Yesterday the RHS granted a peek at the programme for the Chelsea Flower Show 2018, which runs May 22-26. A few big announcements are being held back until January 2018, but the tally of 10 show gardens and 16 smaller gardens suggests that the business of garden-making is in reasonable shape. Although (for show-goers with long memories) it still seems a far cry from the heady days when Chelsea could field 22 show gardens and half a dozen top designers.
The RHS have made three smart moves for 2018: first, a new evening opening on Friday 25 May (8-10pm) which will give more people a chance to enjoy a balmy (fingers crossed) twilight stroll, when the gardens twinkle invitingly
The 10 gardens will go on display from 22-26 May 2018.
Post-Brexit vote, there are four sponsors linked to tourism (South Africa, Yorkshire, Cornwall and China), with fewer linked to finance, charity and consumer goods than in many recent years. In smaller gardens, India and Japan are represented. There are no continental European designers.
Sarah Price’s M&G Mediterranean-themed garden built by Crocus will include a Lagerstromeria indica tree for the first time at the show. Price is among 12 women designers announced across 26 gardens in all. In 2017, there were seven out of 22 judged gardens designed by women. The proportion of women designers for 2018 is believed to be a record.
Price is favourite to be the first woman to win best in show since Sarah Eberle in 2007. Arabella Lennox Boyd won the accolade in 1998 and Julie Toll in 1993. The best in show award began in 1984. Star garden designers only started to be named alongside their designs in 1976. There have been 70/225 women show garden designers between 2000-18.
Among other show gardens:
Mark Gregory will design and build the Welcome to Yorkshire garden.
Chris Beardshaw will design the Morgan Stanley/NSPCC garden built by Structure Group.
Patrick Collins and Lawrie Chetwood have designed the Wuhan Water Garden, to be built by Willerby and sponsored by Creativersal. Wuhan is believed to be interested in licensing a Chinese Chelsea.
Jo Thompson has designed the Wedgwood garden, built by Bespoke Outdoor Space.
Hay Hwang has designed the LG Eco-City garden, built by Randle Siddley.
Nic Howard has designed the David Harber/Savills garden built by Langdale Landscapes.
The VTB Capital Garden Spirit of Cornwall is designed by Stuart Charles Towner and built by RDC Landscapes.
Tom Massey has a Lemon Tree Trust refugee garden built by Landscape Associates.
Jonathan Snow’s Trailfinders South African Wine garden will be built by Stewart Landscape Associates.
Among smaller gardens, Kate Gould will be going for her eighth gold medal with ‘The West End Secret Garden’, a modern interpretation of the gardens and architecture of London’s Hanover Square.
In the plant pavilion, D’Arcy & Everest celebrate 25 years of exhibiting at the show, while Hampshire Carnivorous Plants aims for its 20th gold in 20 years. Peter Beales Roses will mark its 50th anniversary with the launch of a new rose.
Hillier Nurseries will for the third year be working with Sarah Eberle with a walk through garden made up of smaller areas including take home inspiration. Eberle is also designing an Indian Cricket garden sponsored by the British Council for the Artisan section. Hillier is aiming for a 73rd consecutive gold and Eberle for a 16th RHS gold and 10th Chelsea gold.
Fernatix return to the Pavilion for the first time since 2007 alongside fellow fern nursery Kells Bay House and Gardens. Other new nurseries include Orchideengarten, Flowers from the Farm, Grafton Nursery, Ottershaw Cacti and Wack’s Wicked Plants.
Also announced are eight artisan gardens and eight ‘space to grow’ gardens, which replace the Fresh category.