Prognostications from Chelsea


Last year a giant mechanical flower was the talk of Chelsea

Trend predictions: how I love them—the sillier the better. And happily for me, trend predictions happen at least three or four times a year in the gardening world. First the New Year’s crop, then a second wave during the late winter gardening shows, then a final and more urgent group as serious gardening season (for most of us) begins in mid-spring.

And what predictions could be more distinguished than those that emerge from that most venerable of all horticultural spectacles, the Chelsea Flower Show? (I’m sounding snarky, but really I’d love to attend this just once! I am such a pathetic anglophile.)

Chelsea 2008 does not open until May 20, but according to Saturday’s Guardian, there’s early buzz on the hot plants and big ideas that will dominate the show this year. First off: topiary. How unfortunate. This was the talk of Canada Blooms too, but I just don’t get it. A lot of work and unless it’s done with the hand of a master, it looks silly. Topiary is the only area where I part ways with Christopher Lloyd, otherwise my favorite garden writer. A quote from the Guardian piece: “It’s a way of having a piece of art in the garden, without having to go to a gallery and spend thousands.” You know, I think I’d rather spend thousands.

Then, there’s expected to be an emphasis on reclaimed timber, locally quarried stone, rainwater, and crop gardens. Not surprising—this reflects priorities worldwide.

There will also be rose introductions—I love David Austin’s literary names and his roses actually have always worked pretty well for me. This year he brings out “Young Lycidas,” a Milton-inspired magenta variety.

Surfing about for more hints of things to come, I found talk of grey foliage, deep purples, and stainless steel daisies, the creation of designer Diarmuid Gavin, who refers to his entry as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids meets Roald Dahl. I guess all garden shows have to have insane stuff no one would ever do—as Amy has been demonstrating in her reports from LA, San Francisco, and elsewhere.

I would be happy to follow this up with a live report from Chelsea. If you’d like to contribute to my travel fund, contact me immediately.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I happen to be in London two years ago during the Chelsea Flower show. I was staying in an apartment within walking distance of the grounds. I thought, by chance, I’d pop over and see if I could get a same-day ticket. My wife and kid weren’t interested, but they walked over with me, in the hopes that I could get in and they could do something else during the day.

    First problem was that they were sold out for that day – and the entire run of the show. I was asked if I wanted to buy tickets for a day pass for next year’s show (unlikely). Second problem was that a one-day ticket for one person was 126 pounds ((just under $250.00 US). Even more unlikely.

    Just want you to be aware how much you ned to collect if you want us to contribute to your Chelsea Travel Fund.

    Topiary’s not bad. I just wouldn’t want to work that hard in my own garden. I like looking at other people’s efforts though!

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