Highlights of the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2019

RHS floral logo with Chatsworth House in the background

RHS green floral letters

The grounds of Chatsworth House make a wonderful setting for the youngest of the major UK flower shows. I hope you’ll find something of interest in my personal picks from the show.

1. Seasonal Cut Flowers

Freddie’s Flowers had packed a breathtaking array of seasonal cut flowers in shades of lavender, cream and pink in the back of a truck to advertise their bouquet by post service.

An installation of British cut flowers was themed around the floral notes in perfumery: earthy, mossy base elements; floral heart notes of roses, larkspurs, sweet peas and peonies; then fresh top notes literally hanging above the visitors. A fairy encouraged me to enter and make a wish.

2. The Gardens

A mandala made from succulents of different colours

Succulents on The Mandala Mindfulness Garden

I enjoyed the mindfulness gardens and am pleased that the Elements of Sheffield Garden won a People’s Choice Award, having met the designer and admired the planting.

3. Variegated Leaves

Variegated Sedum 'Atlantis' with yellow flowers

The RHS Plant of the Year 2019: Sedum ‘Atlantis’

The RHS Plant of the Year 2019, variegated succulent Sedum takesimense ‘Atlantis’, was on show in the Bee marquee. Found on the volcanic Korean island of Ulleungdo, it’s a hardy, low-maintenance form and, with an eye to the future, drought-tolerant.

In the Floral Marquee was a variegated Japanese Zelkova serrata tree, a slower growing form; variegated dogwoods; acers; and small-leaved hostas for plant collectors with limited space.

Cornus kousa 'Tri Splendor' (variegated dogwood)

Variegated dogwood: Cornus kousa ‘Tri Splendor’

Variegated ferns included Athyrium niponicum pictum ‘Burgundy Lace’ (the painted fern) shown below with Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’ (the wonderfully named tatting fern). Clivia ‘Akebono’ is unusual in that it has broad, creamy, transverse banding across the leaves, unlike the more commonly grown Clivia miniata ‘Variegata’ where the stripes go down the leaves.

4. Flowers, New Varieties And Classics

Classic garden plants such as dahlias, lupins, astrantias, irises, primulas, geraniums and foxgloves were all out in force. I saw many people carrying home Lychnis flos-cuculi ‘Jenny’ from the show: something about this double pink form of the wildflower had clearly hit the spot. Here are some of the flowers that caught my eye:

Lychnis flos-cuculi 'Jenny' with foxglove, achillea and lupin

Double flowered Lychnis flos-cuculi ‘Jenny’

Fan shaped display of gladioli flowers

Fan shaped display of gladioli flowers

Hydrangea 'Roco Black Knight'

Hydrangea ‘Roco Black Knight’ with brown heuchera

Streptocarpus 'Katie' in full flower

Streptocarpus ‘Katie’ with ferns and variegated begonia on the Dibleys Nurseries stand

Pale pink Delphinium 'Darling Sue'

Delphinium ‘Darling Sue’ has palest pink flowers and a contrasting black bee

Digitalis 'William Pink'

Digitalis ‘William Pink’ with Salvia ‘Pink Lips’

Geranium x magnificum 'Blue Blood'

Geranium x magnificum ‘Blue Blood’ has dark purple-blue flowers with black veins

5. Well Dressings

Well dressing: girl in a pinafore watering flowers in a walled garden

Etwall well dressing ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary’

The Peak District has a long history of dressing wells and the sources of springs with flowers in summer as a traditional way for communities to give thanks for fresh flowing water. Four large panels were on display at the show, their designs created by volunteers who layer petals above a framework of seeds, leaves, bark, stone chips and shells. I’m always amazed by the artistry, planning and painstakingly care that go into every square inch.

Table set for afternoon tea made from flower petals and seeds

Holymoorside well dressing ‘An Afternoon Tea in the Garden’ made from petals, seeds and leaves

6. Long Borders

There were almost twice as many long borders this year as last, including the gold medal winning Bess of Hardwick Long Border by Victoria Philpott, inspired by Hardwick Hall’s herb garden (a detail is below, right). I like the way you can get up close to these raised borders, with full access on all four sides to see the plants.

7. Features Celebrating And Supporting Nature

RHS Garden for Wildlife at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

RHS Garden for Wildlife with the Power of Trees area in the background

This year’s Chatsworth Flower Show emphasised the idea of a garden as a nature reserve. The RHS Garden For Wildlife included plants, creature-friendly ponds, bird tables and insect hotels to encourage back wildlife that used to be common in British gardens, such as hedgehogs, house sparrows and starlings.

While the blue insect hotel design was elegant and I loved the heart shaped bug log, I was fascinated by the simple idea of coiling up offcuts left over after the turf has been laid and setting them aside in a ferny corner for creatures to make their homes in. A succulent had been tucked in the top of one coil to reassure us that the offcuts had been left for a purpose.

Insect hotel with primula vialii at RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

Insect hotel with primula vialii on the RHS Garden For Wildlife

An area of the show ground was set aside to encourage families to celebrate the Power of Trees together, with stumperies, wishing trees, a virtual tree top canopy, a lecture theatre and wickerwork sculptures. Tree specimens were dotted around in huge pots. Alex Metcalf was encouraging visitors to put on one of several sets of headphones hanging from a tree so we could do some tree listening. I had a go, and was surprised to learn that, with amplification, we could hear not just the branches rumbling in the wind, but also the regular, deep pop of sap rising. Very weird.

Joe Swift ties a wish to a wicker tree

Joe Swift in The Power of Trees garden

8. Sheds And Greenhouses

Gabriel Ash timber framed greenhouse with flowers

Gabriel Ash greenhouse

Many of us dream of one of these greenhouses mysteriously appearing in our (magically extended) gardens. Those with the means to invest in the best will find plenty of inspiration at the show. Shepherd’s huts on display put into perspective any ideas I might have of enjoying a holiday in one. They are, shall we say, snug? Perhaps we’d be better off in a greenhouse.

9. Children’s Gardens

Recycled tin can plant pots with smiling faces painted on

Painted plant pots for herbs on the Mayflower Primary School’s recycled garden

My pick of the show? The Mayflower Primary School’s Love Gardening – It All Makes Sense. This tiny but vibrant recycled garden included decorated pebbles and flower pots, quirky insects, a lady scarecrow, herbs, a water feature and a sound bar with shakers made from recycled plastic to bring our five senses alive.

Pebbles painted with the words relax, growing, healthy

Painted pebbles celebrate different aspects of gardening

Linger a while and you’ll find this school garden is packed full of the smiles every RHS show garden should bring to our faces.

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show is open until Sunday 9th June, so if you’re in the area, there’s still time to visit. Check out the website for details. During the final hour of the show, many exhibitors sell their display plants for knock down prices: street photographers and people-watchers will have a whale of a time seeing people hauling their treasures home.

54 thoughts on “Highlights of the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2019

  1. Oddment says:

    What amazements and wonders! There is so much in your post that I cannot grasp what the real show must be like. First off, I found the hydrangea completely confusing. I kept going back to it and trying to comprehend that color on that flower. The well dressing “Afternoon Tea” was almost as confounding but because of its intricacies and its charming effect. But the photo that totally blew me away was the one of the variegated dogwood. That is so beautiful — “splendor” is the exact right word. What a show this must be!

    • susurrus says:

      I’ve missed out much more than I included, having an eye to the length of this post. There are so many novelties on display, the hydrangea being one. I liked the green touches on the petals and the way it defies comparison. Novelties should all have that quality.

      I didn’t include all the well dressings either, though it was tempting. There was a campfire, complete with smoke and orange sparks, a bird in a flowering tree and a picnic in a vegetable garden. One of them had acquired a couple of large snails, which were no doubt wondering what kind of plant they had happened upon.

  2. Shelly Battista says:

    Wonderful! I especially love the Wishing Fairy. Please tell her I wish to have the gothy goth hydrangea in my Mississippi garden. 🖤

  3. margaret21 says:

    The Power of Trees seems particularly fascinating, but there’s much here to enjoy. I really must get this show in the diary for next year, as it’s really not feasible to go today, the last day.

  4. crabandfish says:

    The dogwood and hydrangeas are simply astounding – as are all of your magnificent photos. What a marvelous Show – thank you for sharing. We are in mid-winter here and this has come as a colourful reprieve. Cheers.

    • susurrus says:

      I’m glad the show was able to bring you a flavour of summer. It was even more remarkable what the exhibitors achieved as the weather for the final set up day was rainy and windy, which must have made it a struggle, especially for those planting up their gardens. You’d never have told the next day, but for a little extra mud around.

  5. Heyjude says:

    What a lovely post Susan, your photography is sublime. Hard to choose any favourites here: the variegated leaves and ferns are lovely, the Garden for Wildlife, Geranium x magnificum ‘Blue Blood’ and Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clarke’ and the Well Dressing collages are all amazing. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • susurrus says:

      My pleasure! I saw Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clarke’ in several displays and gardens. I often wonder why some plants are so widely chosen – whether they are known to reliably flower at the right time, whether someone has grown a lot and made them widely available or whether they are just a little special in some way, as this one is with the translucent petals and the veining.

      • Heyjude says:

        I do think some plants become fashionable. G. Rozanne is one and Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’. Often influenced by the Chelsea gardens and planting.

        • susurrus says:

          There were a lot of varieties of geums on show, some familiar, others less so. They are great colour carriers and nice and airy which is useful when plants are packed so closely in. Plants like G. ‘Mrs Kendall Clarke’ have a lovely retro feel for me – something of the old in the new.

          • Heyjude says:

            Kendall Clarke is a very pretty colour. I have two lovely blue ones and a new white one, the rest are pink and very promiscuous!

  6. Jill Kuhn says:

    Wow!! Such beautiful colors, shapes and variety of plants!! Thank you for sharing these photos, Susan!! I felt like I was walking along with you… what a delight! 🌼💕✨

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