Chelsea 2011- Feel Good About Gardening

In recent years the garden spotlight has been on Grow Your Own –we have rediscovered the pleasure of growing our own produce. However I wonder if we have forgotten about the other pleasures a garden can bring. A garden can make us feel good in so many ways. The hope and expectation we feel by planting for the future, a packet of seeds, a few flower bulbs, or a young tree that will take years to mature. That satisfaction of gently aching limbs after a long day in the garden preparing for spring, or putting the garden to bed in the autumn.

There are also those magical occasions when we really just enjoy the garden, rather than working on it. The uplifting sensation we feel at the sight of blossom lit by watery sunshine against a blue spring sky. The soothing effect of the scent of honeysuckle on a warm summer evening. Perhaps just a glass of wine on the patio after a day at work, or a barbecue with family and friends.

For many the spa, gym or health club is a part of their way of life. Could the garden sometimes provide the same satisfaction and enjoyment? This is something I want to explore at Chelsea 2011. After all the garden is on our doorstep, so there is no excuse for not getting out there and getting active – or getting less active if that is what makes you feel good! This year’s Hillier Chelsea exhibit features a series of gardens to make you feel good whatever your wishes.

For those that want to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life a Garden of Contemplation provides a soothing refuge amongst green and white foliage with a sprinkling of flowers. Secluded and surrounded, this little piece of paradise could be tucked into the corner of a large garden or it could fill a tiny courtyard. Meditation is easier for those with crowded minds amidst familiar surroundings with little to distract. Something beautiful to focus on and the calming sound of running water help to block out the outside world.

Core Values is a garden designed as a place for strengthening exercise in surroundings created to sooth the soul. Blue, silver and grey surround beautiful outdoor flooring, Delta from the stoneislands range by organicstone, the soft lines drifting into a cloud of lavender, santolina, sage and rosemary. The planting is given an even more coastal feel with the addition of pines and water washed pebbles. A beautiful circular slate sculpture by Tom Stogdon makes a stunning focal point for the garden and provides the link between the silver and grey foliage and the birches beyond. Just imagine a little yoga here in the cool of a summer morning.

For those who approach their exercise in a more energetic way Flex on a Deck is a contemporary timber deck surrounded by uplifting planting on a yellow theme. This is a garden to raise the metabolism and the spirits. Soft textures are punctuated by sharp forms. Plenty to look at as you practice those sit-ups, press-ups and pull-ups. Timber outdoor exercise equipment doubles up as low level garden furniture. Somewhere to enjoy a bowl of pasta on a summer’s evening perhaps, or maybe your porridge and honey after a morning workout.

For anyone with a larger garden, particularly amongst trees, the Tone up Trail may inspire a little adventurous exercise. Often seen now in hotels and public spaces balancing bars, stepping stones and low level hurdles are designed to make that brisk walk a little more interesting. Here the trail takes you along a woodland stream, over narrow bridges, to a more relaxed world at its end.

Now all this might sound a little too energetic. For those that desire a more relaxed approach the Indulgence Garden could be the order of the day. Here rich colours of wine and chocolate complement the opulent hues of ruby and purple rhododendrons. This is a garden for dining late into the night, for soaking up the sun with a Pimms or maybe a little romance inspired by the heady perfume of flowers.

If you are feeling a little guilty after all this you can head into the Feel Good Garden and confess your guilty pleasures. Pink, mauve and pastels may not be your choice of colours but they are easy to live with. Colours you find in the countryside and in an English garden on a summer’s afternoon. Come and sit on a simple seat surrounded by pots of meadow flowers and tell a friend what makes you Feel Good About Gardening.

Our friends from Scotts Miracle-Gro will be there to listen. And what’s more you can take a little piece of this Chelsea Feel Good Garden home by buying a packet of our Meadow Anywhere seeds. This had been created in association with our friends at Habitataid to help you bring a little of our countryside into your garden whatever its size and location.

My aim at Chelsea is to inspire you, to give you ideas, whatever your budget or level of expertise. Many visitors to Chelsea have years of experience, even more are just beginners. Some are gardening on acres, some in windowboxes; all derive pleasure from plants and their cultivation. I hope to help you to enhance that experience by showing you how you can create pleasing effects by putting the right plants together. For me this is the most important aspect of garden design, and often the most neglected. It is certainly what makes me Feel Good About Gardening.