There’s a strong coppery theme in the plants at this year’s Chelsea. I’ve always loved brown flowers — tulips like ‘Bruine Wimpel’ and the recent introduction, the café-au-lait coloured ‘La Belle Epoque’. Who can fail too to fall for the glamorous, Bupleurum longifolium, or my new favourite rose, ‘Hot Chocolate’ which is half hideous and half triumphant? It’s that not-perfect-taste thing which makes ‘Hot Chocolate’ a winner, with plenty of brown mixed in to its coppery-orange coloured base.
There are lots more to choose from in this colour range in the show gardens here. The diva plant in the Best in Show Garden, designed for The Telegraph by Andy Sturgeon, is Isoplexis canariensis. This has burnt-copper flowers on ebony stems and looks a cross between a foxglove and acanthus. It’s a tender perennial from the Canaries and Madeira, ideal for pots which you can bring in for the winter, and like many tender perennials, has a long flowering season. I think I’ll try treating it like my dahlias and leave some out in the border too, mulched deeply in compost, to see if they re-emerge next spring. I’m going to plant it in the bold and brilliant oast garden, which aims to have lots of plants in brown, copper and orange.
Then there are the coppery verbasums, so good growing up through Euphorbia oblongata and angelica in Jo Thompson’s Chelsea Barracks garden, also fabulous mixed with Mathiasella bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’. That was one of my favourite plant combinations in the whole show.
Nick Bailey’s mathematics garden had two other cracking plant duos centered on brown. I truly loved the mix of the apricot and mahogany Geum Mai Thai, splotched through glades of Quaking Grass and the elegant ivory spires of Reseda alba (a biennial, which should be grown from seed in the next month or two to flower next year).
That went straight on my list of must-grows for this autumn, and the geum was also beautiful backed by purple-leaved sage. The deliciously scented, mahogany, Tall Bearded Iris ‘Kent Pride’ was in this garden too, under-planted by one of the newly bred Calendulas, ‘Sherbet Fizz’ which like my newly-found favourites, ‘Sunset Buff’ and ‘Touch of Red Mix’ is a soft, pretty colour, with dark crimson backs to the petals. This is part of the new trend in breeding to give us marigolds out of the bold and brilliant yellow and orange range and the coffee, apricot and peach I am coming to love more and more.
Because of course they flower naturally at just this time of year, there are geums a-go-go at Chelsea every year. They are the perfect fillers in flowering time between the tulips and the roses and lots of perennials in June. Cleve West had another copper, primrose and apricot coloured Geum ‘Lisanne’ planted with one of the best-ever spring flowers, Omphaloides cappadocica in brilliant azure blue in his nostalgic, atmospheric Dartmoor dappled shade garden.
Don’t think brown means dying — this colour in all its tones will give you tip-top garden plants.
Come and find us on stand SW417, we look forward to seeing you there!