Chelsea Flower Show: Opening Day

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Chelsea Flower Show opening day and the great, the good and the celebrities are out in full force. Imelda Staunton, Alan Titmarsh and Sir Terence Conran were spotted. As for the gardens...yesterday we reviewed the small urban gardens which mere mortals can aspire to. Today: the Show Gardens--over the top, decadent, expensive and glorious. The winner of the Best Show Garden is an exquisite green garden with water and 30 year old hornbeam trees.

Our all time favourite is Summer Solstice, which got a Silver-Gilt award, by Daylesford Organic. The Daylesford's rival Prince Charles in the organic royalty department--they have an organic farm, food store, butcher and clothing business and that's just their hobby. The garden is an organic dream, showing the gradation from wild flower field with green wheat and scarecrow, to a walled kitchen garden full of vegetables and herbs (pictured) and an architectural green-roofed picture windowed kitchen/pavillion (at right) for outdoor cooking and dining. Plant it, grow it and cook it. The display is lush, sophisticated, and luxuriously environmental.

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Much has been made of the BUPA garden which will be relocated to a hospital for Alzhiemer's patients after the show. This has influenced the design and planting: non-slip surfaces, no steps, no dead-ends as they cause confusion, as do varying levels of paving material. There is a figure 8 path so that residents don't get confused. The sensory experience is an important aspect for the users with lots of roses and sweet smelling shrubs and running water. It is a bright and cheery spot amidst the other sophisticated understated show gardens. It provides some important lessons for hospitals and old age homes. It won a Gold medal.

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Here's the crowd pleaser (and Silver medal winner) for the grand parents: the Marshalls Garden That Kids Really Want which is full of fun and quirky sculptural notes for the children. The big snake's mouth that is almost a yard tall is the entrance to a tunnel which leads to a field of soft grasses, wild flowers and climbing structures.

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The first modern Japanese garden to be featured is a stunner. Inspired by the 17th century Katsura Villa in Kyoto, it includes a platform overlooking a large pool to observe the garden and the moon. It is surrounded by very stark bamboo sticks, and huge bamboo plants and lush japanese maples. Very dramatic and serene.

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The Chinese are also represented with a garden that explores the boundaries between modern and traditional Chinese garden design. It is a sunken garden with steps down to rustic buildings shadowed by large formal pine trees. The plants used have been chosen for their use in traditional herbal medicine and for their cultural symbolism. The small pond is filled with koi fish. :: RHS Chelsea Flower Show