The magic of the Mediterranean is this edition's subject. Designer Tom Hoblyn shows Alan Titchmarsh his Italian renaissance garden, and there's a trip into the Great Pavilion.
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Yesterday we celebrated a medley of medals at the Royal Horticultural
Society Chelsea Flower Show supported by M&G Investments. Now
we are looking at the plants that love to bask in the heat of the day.
Coming up: Italian-inspired designer Tom Hoblyn shows us round
his Renaissance garden. Rachel De Thame in search of the
Great Pavilion plants that conjure memories of our European holidays..
If you have small children and you have these, I would wait a few
years. And in praise of pelargoniums, Christine Walkden
searches out the perfect patio plant. Easy to grow plants that
will flower all summer. Good evening from the grounds of
the Royal Hospital in London. Tonight we are delving deep to seek
out Chelsea's true attraction, the plants. It is remarkable, many of
the designs weren't able to use the plants that would be their first
choice, the stalwarts, the iris, the peonies and poppies. These
didn't come into flower, so the designers had to look outside their
comfort zone and the show is better for it. How did it trouble you on
your Furzey garden? By the time February came and the heat kicked
in, we thought everything would be blowing, just gone, and then the
leaden skies cooled everything down and the season's been perfect for
me. A nightmare for everyone else but refer for rhododendrons.
lucky choice. We always have Chelsea Plant of the Year. There
are thousands of new plants, one plant, a perennial foxglove called
digitalis illumination pink. Perennial foxgloves are useful in
the garden and a good stalwart of Chelsea too. To use them amongst
trees and ferns, they don't mind sitting in the sunshine. It's a go
anywhere do anything plant, and the fact that it's a perennial and such
a vivid colour means it is going to be a win erring. Perennials are big.
Where once it used to be rhododendrons and hostas, some said
it is not the royal horticultural society, but you do feel a gear
change, perhaps back to drifts again? Maybe drifts but with
structure. The danger is we are playing with soft mixes, if we had
a bit of shrub structure we would get a different look. There's a
distinct Mediterranean feel, with a plethora of plants more reminiscent
of the south Italian coastline than windswept Britain. Tom Hoblyn has
decided to have a garden inspired by the Villa d'Este in Tivoli. We
caught up with him in the Royal Hospital grounds a couple of weeks
ago to find out what prompted that The forecast was awful today. It
was supposed to be loads of rain, but it hasn't been too bad. We are
still on schedule. I got the inspiration for the garden from one
of my most favourite places in the whole world, and that is Villa
d'Este, near Rome. I've been going there for about 12
years and for me it's one of the most exciting places that I have
ever been to, because you've got the sort of decadence and
flamboyance of a garden, fantastic water features. This whole idea of
Renaissance at its very, very best. It was built at a time when the
creators felt that they had perfected the symmetry, the
proportion. They had mastered nature in the form of a garden. I
borrowed the golden section rule, which is a way of dividing up a
garden into proportions, based on the sum of the whole but these
proportions are pleasing and harmonious and relate to each other,
so you get a great sort of feeling of calm when you walk through the
garden. When Villa d'Este was originally planted, obviously all
the cypresses were in perfect lines, the Cork oaks were perfect. But if
you go back now, everything is relaxed and saging a bit and very
old. It has taken on a new beauty. So by using my fantastic cork oak,
that is my sort of nod to what's going on at Villa d'Este today.
It's relaxed with age and sort of I'm completely not into this whole
symmetry idea. I'm just going to grow my own way. The higher
Renaissance period was all about man's dire to control nature. And
how they portray it at Villa d'Este is letting water into the garden in
its raw wild form and slowly tame it by making it go through a series
of town tains. That's exactly what I'm doing here. -- fountains.
That's exactly what I'm doing here. The water comes down in tiers and
goes through a series of fountains that are taming my water to arrive
at my destination pool well and truly controlled. It is absolutely
perfectly calm. I'm using a black base at -- basalt stone. It is a
mirror to show off my cypresses. On one plane you've this calm and harm
ny and simetsry, and on another plane you have the Italian cypresss
to say we're in charge, thank you very much. I've had this desire to
use Villa d'Este as a source of inspiration for such a long time
now. When I was given the go-ahead to do a garden at Chelsea, I've had
this really delightful year going to visit it again, reading about it,
learning all about it, borrowing all their rules. It has been a
really enjoyable process to finally get it down into a 22-metre garden.
Tom, what's this fascination with the Villa d'Este? Well, you might
think it is all about design and things, but I went there on my
honeymoon and I was madly in love. I still am madly in love, and with
the garden as well. You got that second bit in quickly. You've
brought it here with much keener lines. There is much less rococo
businessiness. I wanted to borrow some of their rules and apply them
in a modern setting. I wanted to strip away the decadence and make a
clean garden. The stepping stones are great. I've never walked on
water before. It is not as deep as you think. That worried you then.
It worried me! I used Italian basalt. I wanted it to be a giant
reflective pool for my huge Italian cypresses. They thought that man
could control nature, and nature is actually controlling man. You have
these Dom innocent cypresses and they are reflecting on the water,
You are in the garden Love this seat at the back with the water
jets. They are absolutely even and over the top they are sideways. The
proportions here are wonderful with with the two edges at the back, the
yew at the top, then the fountains sideways and then the box. A
wonderful line going on here. It was a pleasure to design. We
borrowed the mathematical rules and applied it everywhere, even with
the jointing and the positions of the fountains. You've got this
tremendous harmonious proportion and a feeling of comfort in the
garden. It is a comforting garden to go in. And then you have the
contrast of a cork oak. Everybody has been trying to bring one to
Chelsea. Andy Sturgeon tried and the trial didn't do well. But this
is has made it. It is what we get our wine bottle corks from. I knew
there was a challenge. I phoned Andy from Italy and said I'm
thinking of using a cork oak, what do you think? He said, "Don't do
it." I worked out how we could do it. Don't stress your oak. Make
sure it travelled in absolute comfort all the way. So the oak
tree turns left when it gets on to the plane. If you want to find out
more about the rule of the golden section, Thomas has provided with
us a masterclass on our red ret. -- on our Red Button. If you want to
use an alternative, you could use a juniper skyrocket. They are
difficult to grow unless you give them good drainage. Several ideas
for you there. When we talk about the gardens of the Italian
Renaissance we John injure you have an image of vast landscapes like
Villa d'Este. But can you do this on a much smaller scale? Chris has
found a garden in a shows yes, you can.
The good news for gardeners is no matter what size your garden, the
grandiose Italianate principles can be condensed into the smallest of
spaces. The APCO Garden is proof of that. Look at the geometry. A
series of formal lines. There is no room for whimsical meandering here.
Each play as part as a solid jigsaw creating a bold structure. At the
heart of which is a central axis, a line which slices through the
design, at the end of which is a focal point, something to draw you
into the scheme. In this case a water feature. It is absolutely key.
But water is also used with reflections. An essential part of
the Renaissance principle that these wonderful mirror-like pools
link Heaven and Earth. That's that creates a real air of calm, cool,
Despite its size, this garden mansion to feel much larger than it
actually is. That's largely because there's a repeat of an Italian
principle. That central axe sis dissected on the perpendicular.
That's which encourages the eye to penetrate deep into both of those
boundaries, creating that wonderful sense of space, so often we see the
detail of small gardens right in the heart. It is that that reduces
the size. Here it's the opposite, and it works perfectly.
The elevation of these confers equally adds to that sense of space.
And a wonderful horticultural game being played here. Instead of the
Italian cypress, which are fickle beasts in the British climate, this
thuja is pruned to look identical. But it is also then used in a more
informal way, true to the Renaissance style, here as a screen
mirroring the walls on either side. I think the most successful thing
about this garden is the sense of elevation. In the Renaissance
period they said everything you see is mine. It was a very empowering
process. This raised steps and then quiet seating area certainly
achieves that wonderful principle. This garden demonstrates perfectly
that no matter in which century the design prison approximatelys
evolved, they are still every bit as relevant in a contemporary
design. -- design principles.
It is more than the romance of the Renaissance wowing visitors to
Chelsea Flower Show. In the Great Pavilion, memories of the
Mediterranean abound, with a wonderful array of drought-tolerant
planting schemes, as Rachel De Thame has been discovering.
With the weather finally taking a turn for the better it is wonderful
to see so many Mediterranean-style plants in the Great Pavilion. And
many of us also face hosepipe ban this is summer, so these just could
be the plants to go for. So what is it about these plants,
what characteristics do they have that makes them drought tolerant?
Various things. Silvery-flu leaves to re flect the life. Thick, waxy
leaves to hold the moisture in. What should we be doing at home?
Can everybody grow them or might you need to adapt your soil to help
these plants grow in a heavy soil? You can grow them all over the
place. If you are in a wetter area, you have to make sure the drainage
is good, so if you get the heavy rain it doesn't stay on the plant,
and drains away. Can you pick out a couple of favourites? The olive.
Silvery blue leaves, fruit in a good season. Bay trees. They are
not normally associated with the Mediterranean. They cope well with
The great thing about Mediterranean plants is that they come in all
shapes and sizes ranging from large olive trees right down to smaller
plants, many of which we take for granted as culinary heshes. But
they're beautiful plants. They merit space in the garden. We have
merit space in the garden. We have oregano here. This is compact, neat
growing. You just harvest the leaves from the top. If you want
something different, this is the gold tipped version. You have that
brightness just on the edge of the leaves. I'm a particular fan of
thyme. We have a variety here, again just bog standard, common
thyme. But it's lovely and so aromatic. We have the silver posey
there, which has that brighter vairgaigs. One of the our
favourites is lavender, not only for its fragrance, but the sheer
beauty of its flowers and foliage. This is French lavender with tufts
on top of each flower and slender leaves. Some plants that you would
group together with Mediterranean plants actually hail from other
countries, like this agarve from America. They're brilliant. They
give you a strong architect ral shape. If you have small children
and you like these, I would wait a few years, because these sharp
spines with just at eye level. Perhaps better to go for
sempervibum. Those thick leaves are almost like a water storage unit.
That makes them so perfectly adapted to drought. I think whether
you favour an olive or agarve with these Mediterranean-style plants
there is something for everyone. At Chelsea we've celebrated the
plants and gardens of the Mediterranean. Now it's time to
visit within of its islands, Corsica. It's famed for its Maquis,
an area scented scrub land that stretchs from the sea into the
mountains. Designer Peter Dowle has captured its essence in the
L'Occitane Garden this year by taking us from the sea down here
with the rocks and the thrists, right up through that scrub land,
loads of curry plant here, smelling beautifully. Peter, congratulations
on your gold. Corsica is unique in its fragrance and aroma. It's
wonderful. It's what they term the Maquis. It's the immortel which
runs from sea level up to 400 metres. Lovely blend of aromatic
plants. Which is why L' Occitane have chosen it. They do. The use it
in one of their skin creams. It's the best country in the word. By
bringing a spotlight onto Corsica it's an opportunity to show Chelsea
the Corsican landscape in a unique way. It's been really fun. We've
got six or seven plants that have never been seen at Chelsea, that
have been prop gaited in course ka. We've had them grown on in Spain.
Which are they. We have the which is richly scented. We have
special type of santolina. The hellobores of course. I went to
Corsica and at the side of the road there they were. I thought good
Lord, yes, of course you're on Corsica. That lovely story we were
reflecting yesterday that polian -- Napoleon born on Corsica, he said
he could smell it before he saw it. You get the sweet smell. It's
wonderful. Many congratulations on the gold. It's wonderful. The
embossed with the Diamond Jubilee is so special. It is. And the gold
card with that on it, special year, special garden. Thanks very much.
One plant which is redolent of all parts of the Mediterranean is the
bougainvillea. Sometimes tricky to grow in this country and not hardy.
Andy Sturgeon has all the tips. Now these glamorous plants are
actually from Brazil. They make superb house plants. They're not
hardy. You can't keep them outside in the winter, though you can pot
them out for a holiday in the summerment -- summer. They're easy
to keep going. Unlike a lot of indoor plants, they don't like a
sunny window sill because they get scorched, but bougainvillea thrive
on that. And when the central heating comes on, they love that
extra warmth. In terms of waterering, it's simple, about once
a week, give them a good soak. Then let them dry out a bit between
watering. If you're lazy and forgetful like me, it's ideal. For
feeding, well you need to start off in about February, give them a good
nitrogen feed. Then move on to potash. That will really make them
colour up. What looks like a flower is actually a bract, it's a MoD
fight leaf. The flowers are tiny and inside here. For prooning, --
pruning, as these flowers and bracts start to fade, snip them off.
Keep it compact and have it flowering almost all year. Very
simple. If you want to pot them outside, can you keep them in
hanging baskets like this. Hang them up outside, bring them in when
the weather gets cold and they'll reward you very well. If you
haven't got much space, why not try a bonsai. Can you buy a plant like
this just as a very small plant, quite simply, then put it into a
little pot, keep it trimmed like this and you end up with the
perfect bond eye. It makes me really want to go on holiday.
We can't talk about popular Mediterranean plants without
looking at the ones that grace our patio pots, I'm talking about
pelargoniums. They always put in an appearance at Chelsea. Christine
Walkden has been to see what's on offer this year.
Pelargoniums, almost parts of the British psyche. We see them
festooned over the Mediterranean. But they're from South Africa, yet
most people only grow one or two. There are hundreds of them!
Pelargoniums, what are they? The true pelargonium is a tender
perennial that will be wiped out by the first frost. We have several
groups, the regals, scented, the very beautiful, Ivy-leafed
geraniums, making fantastic plants for general use, cascading over
walls, beautiful. They're easy to grow plants that will flower all
summer. Tornado, one of the regal pelargoniums, the royalty of
pelargoniums, considered as big, beautiful conservatory plants,
excellent as a house plant. Of course, beautiful in a container on
the patio. The scented pelargoniums grown for
their aromatic leaves rather than their flowers, things like lady
Muslimth, we've got lemon scented ones, but plant them where you
brush by them to release at Roma. Otherwise they sit there looking
pretty, but don't whiff. The Ivy-leaved per algone yums, so-
called because the leaves look like Ivy. Cascading over hanging baskets,
but like all pelargoniums keep them dead headed and fed with high
potash. That way you'll keep them in flower for ages.
For those of you who don't want the contemporary and the traditional,
go for the razzmatazz of the pelargonium, the stelata group,
modern, vigorous and very spiky. For those that wnt subtle ti and
calm and the plants that -- that want subtle ti and calm, and the
ones that set my heart on fire, are the true species pelargoniums.
Here you are, you've got double the heart rate now. Your pelargoniums
are mixed with fuchsias two, great garden stall warts. Don't they look
so good together. Easy to grow plants, favourites by the general
public and why not, because that festival of colour is absolutely
magical. They both flower their socks off right the way through the
year. You couldn't wish for an easier plant. I love the ones where
you get two for the price of one, like Vancouver with the scarlet
flowers and the leaves which are finely cut and have the crimson
pattern in the middle. And blend so well with the foliage, with the
colour and leaf that you can play against, yes. Where do you think
people go wrong with them? I think overwatering. People forget these
plants, we see them in the Med, but it's hotter. Africa, they're
African hotties. Keep them on the dry side. If in doubt, let them dry
out, then soak them. Yes, feed them, dead head them, don't overwater
them. Earliest memories of them? earliest memory is as a show
secretary at 13. You were an early developer! The horticultural
society used to give every child a pelargonium. We had to bring them
back in June and we had these vast show. I was the secretary. They
used to put all the classes, the five to sevens, we all had it. Paul
Crample was the one we had. The big scarlet one. Absolutely, that
standard plant. When I went to work in parks at 15, we used to take
15,000 cuttings of them every year. Names like Paul Cample, Caroline
Schmit. I remember the names now. I used to have a black groove down
the middle of my thumb from taking the cuttings. Every year it was
between July and September. And a hole in the pauk where the trowel
and been bedding them our out for weeks. We still love them. And why
not. Christine is doing tours on the red button, Christine will tour
you all over Chelsea. We are now going to the Mediterranean, even
though it's getting warmer here. We're going to give our floral
tribute to that lovely sunny part of the world.
that I know # Where lovers enjoy peace of mind
# Let us leave the confusion and all this illusion behind
# Just like birds of a feather, a rainbow together we'll find
# Volare, oohh # Y cantare, ooohhhh
# No wonder my happy heart sings # Your love has given me wings #
You've been paying very close attention to your screens all week
and writing in with questions. I have one from Jill who is a self-
confessed salvia enthusiast. She wants to know who wha is the salvia
on Tom Hoblyn's garden? It's Madeleine.
Madeleine. The geranium is Bill Wallis.
Time to say goodbye to the magical Mediterranean here on BBC One.
Chelsea's about to go wild in a one-our programme on BBC Two.
The magic of the Mediterranean is the subject of this edition of Chelsea Flower Show coverage. Designer Tom Hoblyn shows Alan Titchmarsh around his Italian renaissance garden, and we take a trip into the Great Pavilion for a spot of flower gazing with the accent on the plants that thrive in Southern Italy and the surrounding islands.