Hardy regularly uses the classic Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum' but this garden will host an unusual new white form of this popular thistle, Cirsium rivulare 'Frosted Magic'. This plant is a sturdy, easy to grow perennial with a long flowering season in summer, suitable for the garden or a prairie-style planting. It has an upright habit and grows to approximately 120cm with white flowers in summer.
Another newcomer, Nepeta x faassenii 'Crystal Cloud', sports very pale lilac flowers, unusual for the species. The plant is compact, neat and bushy with an upright habit. It's as easy to grow as other varieties and partners well with darker-coloured plants like Geranium pratense 'Midnight Reiter' which has dark purple leaves and dark blue flowers. This Nepeta grows to a height of 45cm and flowers from May to August with grey-green foliage. The bloom is pale lilac with matching calyx.
Also new are Veronica 'Mountain Breeze' and Gaura 'Rosy Shimmers'. The latter bred, by Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants, will be a contender for Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year. The gaura is a tall one that will grow to 3 feet and has reddish pink leaves and large pale pink petals. The veronica is mid blue and a repeated flowerer.
Hardy will be planting all of the new varieties where one would find them naturally, adhering to her mantra of 'right plant right place'. Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants will grow around 6000 plants for the Brewin Dolphin Garden, which will feature four distinct planting zones; shady, dry chalk grassland, part shade/damp and lush damp. Landscape contractors Bowles & Wyer will build the garden.
A dried up chalk stream bed will be planted with a variety of plants including Achillea 'Moonshine', Alchemilla sericata 'Gold Strike' and Iris 'Jane Phillips'. The dry stream meanders towards lush planting and continues further towards the river source. The lush planting zone will include Astrantia 'Ruby Giant', Baptisia australis, Caltha palustris and Campanula porskyana.
Shade loving plants include Aquilegia chrysantha 'Yellow Queen', Bergenia 'Wilton', Brunnera 'Looking Glass' and - weather-permitting - a new introduction in the shape of Digitalis 'Gold Crest'. Some key plants in the grassland zone are Dianthus armeria, Eleagnus 'Quicksilver', Erigeron karvinskianus and Eriophyllum lanatum.
Entitled 'Forever Freefolk', The Brewin Dolphin Garden 2016 aims to highlight the fragility of chalk streams which have dwindled to around 200 worldwide and are further endangered by pollution and climate change.
The River Test in Hampshire is a perfect example of these rare and vital natural resources. The Test runs through Rosy Hardys' Hampshire village and is very much the inspiration for this, her very first Chelsea show garden.