The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has always been the place to showcase new, rare, and beautiful plants and this year is no exception. The Brewin Dolphin Garden, designed by eminent nurserywoman Rosy Hardy, marks the launch of four new varieties of herbaceous perennials.
Rosy frequently uses the classic Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’ in her designs, but this garden features an unusual white-flowered form of this popular thistle, Cirsium rivulare ‘Frosted Magic’. This plant is a sturdy, upright, easy to grow perennial with a long flowering season in summer, perfect for the garden or a landscape with “prairie-style” planting. At maturity, it should reached 120cm with a max spread of 60cm.
Another newcomer, Nepeta x faassenii ‘Crystal Cloud‘ sports whorled spikes of delicate, pale lilac flowers, an exciting new colour for this species. The plant is compact and bushy with an upright habit. It’s as easy to grow as other Nepeta and, it’s grey-green leaves and pale flowers make a great partner for plants with dark foliage. Geranium ‘Midnight Reiter’, with its dark purple leaves and dark blue flowers, is an excellent choice. ‘Crystal Cloud’ grows to a max height of 45cm and flowers from late spring to late summer.
Also new are Veronica ‘Mountain Breeze’ and Gaura ‘Rosy Shimmers’, the latter bred by Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants and is a contender for Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year. ‘Rosy Shimmers’ is tall, eventually reaching 1 metre with reddish pink leaves and large, pale pink petals. Forming a compact mat no more than 40cm tall, ‘Mountain Breeze’ has lightly-striped, mid blue and is a repeat flowerer!
Rosy will be planting all of these new cultivars exactly where one would find them naturally, adhering to her mantra of ‘right plant, right place’. Entitled Forever Freefolk , The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2016 aims to highlight the fragility of chalk streams which have dwindled to around 200 worldwide and are further endangered by pollution and climate change.
The River Test in Hampshire is a perfect example of these rare and vital natural resources. The Test runs through Rosy Hardys’ Hampshire village and is very much the inspiration for this, her very first Chelsea show garden. Forever Freefolk is divided into four distinct planting zones: shady, dry chalk grassland, part shade/damp and lush damp. Nearly 6,000 plants, all grown by Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, will fill these zones.
A dry chalk stream bed, surrounded by Achillea ‘Moonshine’, Alchemilla sericata ‘Gold Stike’, and Iris ‘Jane Phillips’, leads the eye back to the stream’s source. The planting gradually changes to reflect the change in habitat. The final zone, a lush, damp place, includes Astrantia ‘Ruby Giant’, Baptisia australis, Caltha palustris and Campanula porskyana.
Shade loving plants in this zone are Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Yellow Queen’, Bergenia ‘Wilton’, Brunnera ‘Looking Glass’ and, if the weather cooperates, there could even be another new introduction, Digitalis ‘Gold Crest’. Key plants in the grassland zone are Dianthus armeria, Eleagnus ‘Quicksilver’, Erigeron krvinskianus and Eriophyllum lanatum.