Nicki Chapman and Toby Buckland turn their attention to the plants of Chelsea, in a programme packed with advice on how to choose the right plants for your particular garden.
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The show gardens here at Chelsea are always immaculate, packed with
plants at the peak of perfection. On the show this afternoon we're
bringing you tips on how to enjoy your own blemish-free garden with a
few simple steps to choosing the right plant for the right place.
Coming Up: back to basics - Andy Sturgeon looks at flowers that
flourish in different types of soil. If you happen to have a sandy soil
- because it's free training, it will -- draining, it will allow you
to grow some of these bowls. Toby picks out the Chelsea shurbs
picks that are perfect for acid soils. And climate change -
how to choose the right plants for your own garden conditions.
Good afternoon, and welcome to RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It's Wednesday,
and the event, supported by M&G Investments, has already brought
tears and cheers to the designers and exhibitors alike.
Yesterday it was all about medals. But in keeping with tradition,
Wednesday is the day we concentrate on the plants themselves, and
particularly this year, the right plants for your gardens. We all
like to replicate what we see here at Chelsea, but it doesn't always
work out that way when we do our plants a home. No, because you
can't copy a show garden because you might not have the right soil
type. You have to get that right. It's all about the ground type?
people always say to me, "I can't grow this."
"I can't grow that." - plants grow themselves if you have the right
soil to start with. What is ideal for your garden? Most gardens have
a type of loam which is a soil that's got some silt in it, some
sand in it, clay, a lot of worms and compost in it. It's a blend,
and nothing is in such a perfection it affects how it behaves. It's
just soft. That's what we aspire to? Yes, crumbly, perfect. What
about this? We're getting dirty today, aren't we? Definitely.
this how we can tell at home what our soil is like? I don't know what
my soil is like. Soil can vary from street to street. So parts of the
country it might vary, and you can get a chalky in one section and not
another? Actually, you can get chalky in the front of your garden
and not in the back. Clay you can get wet... It's really sticky.
the only soil you can mould into a sausage saip, and it will stay like
that. Hard work this your garden, back-breaking work. Very. It's very
unlikely you'd have a potter's clay, but a quarter of it is made of
these small clay particles, and you need to open them up and get some
compost to add. What's this one? This is a chalk. It doesn't look
like soil at all. No. You get it wet, and it's very slimy. Sometimes
you get stone in it or large pieces of Flint. That doesn't want to
break up. Some plants love it. Clematis are fantastic in it, very
free draining, sometimes slimy. It's very alkaline. Where would you
find soil like that? I had a garden in Cambridge that looked just like
that I used to grow lots of cut nowers on it, and they loved it.
Root crops are a no-no. What type of soil is this? Oh, it's bitty.
Sandy soil, so it's a loam with a high proportion of sand. That makes
it free draining. The other thing about sand is because it's free
draining, you tend to wash out all the lime that's in it, so it's good
for rhododendrums. A soil master class.
So when you know what soil you've got, the next step is to know which
plants suit it. So Andy Sturgeon's been to the Great Pavilion to
compile his Chelsea guide. Now, people always moan about clay
soil, but looking at some of these plants, I really wish I had it. One
of my favourites is this plant. It's also got wonderful foliage. At
this time of year in spring you can have carpets of it in a great clay
soil and also this plant. It likes things a little bit damp, so it's
the damper end of clay. The thing about these plants is they look
superb together. It's the combination. You can have all of
this froth, but you need something to anchor it. This plant will do
just that. A huge plant like this will put punctuation into the
planting. The leaves are this wonderful bronze when they come out
and fade to a green as they mature. If you happen to have a sandy soil
because it's free draining, it will allow you to grow some of these
great bowls because the winter wet won't cause them to rot. If you're
growing tulips, you know some will last forever, pop up year after
year, but others will slowly fade away, and you have to keep
replanting every two or three years. That's something I find with tulipa
ballerina, but it's got a great colour. As the tulips fade away,
the alliums pop up to take over the show, some of these wonderful
globes like Mt Everest here, the white one. They really are
spectacular. They'll really thank you for giving them a well-drained,
sandy soil. Now, I get on with chalky soil. To be honest, I do
find it a struggle at times. There are great plants you can grow. This
is one of them. What I love about this is it flowers for ages because
the flowers open at the bottom, and they die off. Then the one at the
top open. It goes on for ages and ages. There are more spikes that
come off at the sides. It also sows seeds, so you get seeds for free,
sometimes more than you want. There's purple version as well. It
looks fantastic alongside this huge plant, giant antic grey leaves with
yellow flowers. Then there is this. This is something really special.
It's good to have something special in your garden. This is a digitalis
from Spain. The thing about this is it really loves growing on a chalky
soil. That's bonus. How about this plant? I think it's pretty easy to
see why "ladybird" is in the name. You see it growing all over chalky
downland. It will sow seed, but only germinate if you disturb the
ground, then it will pop up all over the place, a wonderful thing.
It just goes to show, no matter what type of soil you've got, you
can always turn it into an asset. Whilst chalky soil is very alkaline
- or sweet as we gardeners say - there is another type, which is at
the opposite end of the scale. Ericaceous soil is much more acidic.
It builds up beneath disSiduous trees. On the ground they're broken
up by the bacteria in the soil. Because they perspire all the time,
what happens is, is they give off acidity. That makes the ground lose
any sweetness it has and makes it perfect for a very specific palette
of plants. There are easy ways to tell whether you have acidic soil.
If you live on the coast, look your neighbours' gardens. If they can
grow blue hydrangeas, your soil is acidic, if you live inland and see
rhododendrums or heather, your soil is acidic. If you're still not sure,
you can go down to the garden centre and get a soil tester kit.
Put in some soil, add water. Add the magic moisture. If it comes out
red, you have acidic soil, and you can plant wonderful plants like in
this garden. One of my favourites is this plant. It has lovely winter
leaves that look good all year long. If you think the rhododendrums are
a little bit on the gaudy side, what about this one? This is a
connoisseur's plant. The flowers - they're not as important as the
leaves. The leaves are covered in this quilt-like substance. It has
an insulating layer that stops the plant losing too much moisture and
keeps the flower buds protected from frost, just gives the garden a
whole glow. Finally, the other type of plants you must grow if you have
acidic soil are ones that like deep, rich ground, and Chris has got a
whole range of them here - hostas, ferns and others. Chris isn't the
only gardener that's used a woodland setting to inspire
gardeners in this Chelsea Flower Show.
James Alexander Sinclair has been This is the Bradstone Pan ash
Garden. The whole thing is about vitality, colour and excitement.
This is inspired by fluttering kites, and the colours change all
the way down. To make it more exciting, there is a wall that goes
all the way back down that way, then the colour from the sculpture
is picked up in the planting, so you have this vortex of planting
that whizes its way in, and we have geraniums and all sorts of things
rotating around a strong vertical - one birch tree that goes straight
up in the air. Around the edge of that there is yet another curve -
there is a curve of painting, then all the way around the edge is this
far more delicate band of woodland and shady plants that ends up round
about here. Now, woodland is really a posh name for shade. Pretty much
anyone who in their garden has a decent-sized shrub like this hazel
underneath it, under it you can grow things that don't like the sun
like this grass or fern or this plant. All of these things need to
This next garden continues the woodland theme. This is Petra,
Tranquility Set in Stone. I am standing here surrounded by very,
very wonderful multi-stemmed acer campestre. Usually you find it in
hedge rows. It's a field maple. What's special about this tree is
come the autumn time, all of these leaves turn the most wonderful
butter yellow, so we're emerging from the woodland into a woodland
glade - except that this woodland glade is not as you would expect -
close-cropped grass and grazing deer and bunny rabbits. This one is
emerging into a garden with all the necessary mod cons you may require,
for example, over here is a fully- funking plunge pool - not just any
old plunge pool. It is cleaned by this rather fantastic bog bed just
there. On the edge of the woodland is this wonderful undulating wild
flower meadow, then a wall, then set into the wall are very
comfortable-looking chairs which seem to be beckoning me forward to
sit down and enjoy the peace and We're spending the afternoon
looking at how to choose the right plant for your garden conditions.
We have looked at soil and habitat. But the other really important
thing to consider is the aspect, and this stand has some great
plants that'll thrive in full sun. These plants are really all about
the flower, and if they don't have plenty of sunshine, it just won't
happen, and the trick here is to make sure that the base is
absolutely baking in full sun. Do that, and they'll reward you with
Now, if you're not sure whether a plant likes sun or shade, there are
a few pointers, a few things to look for, like this plant, for
example. It's got a very silvery leaf. That's a great indicator it's
going to like full sun because it's probably from a Mediterranean
climate where it's very hot. The reason it's silver is because it
will reflect lots of light and keep the plant nice and cool and cut
down the water loss, so look out for that. Something else to look
for is the leaf size and shape. This lavendar has small narrow
leaves. That's also to cut down water loss. If you don't grow this
in full sun, it will get tall and leggy and ugly.
Make sure it's absolutely light. There are some plants that can take
plenty of sunshine as long as their feet are permanently wet. One of
those is this plant which loves the boggy soil. Look at those fantastic
little flowers. If you want a ground cover, you can't do better
than this plant. If you have a damp soil, this will carpet it
wonderfully, and this is a relative of a giant, with these superb, huge
leaves. Most gardens have at least some
shade, and the great thing about shade is it allows you to grow lots
of wonderful ferns. The superb shape is such a fantastic contrast
It's difficult to find flowering plants where there isn't much sun
life. For did dappled shade you can't get better than the this one.
The flower lasts for ages but the leaf's important too. You get a
carpet of foliage that smothers the ground. Hesperis, the sweet rocket
harks a wonderful evening scent. It self-seeds, and the white version
is fantastic, because as twilight arrives it gleans out from the
darkness -- gleams out from the darkness. It is good to know that
whatever challenges your garden givers you, you can always find the
perfect plant. There's a lot more to come on this
afternoon's Chelsea Flower Show. Coming up: against all odds - we
visit the show garden proving that flowers can grow in the most
impossible conditions. The perfect plant - RHS judge
Raymond Evison reveals the star qualities between the 2012 Chelsea
Plant of the Year. Today at Chelsea we're bringing you
expert tips on how to find the right plants for your garden. Well,
there is one family of plants that can adapt to almost any gardening
conditions and those are much-loved hardy geraniums. Here's Chris
Beardshaw with a guide to the best one for you.
Amongst the plants that at the Chelsea Flower Show there is one
that stands out as offering the greatest range of habitats in which
it thrives, and the greatest diversity of structure and colour
variation. It's the geraniums and here is one of them. This is our
British native displaying all the classic characteristics of the
family - five petals and protruding sexual parts at the centre of the
flower, a rather cut and divided leaf. The common name, crane's bill,
comes from the fact that the sexual parts of the flower, once the
petals have fallen, you reveal the carpals, distinctive like a bird's
beak. A geranium that demands the deep
shade of woodland is this one. The so-called morning widow. This is a
perfect example. Dark petals swept back, plentiful on the flowering
spike. It's got a common name of mourning widows because the pettals
resemble the hats worn by the widow. This is Samobor, with dark notling
on the foliage, which adds an extra dimension to your designs.
If you want a second crop of flowers, as soon as the first crop
has gone, cut it down to the ground to encourage fresh leaves and a
second bloom. If this is too dark for your shaded woodland area, try
the geranium phaeum. It's pure and beautiful.
This is geranium palm atum. Its home is madderia in the Canary
Islands, where it loves the sun- drenched free-draining soils. It is
later flowering and that's why at this time of the year you only see
the buds. But when they burst, they are Madgents ta in colour and
persist through to the frosts. One of the geraniums that rivals in
open sunshine is this. As the species name suggests, it is drived
from the foothills of the mountains, where it grows in the most vigorous
and opulent grassland. It is that that gives ate rather wonderful
habit that is of use to gardeners. If you allow it to drift through a
meadow, it prospers, but equally if you blend wit other herbaceous
perennials it is a great competitor, forming low mats and creating
flowers that pop up through the canopy of its neighbours. This
geranium also share as character resist wick all of those in the Jen
us understands is promiscuity. They cross readily. If you introduce two
species into your garden the poll than will be transferred and as a
consequence a new form of the plant could emerge, which means if you
elect those seedlings and grow them on, in future years you too could
have a Chelsea winner of your own. This afternoon we're looking at how
to create the perfect garden by choosing the right plants for your
particular circumstances. But Toby, is there ever an environment that
is impossible to plant? I've tried to think of one but I know from my
own experience my drive, which gets mossy and mud on it attracts the
weeds. Even on concrete plants will grow. This is a very, well, a
climbing garden, it is tranquil but it represents in demilitarised zone
in Korea. This is the first time I've been on this garden. Just
looking out you do feel calm and peaceful and then you are reminded
by this barbed wire, we have a watch tower behind us. When I first
saw the garden I thought it was nature reserve and then you see
this tragic humanity, the bullets, the soldiers' coat buttonness to
floor. It is very moving. The garden tells a story, that there
was a war in Korea, the Korean War 60 years ago, and since that time
there's been this no-man's-land colonised by nature. So in a way it
is reclaiming it is it? Yes, I think that's the message of the
garden - where there is conflict, nature ignores it. The stream runs
through the fence, and the plants don't care about man-made
distinctions about who owns what. Do plants adapt to different
environments? Obviously the soil here, if you have had a whole Army
going through, there couldn't have been a lot of goodness around at
that time. The plants improve the soil for other plants to grow.
That's the trick. If you have a difficult place to plant at home,
scatter a few seeds or have weeds growing in it, because it
conditions the soil. That's what's happening in this soil. Are these
all weeds? For example that orange plant, it is beautiful. Is that a
weed? That's a country cousin of GM. They can cope in rocky ground.
Ideal for bomb craters I guess. these here? Crane's bills, they
have shallow roots. It does have a feeling of peace, of tranquillity.
And claiming nature is what's rightfully hers. There is even a
pair of nesting blackbirds. shows it doesn't take long. Such an
impactful garden. In the quest to find the perfect
plant for gardeners up and down the country, every year the Royal
Horticultural Society award one new plant at Chelsea the enviable title
of Plant of the Year. Here's Toby with some of the worthy contenders.
This year there've been some sensational new plants for indoors
and out. Starting with this. Dianthus memories is a new take on
an old garden favourite. It has upright flowers in profusion and
they are exquisitely scented. Digitalis silver cub is a special
fox glove. If you sow it in February it flowers earlier.
These pet uenias are a break listen through in breeding. They can cope
with the cold, minus 5. For the first time there are Petunias for
late spring bedding. Royal Navy is deep blue and sweetly scented in
spring. If you like your flowers compact and full, this is one for
you. The thing about cape daisies is
they flower for a long time. This in the pink is no exception. What
makes it special is its leaves. Heuchera is a chameleon of a plant.
Its Las Vegass turn plum and purple. There's a new house plant on the
block. What makes it special are these fabulous leaves, shaped like
a dragon's tongue. All are good enough to scoop the
top honours but which plant beat all of these?
Raymond the worthy winner for 2012 is... It is this fantastic Foxglove
Digitalis Illumination Pink. Isn't it a fantastic plant? Beautiful. It
has the wow factor straight way. straight away. Absolutely. The
judges selected this because of its outstanding uniqueness. Is going to
be a worldwide sales hit. It is going to be with us for a very long
time. Foxgloves are so popular in our gardens. Why is it our winner?
Why it's different, all the foxgloves we currently grow are
biennial, they grow one year, they flower the next year and they die.
This is a perennial plant, so it will go on for a long time. It is
ideal for growing in a pop. Hate so many atry buects ideal for a small
or large garden. So I could have this in my garden for four or five
years? Longer than that I'm sure. How long will it continue flowering
for each year? I have not grown it yet but I'm told it is going to
flower for a lot of the summer. If you look at the detail of this, it
is fantastic. I need to put my glass on but the detail is
fantastic. Foxgloves are known to spread throughout the garden.
is sterile so it means that it won't put seedlings all over the
garden. You plant this one and it stays and doesn't spread. It is
controllable. It is the ultimate accolade to be Plant of the Year
2012. How long do the breeders work on a plant in development? This
plant was in the planning and thought to be impossible but it has
been possible by some very clever breeding work. This would have been
thought of four or five years ago, probably more. It is such a
prestigious award. Can we get it in the shops now? You can buy it
online. It is not in garden centres yet but look out for this lovely
winner of Chelsea Plant of the Year 2012. So if we good to the RHS
website and follow the link it will give the details? Yes. Thank you.
A worthy winner. Time for one e-mail. Kelly Bennett
has said yesterday James visited a Japanese garden in the artisan
section. It won gold. It is beautiful. It can have on it what
can only be described as moss pebbles. Can you tell me what they
are and where they can be obtained from? They are pin cush moss. They
are a fabulous moss. Designers like them because they are the first to
tell when the soil is drying out. The tips start to go white. It is
like a cannery down a mine. Where to buy, it is one of those plants
you will have to hunt out on the internet to find a specialist
supplier. There are you are Kelly. That's your answer.
Well, that's all we have time for this lunchtime, but Alan is back on
BBC One at 7.30pm, when he'll be looking at the exhibitors who are
advocating a Mediterranean style of gardening.
Nicki Chapman and Toby Buckland turn their attention to the plants of Chelsea, in a programme packed with advice on how to choose the right plants for your particular garden. There is a master class on how to identify the type of soil in your garden, and a look at the plants that can withstand the most hostile of conditions. Toby also finds out which flower has been voted RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year.