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Guest post: A Canadian gardener visits Chelsea

Guest post: Canadian garden writer and editor Fiona Gilsenan, relocating to England, visits the Chelsea Flower Show almost as soon as she arrives in Britain.

Lovely tangly plantings in The RBC Blue Water Garden (Silver-Gilt). Image © Fiona GilsenanI didn’t exactly plan my arrival in my new homeland to coincide with the Chelsea Flower Show, but I don’t mind that it did. Fresh off the plane from Canada (after a few days rest in lovely Northamptonshire) I joined the throng of RHS members  hurrying through the streets of SW3 to see Diarmud Gavin’s planty pyramid and find out who got the Gold. Here are a few of my highlights.

Naturalistic plantings. There was lots of mingling and drifting going on in the planting beds, with almost all the big show gardens going for the meadowy look. Capel Manor College (above left, click to enlarge) even had a display entitled ‘Mad about Meadows’, explaining the finer points of Bat Meadows (a new category for me).

 A weedy wall in the Plankbridge Hutmakers garden (Silver Medal). Image © Fiona GilsenanRoundup ready. All this wispy, crowded planting does lead to one inevitable result: weeds. I saw more weeds in the beds than ever before at Chelsea, most looking like an accepted part of the plantings. I was itching to put on my flash new gardening gloves and pull out a few.

Heliconia vellerigera ‘She-Kong’ doesn’t shave her bracts. Image © Fiona GilsenanFreaky flowers. Under instructions from my 11-year-old son, I looked long and hard for the  ‘weirdest flower there’. A few of the orchids and Nepenthes were among the usual suspects, but I settled on this tarantula-like false bird-of-paradise, Heliconia vellerigera ‘She-Kong’ (left, click to enlarge). I think my son will agree.

Favorite show garden. A toss up between the DMZ Spent bullet casings and buttons line the path of the DMZ garden (Gold). Image © Fiona GilsenanForbidden Garden and Jo Thompson’s Caravan Club. Designed by Jihae Hwang, the DMZ garden (riht, click to enlarge) represents the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, and is filled with remnants left from the conflict. Above all, it’s a garden with meaning and memory that is powerful and spookily evocative.

Aeonium ‘Logan Rock’ named for the raiser's favourite pub. Image © RHSNew aeoniums. Plant of the Year 2012 was a pretty foxglove (Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’), but I loved the two aeoniums from Trewidden Nursery, both of which made it onto the shortlist of 20. Aeonium ‘Cornish Tribute’ and A. ‘Logan Rock’ (left, click to enlarge) are compact and container-worthy. Also working in their favour: breeder Claire Batten tells me they are named after her favorite beer and pub, respectively.

Thank you to Fiona Gilsenan, newly arrived in Britain, for this view of Chelsea.