At the 99th Chelsea Flower Show all the gardeners were wracked with worry over their plantings because of the months of miserable weather. Heat and drought in March and early April led to weeks of rain: a bad combination for flowers and fruit trees.
How ironic then, or is it prophetic, that several of Chelsea's smaller gardens had a water conservation theme and feature drought tolerant plants.
Naturally Dry--a William Wordsworth-inspired Garden (above) is inspired by weather in the South East of England where there has been the lowest rainfall since 1896. Sponsored by the local water company, this is a charming representation, with an old stone well and ancient looking stone crofter's hut nestled between rocks. The designer has used tough British native plants such as Betula nigra, the river birch, hart’s tongue ferns and hardy geraniums, alongside prairie grasses, and perennial foxglove.
The Herbert Smith Garden for WaterAid has been motivated by the work carried out by WaterAid and the change that clean water can bring to a community. There is a prominent water pump on one wide and a thatched roof hut on the other. The plants are grasses and flowers that are evocative of Africa. They include Sutherlandia frutescens, a cancer bush, that is one of southern Africa's most important medicinal plants. Ringo Starr opened the garden, with a mini-performance on a Malawi drum.
Three of the national water companies have sponsored a Climate Calm Garden whose aim is to reflect the "cracks in the earth produced by prolonged dry weather". It has a hanging rainwater collector with a lime green watering can as part of it: very clever. There is a sluice which opens to let the water into a network of irrigation channels down the middle of the garden. The planting is based on steppe planting in Eastern European plains; it is tough enough to tolerate temperatures which may become more typical in the UK. It includes lots of herbs, geraniums, salvia and santolina.
The Soft Machine by Humko isn't too enticing but it does feature some very eco ideas. For example the bicycle serves as a water circulating machine, the planting is all bog type, rain loving plants and walls act as green filters.
The Rooftop Workplace of Tomorrow purports to "show how urban rooftop spaces can be used to extend the office outdoors". Not sure whose office that would be since it is pretty extravagant looking. With an open conference "room" under a canopy and those chairs for "networking using a smart phone", this one is a bit of greenwash. The planting is nice with herbs in blues and greens.
Out of the Blue is a more realistic roof garden. It has three different areas of drought-tolerant plantings with a zigzag structure down the middle, providing some privacy. One area has slow growing turf that can be left uncut, and another has a felt mat which contains a mix of wild flowers, sedums, herbs and perennials. Both are developed by the sponsor, Lindum, and can be used anywhere for an instant eco garden.
And we end with two odes to the automobile. This lovely flower covered car from the Best of Birmingham exhibit. Little known fact: the Mini was first produced there.
And this from Easigrass, covered in plastic "turf".