Along with another plant pavilion veteran, Jekka McVicar, Rosy Hardy has a show garden position at Chelsea this year, taking her growing skills onto the biggest stage in world horticulture. Also bring a plant- centric design to Chelsea 2016 is James Basson, debuting with a L'Occitane show garden supplied by Kelways.
Hardy beat two other candidates in a pitch to the sponsor Brewin Dolphin, which is at the show for a fifth successive year. She has won 20 gold medals at Chelsea for her displays in the pavilion.
She said showing English-grown plants is "important" and despite the slower-growing English climate Hardy is growing 6,000 plants for the garden at her Hampshire nursery.
Hardy said her approach is different to garden designers, who Chelsea judge Andrew Fisher Tomlin accused last year of producing samey designs. "I start with the plants and not the design so that's a completely different way of looking at something. Not all architects or landscapers have plant knowledge," she said.
"This isn't going to be samey because I'm using a lot of plant material. I've tried not to be angular but it costs more to make curves because angular and blocks can be made in advance. I always go down the gardens at Chelsea and say 'I've seen that before'. There's only so many times you can reinvent the wheel because of the same sized spaces."
Chelsea could be used to showcase home-grown and the dangers of imported plant diseases such as ash dieback, she suggested. "I think Chelsea should do that more," added Hardy. "My heart is with plants. I don't like bitty planting - they won't look like that in one or two years down the line. The one thing I'm good at is colour combinations." She promised a "tapestry" of vibrant oranges and purples.
The garden focuses on chalk streams and their preservation. It features hardy geraniums, Sibirica irises, trilliums, martagon lilies and coppiced hazels dug up and not grown in a pot. New plants include Cirsium rivulare 'Frosted Magic', Nepeta x faassenii 'Crystal Cloud', Veronica 'Mountain Breeze' and Gaura 'Rosy Shimmers'.
Hardy pointed out that a lot of people use the same old bulbs and ground cover but she wanted to be different. "Horticulture is about mixtures of things and shouldn't just be about trends." Her plants are grown peat-free in Melcourt Sylvamix.
Brewin Dolphin national director Rupert Tyler, who is involved in the Worshipful Company of Gardeners and the National Gardens Scheme, said the company chose Hardy "because she's a plantswoman". He added: "It's a shame the emphasis on plants is just in the marquee."
A client interaction and new business roadshow for the wealth-management company will take in 28 events nationwide, featuring Chelsea designers. After Chelsea, Hardy's garden will to go to a hospice, although the recipient is yet to be decided. Anglo Aquatics and Waterside Nurseries are helping with water planting. Four trees are from Deepdale, including three Alnus glutinosa. Sparkling wine producer Coates & Seeley is partnering with Brewin Dolphin for this year's show. Its Hampshire vineyard, named Wooldings, is located close to Hardy's nursery.
Hardy said a reason there are seven women designers this year against just two in 2015 is because the sponsors requested women designers from the RHS after media questions concerning the male-heavy show last year.