A few days on from my first ever visit to RHS Chelsea Flower Show and I still have a spring in my step from the magic of it all. I’ve been watching the Chelsea highlights on the TV for what seems like years and it was an incredible experience to suddenly find myself in the midst of a place that mostly resembles a beautifully styled and incredibly picturesque film set. With the sun shining, jazz notes floating on the breeze, and cameras and the gardening world’s idols (we walked past the Rich brothers and Monty Don within mere minutes of each other) at every turn, it was such a surreal few hours. I’m definitely going back.
I was lucky enough to have been invited to the show by STIHL, the leading manufacturer of garden power tools. For the second year running, STIHL were the official sponsors of the Hillier garden and kindly offered to give a small group of us an exclusive tour of the beautiful space and an opportunity to talk to designer, Lilly Gomm.
Explaining her vision for the gold medal-winning garden, Lilly said: “I wanted the vibrancy of the garden to change as you moved around it and having the water features definitely plays a part in this. Combining both traditional and contemporary can be a fine balance, but we have made sure the two are seamless. The presentation of a wide variety of Hillier hardy perennials, shrubs and trees, including brand new varieties and classics, is, of course, a vital part of this.”
You can see from my photos what an amazing success the garden was. It was breathtaking. To walk around it and sit amongst the colourful planting was such a treat. As a novice gardener with next to no experience, I’m in no way equipped to give you a clever critique but I can tell you, in my own terms, what caught my eye and inspired me, and what I’ll be bearing in mind for my own garden in the future.
While I’m more than happy to combine and contrast colours within the home, I get so confused when it comes to gardens. Do you pick a standout colour, do you go tonal, and exactly how much green is too much green? Okay, so you can never have too much green in a garden. I’m certain of at least that much.
What I particularly liked about the Stihl Hillier garden was the progression in colour as you moved around it. From white, to pink and blues and then through to oranges and purples. It has inspired me to be a bit more daring with my planting and to think about how I can create zones but ones that seamlessly blend in to one another.
Here’s the full plant list if you want to take a look.
Secluded seating areas
Despite the Stihl Hillier garden being located in the middle of the very busy Great Pavilion, the two seating areas felt positively secluded. Both surrounded by plants, you felt like you could sit and have an intimate conversation as opposed to being in full view of and listening distance to passers-by.
We have a few open spots in our garden which are perfect for outdoor dining but are slightly visible from the road running past the house. I love the idea of using similar Apta pots to enclose the area. I think they’d make all the difference.
Clever water features
We’re some way off erecting similar water features to the ones found in the Stihl Hillier garden but the calm trickle of water they afforded was so relaxing, almost hypnotic. And much like the planting, they offered another pretty barrier around the seating areas, almost like contemporary pergolas. I’m really keen to find an affordable alternative that would give us a similar look and feel.
Traditional meets contemporary
Finally, I really liked the balance between the more traditional cottage garden feel of the planting combined with the contemporary materials used to create the walkways and water features. It’s a mix that I’m comfortable with in the home but have never really worked out how to implement outdoors. I’ve definitely been inspired to be a bit braver with my choices in the garden.
Enjoy the photos. And a huge thanks to STIHL for such a wonderful day.