Greenfingers Chelsea Show Garden

 In Garden Shows

A Greenfingers Chelsea Show Garden. Why wouldn’t I want to be there?

I’m a regular visitor to this flower show so when the chance to help out on the Greenfingers Chelsea Show Garden I jumped at the opportunity.

Some Background to The Show

Now it’s a long time since I’ve attended this Royal Horticultural Society and World famous flower show on a public day. You see, I have been fortunate enough to attend on the Press Day before the show is open. This is also before the coveted medals have been awarded. I wondered just how crowded the M&G sponsored RHS Chelsea Flower Show would be.

I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. True there are long queues to see those most topical of exhibits. The ‘Back to Nature’ Show Garden had the longest queues. Some visitors had to wait a reputed 90 mins before getting on to the garden. But with a little patience,  it was possible to view most of the other gardens from very close quarters. The Duchess of Cambridge close involvement with the design of this garden was undoubtedly the reason for this garden’s popularity.

The Greenfingers Charity Show Garden

Greenfingers Chelsea Show Garden

Greenfingers hand prints – the logo of this great charity – decorate the wall.

Greenfingers Charity raises money to build gardens for children’s hospice throughout Britain. To date 55 have been opened and this charity is celebrating its 20th year in 2019. Through a very generous donor, loan of plants and materials and calling in of other favours it was possible to create a Greenfingers Chelsea Show Garden.

The Garden Designer

To build a show garden you need a talented designer – cue Kate Gould!

Kate is no stranger to Chelsea and has an envious record there. She had notched up 5 Chelsea Gold Medals already! But she was moving from the smaller and medium sized show gardens out onto the main avenue. This is where the large show gardens are situated.

She set herself a challenging build with just 3 weeks to get it done. That might sound like a long time but then consider that this garden was on three levels making full use of the relatively small footprint. It had a lift big enough for wheelchairs, sloping paths and surfaces suitable for wheelchairs and inevitably involved a lot of heavy steel infrastructure.

Cleverly Kate had incorporated in the garden quiet areas where patients, family and friends might meet and relax. There were features that provided safe play and included an apple shaped rope swing and a netted safe play area on the top deck.

Greenfingers Chelsea Show Garden Plants

Greenfingers Charity 2019 Chelsea Flower Show Garden

Palest yellow and white planting

Greenfingers Charity Chelsea Show Garden, Kate Gould, Adam Frost

Greenfingers Charity garden designer Kate Gould with BBC TV Gardeners World presenter Adam Frost [himself a multiple Chelsea Gold Medal winner]

I’ve always been a great admirer of Kate’s planting. This for me has been the defining feature of her previous show gardens.  I love the way that she uses complimentary plants and colours. I love that she has planting that has depth. Her flowers are not only from front to back but just as importantly from top to bottom.

This delightful combination [see pic above] of Anthemis cupanianum, Iris Benton Primrose, Orlaya grandiflora and Eschscholzia californica Ivory Castle [above] demonstrates this. This combination clearly caught the eyes of the Greenfingers Chelsea Show Garden visitor but also many celebrities and TV gardening presenters.

Greenfingers, Chelsea Flower Show Garden, Foliage

Rich and diverse foliage planting

But the Greenfingers Chelsea Show Garden was not just about flowers. This garden was filled with dramatic and contrasting foliage plants such as Philodendron Xanadu, the loquat Eriobotrya japonica, the honeybush Euphorbia mellifera, Trochodendron aralioides.

Many other unusual shrubs filled Kate’s garden but this was anchored by topiary.





Ball Shaped Topiary

Other evergreens formed the backbone of the planting and often as tightly clipped globes. A couple of hollies caught my eye; the first was Ilex cornuta Burford and the second a less common holly called Ilex ‘Nellie Stevens’.  But there were less common Phillyrea decora and Osmanthus as large tightly clipped balls. But the star among these topiary features was a beautiful ball shaped pine [Pinus sylvestris Watereri].


I spotted beech and hornbeam and so some of these comparatively large globes comprised common deciduous hedge plants too.


How was the garden judged?

If the judging was down to the reaction of visitors to the show garden then it was a huge success.

However, the judges saw things differently and Kate received a Silver Guilt Medal.

This medal is just a few points off being a Gold Medal and is a fantastic achievement! It might be that a tree hadn’t got all its leaves unfurled or perhaps because some specimen bushes were somewhat mishap-pen.

The Charity

For Greenfingers Charity this was a resounding success with more people now being aware of the work that this small charity does.

In September I will be taking part in another 20th year celebration and fund raising event. I’ll be driving an old banger to Monte Carlo from Birmingham! The plan is for 20 cars to be driven to Monte Carlo to raise funds to build more gardens in UK children’s hospices. Each car must cost less than £500 and the route involves crossing the Alps and going via Turin. I’m sure that I’ll be blogging about that when September comes along. Wish me and my team luck!


For my blog on a totally different flower show that I attended in autumn 2018 do read my piece on the RHS Urban Garden Show here.

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