What We Can Learn From British Flower Garden Design

Chelsea Flower Show 2006, The Telegraph Garden
Summer Border With Nepeta, Allium, and Geum Flowers. Photo: Ellen Rooney/Getty Images
  • 01 of 14

    From London to Your Garden

    Chelsea Garden Path designed by Tom Stuart Smith
    Photo: Ron Sutherland/Getty Images

    Not everyone is lucky enough to travel to the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show, held for one week in May at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. However, by studying the floral combinations and garden designs prepared by horticulturists and landscape experts in these photos, we can apply the winning ideas of the show to our own flowerbeds.

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  • 02 of 14

    Alliums by the Dozen

    Allium Flowers
    Allium Flowers: Snow ball, Beau Regard; Chelsea Flower Show. Photo: Claire Takacs/Getty Images

    Bulbs of large allium varieties like ‘Gladiator,’ the newly introduced ‘Pinball Wizard,’ and ‘Ambassador’ are expensive, sometimes running as high as seven or eight dollars per bulb. However, if you don’t plant these bulbs en masse, you run the risk of creating a display that looks more like a few lonely lollipops than the festive gathering of orbs seen in this Chelsea photo. Invest in at least a dozen allium bulbs for your planting, and hide the withering foliage with the foliage of other spring perennials.

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  • 03 of 14

    Anything Goes in the Flower Garden

    Mini planted with flowers by Birmingham City Council
    Photo: Karen Roe/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    A flowering car like this one sponsored by the Birmingham City Council would be difficult for the average homeowner to replicate and maintain, but fanciful flower containers are achievable in sizes great and small if you consider planting a fairy garden or a flowering boat.

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  • 04 of 14

    Festival of Foliage

    Heuchera Display
    Photo: La Citta Vita/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    This palette of coral bells demonstrates the power of foliage in bringing interest to the garden when flowers are out of bloom. And, as if there weren’t enough variety in the coral bells genus, gardeners can also explore the similar tiarella (foam flower), or the lovely equation that results from crossing coral bells with tiarella: the heucherella (foamy bells).

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  • 05 of 14

    Beyond the Garden Gnome

    Chelsea Garden Show Sculpture
    Photo: Claire Takacs/Getty Images

    There comes a time in every flower gardener’s life when she must move past the resin garden turtles and toadstools in the big box store, and invest in a piece of art for the landscape. Will you choose concrete, bronze, or something else? What will the artwork say about you and your gardening philosophy?

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  • 06 of 14

    Tropical Retreat

    Bromeliad Display
    Photo: Annette Lepple/Getty Images

    If you’ve been bitten by the tropical flower bug, learn what exotic flowers will adapt to your climate. Flowering plants like these bromeliads require little care in a sheltered spot, and are easy to overwinter in a sunny window. 

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  • 07 of 14

    Roses, an Enduring Favorite

    Peter Beales Roses
    Photo: Claire Takacs/Getty Images

    Dedicated rosarians may be familiar with the breeder Peter Beales, who grows and sells more than 1200 varieties of roses at their Norfolk garden and breeding center. Peter Beales introduced three new rose varieties just for the 2012 Chelsea Flower Show, including a Queen’s Jubliee rose featuring creamy white, fully double blossoms. Whether you seek new introductions or prefer heirloom favorites, incorporate your roses into the rest of your flower garden rather than isolating them in their own bed for a natural looking landscape.

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  • 08 of 14

    Unusual Annuals

    Photo: Karen Roe/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Visiting flower shows like the Chelsea introduces gardeners to new or unusual plants that are seldom seen in local nurseries. Flower gardeners who aren’t satisfied with the usual marigolds and zinnias any longer may plant the gloriosa lily, also known as the flame lily or climbing lily. This well-mannered vine tops out at four to six feet, and thrives in the container garden in a sunny spot. Plant the tubers after all danger of frost has past, and store the tubers in a frost-free shed or garage at the end of the growing season.

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  • 09 of 14

    South African Flair

    Photo: La Citta Vita/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    You might see agapanthus and tulbaghia flowers like these, African natives of the Alliaceae and Amaryllidaceae families, growing in warm coastal areas, but the bulbs are too tender to overwinter in growing zones 7 or colder. Gardeners can choose between deciduous and evergreen agapanthus plants, but the deciduous varieties, like ‘Midnight Cascade’ or ‘Headbourne Hybrids,’ display greater cold hardiness. The flowers bloom over a six week period in midsummer.

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  • 10 of 14

    Spring Container Gardens

    Annual and Perennial Container Garden
    Photo: Claire Takacs/Getty Images

    Some flower gardeners limit their container gardening to annual and tropical flowers, but perennial flowers and bulbs also make fine potted specimens for the deck and patio. Not all perennials can survive the winter in containers, but you can use containers to hold perennial divisions for one growing season while the plants mature, and then install them in their permanent home in the fall. Perennials in containers also make sense when pairing plants that thrive in different soil types: an acid-loving plant could go in the ground, and its alkaline-loving companions can grow alongside in pots.

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  • 11 of 14

    Rock Garden Favorites

    Lupine Flowers
    Photo: Clive Nichols/Getty Images

    Not all gardeners are blessed by the abundant rain that nourishes British flowers, but lupines thrive in the dry rocky soil present in some North American climates. The nitrogen-fixing flowers also appreciate cool nights and regular irrigation.

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    Cactus Companions

    Photo: Karen Roe/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The protea plants on display in this South African exhibit may be outside the growing comfort zone of some flower gardeners, but the plants are forgiving tropicals for those new to growing exotic flowers. The essential growing requirements for proteas are full sun, sharply draining soil (as you would provide a cactus), and protection from frost.

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  • 13 of 14

    A Traditional Cottage Garden

    Cottage Garden Flowers
    Yarrow (Achillea moonbeam), Anchusa loddon roualist and Miscanthus sinensis Variegtus. Photo: Kate Gadsby/Getty Images

    One reason the cottage garden remains so popular as a design form is that its free form is forgiving of a few weeds and unexpected self-sowing flowers. Not all cottage gardens will resemble the classic English cottage garden: in dry areas, gomphrena and bachelor’s buttons may replace sweet peas and primroses.

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  • 14 of 14

    Pampered Blooms

    Delphinums and Tuberous Begonias
    Photo: Claire Takacs/Getty Images

    These annual tuberous begonias and perennial delphiniums have one thing in common: they both require a bit of fussing over in the flower garden. Isn’t this knockout color combination worth it?