7 June 1996

Cold spring shrugged off

Pictures: Jonathan Page

Visitors to the Royal Horticultural Societys Chelsea Flower Show could be forgiven for forgetting all about the late, cold spring. Exhibitors had overcome their difficulties to present gardens and displays of quality blooms – most of them out-of-season, of course. Ann Rogers reports

MISSED this years Chelsea Flower Show? Never mind, one of the magnificent gardens displayed could be near you by now.

For example, Birmingham City Council celebrated 100 years of British motoring with a huge exhibit and returned home with the citys 16th gold medal for a display that will grace Centenary Square for the summer.

Visitors could walk through the exhibit beneath a 22ft high model of the Dunlop bridge. Other features included 150,000 carpet bedding plants, the national collection of codiaeums, a wickerwork replica of the worlds first four-wheel petrol car, and a silver sedum covered replica of a Jaguar XJ220.

"The greening of our industrial heritage" was the theme for Gateshead MBCs silver medal winning exhibit which will be displayed at the Gateshead Summer Flower Show (July 27-28).

This sculptured horticultural display represented the greening of the Watergate Colliery where once-derelict land has been transformed into a 50ha forest park. Huge planted spheres dominated the display, representing water, air and earth, while a hemisphere of tagetes and begonias represented fire and a symbolic rising up from the ashes.

A seaside garden exhibit by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, Essex, also took a silver medal. It marked the towns "Year of the Pier" and was headed back to Southend Victoria Station for the summer.

The Marie Curie Cancer Care Garden, entitled Hearts and minds against cancer, has now been re-established at the Marie Curie Hospice in Caterham, Surrey. This delightful garden features plants used in the production of drugs used in cancer treatments, such as yew, the castor oil plant and several birch tree species, the daffodil, which is the charitys symbol, and a yellow and mauve colour scheme.

Sponsors included Merrist Wood College, Surrey, whose students carried out the construction work on this silver medal winning garden as well as creating a garden of their own.

The Hermitage Garden was the title of the Surrey students silver-gilt medal winning garden. This was inspired by hermit cells at Badminton and Brocklesby dating back to the 18th century when a hermitage was a fashionable component of the landscaped garden.

While this college had turned from sophisticated styles to a natural-looking one this year, Yorkshires Askham Bryan College reversed the journey. Its students followed their hospice garden and slice of Yorkshire moor-style garden of recent years with a The Globetrotters Garden, subtitled "Around the world in eighty yards."

Plants for this silver medal winner included exotic ones from the Tropical World Botanical Gardens in Leeds. Features included a striking pair of iron gardens and a copy of a grotesque helmet/mask given by Emperor Maximilian II to King Henry VIII in 1514. The original is in the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds.

The garden is also in Leeds now as part of the Gardens of the World project on which the college and the city will be working together for the next three or four years.

The Marie Curie Cancer Care Garden has been re-established at Caterham.

The small courtyard garden exhibits were as varied and expressive as the larger gardens. Students studying decorative horticulture at Sparsholt College, Hants were awarded a silver-gilt medal for theirs, (above) the theme of which was A courtyard for The Green Man. The plants, which were grown by the students, were selected to create a cool oasis for relaxation and contemplation. It featured a head sculpture by Dennis Fairweather, whose Fairweather Sculpture exhibit elsewhere in the show received a certificate of merit. Students of Writtle College, Essex were awarded a bronze medal for their courtyard garden, Suburbia exotica.

Red-coated Chelsea pensioners add colour to the scene and are in much demand for photo-calls despite the large number of celebrities invited along to draw the lenses to exhibitors work on press day. This pensioner was delighted to pose with a model complementing Van Hage Design Cos A Japanese Artists Garden.

Gateshead MBCs silver medal winning exhibit will feature in the towns summer flower show. It represents the transformation of a colliery site into a forest.

CAFOD & Christian Aid won a bronze medal for an exhibit drawing attention to Third World agriculture and the dangers of diminishing variety. People in Honduras rely on the banana for food and income, but because crops came from a single species they were being lost to disease. The introduction of a wild species resulted in a disease-resistant variety.

18th century hermitage gardens inspired Merrist Wood students.

Arc Angel is one of the three new hybrid tea roses bred by Gareth Fryer of Fryers Nurseries, Knutsford, Cheshire. It is named in honour of the Arthritis and Rheumatism Councils diamond jubilee year. Arc Angel is a perfumed rose with coppery-salmon blooms, bushy growth and healthy dark green foliage.

Salvia Farinacea `Strata is the British Bedding Plant Associations plant of the year. A bushy plant, 450mm (18in) high and spreading to 400mm (16in) across, it has greyish flower spikes carrying clear blue flowers with a white calyx. It blooms from May until the first frost.

Part of "The Globetrotters Garden" by Askham Bryan College.

Birmingham City Councils exhibit featuring the wickerwork Lanchester.