An inspirational annual showcase

Dr Jonathan Holliday made his yearly visit to the Chelsea Flower Show and came away bursting with new ideas.

This was the best ever Chelsea Flower show for me. All very well for you southerners, you might say, but this is such a special showcase for gardeners that I think it is worth travelling for.

My favourite show garden was Fortnum and Mason's. Created by Chelsea regular Robert Myers to celebrate the grocer's 300th anniversary, it first appears to be a formal garden, with a straight grass path leading through parterres to a paved terrace with three ornamental grottoes.

From the side, the impression is less formal. Sinuous pebble paths lead across to four eau-de-nil beehives, each with different architectural portico. These are built of solid oak and roofed in copper and will take up position on Fortnum's roof in Piccadilly from whence their bees will sally forth to pollinate the flowers of London, ensuring that there will always be 'honey still for tea'.

Also celebrating a tercentenary was the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, professor of medicine and creator of the binomial nomenclature for plants and animals. The garden contained common Swedish plants and plants that Linnaeus cultivated. Naturalised planting and contemporary Swedish art were embraced by clean minimalist lines of wood, steel and stone.

Among the city gardens I must mention two Japanese gardens. AOA Corporation's Un-tei (garden of clouds) a 'little garden enclosed by green walls', which were made of little balls of moss, and Studio Lasso's Garden of Transience which was positively meditational.

My wife was in awe of the Unopiu stand, or should I say the two gorgeous Italians in matching linen suits who served her. This Italian company has a very generous catalogue and I can vouch for their rapid delivery.

We are now in possession of a Sunlace chaise-longue (pictured left), which manages to combine ultimate Italian elegance with lightweight yet rugged construction. Its woven WaProLace is resistant to chlorinated water, sun creams and oils, so it is perfect for the poolside. Now we have the chair, I am now under pressure to produce the pool.

What makes visiting these shows so very special is the opportunity to meet the people who actually design or own the product or company and that is both informative and exciting.

I discussed my favourite gardening gloves with the designer at the Tough Touch stand. Golden Leaf are just the best gloves for protection and retention of dexterity. I asked how long they generally last and he gave a very candid answer: landscaper six to eight weeks, professional gardener three pairs a year, serious amateur gardener two years. My worn pair has lasted two years, which made me feel quite the serious amateur gardener.

Another find I must share is The Real Flower Company, which delivers fresh cut roses from its two farms. In winter, the flowers are grown in Kenya, while in the summer they are farmed in Hampshire. These are flowers to startle the senses with exquisite texture and form and fabulous scent.

And for those of us with good intentions and poor memory you can set up a regular (even annual) delivery. How good is that?

Why not plan your own trip next year? There's inspiration for every keen gardener.

- Dr Holliday is a GP in Windsor

THIS MONTH'S TASKS
Look around for inspiration
- www.rhs.org.uk
- www.studiolasso.co.uk
- www.unopiu.co.uk
- www.goldleaf-gloves.com
- www.realflowers.co.uk

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