A number of garden used floating surfaces- both Alan Gardener and Matthew Wilson had floating decks and Tatyana Shynkarenko's Thinking of Peace garden appeared to be floating on water. This is something which can be replicated at home and shows us again that changes in level, pre-existing or created, add interest to any garden or outside space.
One of my favourite gardens was Marcus Barnett's Mondrian inspired design, with its simple blocks of colour and texture. I also like the effect of the industrial tram lines in the Rich' brothers garden, these created a sense of movement and strong lines we could all copy even if we can't stretch to a moving summerhouse. The planting within the tramlines also shows that applying a little thought allows even trafficked areas to be green - something we should all emulate when turning gardens into driveways and parking spaces.
In contrast to gardens inspired by art and architectural movements, it was interesting to see those drawing on very personal stories and experiences from Charlie Albone's The Time Inbetween about the loss of his father to Kamelia Bin Zaal's Beauty of Islam. When designing gardens for clients, it is sometimes personal events or stories which can provide the inspiration - maybe certain plants remembered from childhood or a favourite place.
In terms of planting it was a pleasure to see greater variation both in terms of planting style and the plants themselves. Anthriscus sylvestris or Cow Parsley seems to have left centre stage having been almost compulsory at one time and although Lupins and Irises continue to prove popular with most designers, no single plant was dominating the show. There also seems to be a growing acceptance that naturalistic planting is aesthetically acceptable and worthy of display - although the Chelsea version of naturalistic is obviously staged and manicured . James Basson's Perfumers Garden aimed to show us all that imperfection and simplicity can be beautiful but then the attention to detail and design involved created a perfect interpretation of imperfection - maybe we should simply accept that as the Chelsea paradox. I'm not sure that this is something easily created and maintained at home, although I sometimes have 'perfect moments'' on my naturalistic allotment when the buttercups and strawberry flowers are beautifully intermingled, less-than-perfect moments are a more common experience : )
It's always interesting to see what themes emerge each year from the collective subconscious of Chelsea' designers. This year it was refreshing to see more variety across the main show gardens than we have had in the last year or so. Although there did seem to be a shared fondness for slate which was the dominant hard-landscaping material for several designers from Darren Hawkes 41,000 beautifully crafted slate pieces to the slabs and chippings used by Sean Murray, winner of the BBC Chelsea Challenge.
I wasn't able to go to Chelsea this year but when I have visited in the past, it is surprising how different gardens can appear in reality compared to viewing them on television. However I certainly didn't miss the crowds and if you haven't had chance to do Chelsea yet then its still available on iplayer. There are some excellent mini-tours of the main show gardens by Tony Buckland and Ann Marie Powell as part of the voting run-up to the People's Choice. I think I might just go and re-watch them now with a cup of tea...