I was at the Chelsea Flower Show in London again, like I try to be every year, soaking up ideas and inspiration.
The famed flower show includes many dozens of temporary but incredible gardens, ranging from large and lavish to smaller, more garden-variety vignettes, along with uncountable specialty plant displays, educational exhibits, garden art, and garden-related vendors.
One of the most interesting gardens in 2011 was the Irish Sky Garden. Like a Jetson-esque carnival ride, the curious, pink pod with open sides and sitting areas inside, also had stuff planted both on top and on the bottom - because it was suspended from a huge crane that lifted it over eight stories in the air, with people relaxing inside.
Another sky-high garden was a tower, like stairwells along a high-rise apartment, with herbs and vegetables cascading from every opening, showing how people in limited spaces could still grow food. Another garden featured a more down-to-earth metal shipping container converted into an outdoor shed with a “green roof” - grasses, herbs, and wildflowers planted on the top.
I don’t go to these shows out of mere curiosity; I glean ideas and concepts that would not spring naturally to my mind. I look for alternative ways to use and arrange plants, and to learn more about cutting edge design ideas for how to better use our outdoor spaces. To see vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers used interchangeably in raised bed and container gardens (containers of every possible type) opens my mind to doing the same at home - and to encourage you do try it as well.
In fact, seeing green roof gardens at flower shows like Chelsea, Hampton Court, and Philadelphia inspired my own entry arbor, designed by architect Jeff Seabold of Jackson, which is suspended between iron I-beams and features cascading rosemary, ornamental sweet potatoes, Artemisia, liriope, and various flowering bulbs; it catches rainfall that would otherwise go right into the storm drain, but instead is diverted to my container tomato patch.
You can make a green roof by simply laying some grass sod over the top of the dog house, or planting succulents and monkey grass on your garden shed roof.
This year’s Chelsea show also had quite a few “green walls” - vertical gardens - which will be my next project in my own garden.
Here are a few photos from this year's show (for articles and more photos go to http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/chelseaflowershow/):