children's Society Garden
The Chelsea Flower Show, now in its 87th year, is a high point in the horticultural social scene, with the Queen and all sorts of celebrities attending on Opening Day. It's been a tricky lead-up to the big day because May was freezing cold and rainy, so many of the plants were behind schedule, and then a heat wave descended in the past 2 days, causing plants to open too quickly.
But never mind, it is still a fabulous display of the glorious and glitzy and fascinating garden show pieces that can be created when money and creativity are unlimited. The recession seems to be over this year, with one garden featuring precious jewels, another having recreated a river flowing over a full-sized canal and lock gate and yet another with an Australian wet bar and bikini clad swimmers. So what about this biodiversity....
Bee-Friendly Plants Garden
This is the UN's International Year of Biodiversity and several of the gardens have taken this as their theme. The Royal Horticultural Society,which runs the show, bans the use of peat, encourages the recycling of garden materials, and has a borehole for the site.
One could argue that all gardens that have flowers, herbs and plants offer up a fertile environment for pollinating insects. But a few gardens have gone much further in their efforts to lure birds and bugs. So much so that every one of them has won a medal this year. Note to glitzy gardeners: biodiversity pays in many ways!
The Global Stone Bee Friendly Plants Garden is drawing attention to bees and sustainability, with its dramatic stone wall and the Einstein quote. The plants all come from a nursery dedicated to providing plants that are good for bees. These include plants and seeds that are good pollen and nectar providers as well as being good looking. There is brilliant purple lavender, herbs such as thyme, oregano, catnip and salvia and sedum. Red clover is used for the lawn and water is provided. It may not be a prize winner but it was a lovely traditional garden with an important focus. News update: Silver medal winner.
Kebony-Naturally Norway Garden
The Kebony-Naturally Norway Garden is one of the most sustainable gardens in the show, certainly amongst the big show gardens. It will be interesting to see if the judges reward it for this. The designer lives near the Arctic circle and has brought the first ever Norwegian garden to the show. The dramatic 60 year old pine is the centre piece of the garden. It was stunted and contorted by cold Norwegian nights and cut out of the quarry where it was growing, and shipped to London: it weighs 14 tons. After the show it is moving to Surrey to the designer's parents' garden. News update: this garden won a Silver Gilt award. Hurray!
Another view, with birch trees
The garden includes Kebony wood, used for the decks and furniture, that is specially treated to make it harder and more resistant to rot. The natural stone is called larvitktt, and is Norwegian national stone. Clean energy is created from bioethanol burners and the fences are made of recycled wood. The plantings look very woodsy and northern (Canadian!) and the water is reminiscent of the fjords.
SAC Strutt & Parker Sustainable Highland Garden
This Sustainable Highland Garden combines old Scottish plants and traditions with a modern issues of renewable energy. The lush and concentrated planting consists entirely of Scottish native plants. A water rill and insect homes provide a haven for birds and bugs. The croft, the house, is made from straw bales in the traditional way but looks very modern. News update: Silver medal winner.
The Hesco Garden, Leeds City Council
You have to give them credit: Leeds has reconstructed a pair of giant lock gates from a canal, with rushing water providing a wonderful and cooling sound. The planting is more municipal in nature; not as complex or detailed as many of the other show gardens, but the lock is a spectacular focal point. The judges loved it too; it won a Gold medal.
Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory
Kazahana: a light snow flurry from a cloudless sky is the title of this sublime oasis. The garden consists mainly of a water fall and lily pond. It is green and mossy and luxuriant with lots of Japanese maples (acers). The planting is exquisite; the Japanese are known for their perfectionism. They received a medal two years ago for an equally beautiful, but much smaller garden. News update: Silver medal winner.
Bradstone Biodiversity Garden
The Bradstone Biodiversity Garden is is a lovely, traditional lush garden teeming with insect loving flowers and plants. There were lots of purple flowers, alium, and lavender and herbs, all mixed together in a glorious naturalistic setting. The garden had already been visited by spiders, honey bees, pond skater, harlequin lady bird and a robin. News update: Silver medal winner.
Foreign & Colonial Investments' Garden
And now for something completely different: an exotic tropical fantasy. The glory that is Chelsea (and a Silver medal).
More on Previous Chelsea Flower Shows
Chelsea Flower Show Goes From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
Chelsea Flower Show Explores Climate Change
Chelsea Flower Show : Opening Day