Top designers likely to miss RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017

Designers such as Diarmuid Gavin, Cleve West and Andy Sturgeon are unlikely to appear, as tickets go on sale for 2017 flower shows.

Diarmuid Gavin's 2016 Chelsea Flower Show Harrods design
Diarmuid Gavin's 2016 Chelsea Flower Show Harrods design

Top garden designers are too busy to appear at 2017’s Chelsea Flower Show thanks to a boom in corporate and private work – and their belief that they can become over exposed by appearing at Chelsea every year.

The RHS has advertised for new designers for its shows, adding: "You don't have to be famous to submit an idea for a Chelsea garden" in the realisation that big names such as best in show winners Cleve West and Sturgeon, plus household name Diarmuid Gavin are probable non-entries after appearing in 2016.

Gavin told Horticulture Week he had a sponsor for 2017 but was not going to appear because he did not want to do the show too often and would prefer to take a few years break. He also has a busy private and corporate set of bookings, including at housing developments such as Park SW20, which is currently for sale through Foxton's.

Sources suggested multiple Best in Show winners including Cleve West, Andy Sturgeon and Tom Stuart-Smith would take a break from the show. Multiple gold medallist Jo Thompson might also take a year off. 

Sturgeon said: "I'm not doing Chelsea next year, it takes too much time and costs me money because I'm not doing other projects. Next year will be the first time in about 10 years that I won't be invovled in some way. I'll see spring."

He is on the selection panel. James Alexander Sinclair and Sarah Eberle are believed to be on it too. Eberle could design the Hillier pavilion exhibit for a second year in succession.

Designers from 2016, Juliet Sargeant, Rosy Hardy, Jekka McVicar and Nick Bailey may not be back in 2017 too. Homebase says it will not be sponsoring a garden. Homebase designer Adam Frost is now appearing more on Gardener's World, while previous Chelsea designers the Rich Brothers are also busy with TV work. Matthew Wilson is taking a break from Chelsea this year.

Gavin Jones Ltd, which Wilson works for as designer in residence, said: "We can further confirm that Matthew Wilson has indicated that he will be seeking to take a break from designing a show garden for RHS Chelsea in 2017; however, Gavin Jones Ltd has a long tradition of supplying plants and services for exhibitors at the show each year and we see no reason why this would not continue for 2017."

Confirmed show garden sponsors include Viking Cruises and M&G which has James Basson confirmed by Crocus as designer. Basson has designed for L'Occitane for the past two years. Crocus built for Sturgeon and The Telegraph in 2016 and have built for the paper every year since 2008, as well as in 2006. Crocus says it is only building for Basson this year.

Originally Basson's design was commissioned by The Telegraph but they then pulled out of Chelsea.

In 2017, Darren Hawkes will be designing for Linklaters. Kate Gould, Anne Marie Powell and Catherine MacDonald may also be designing. Sponsor Brewin Dolphin is also believed to not be exhibiting.

The HTA will also appear for a second successive year with an industry exhibit in the pavilion.

Possible rumoured show gardens and features include one from Althorp, where Earl Spencer is having his gardens re-designed, and a Gardeners' World 50th anniversary feature. TV presenter Joe Swift designed a 40th anniversary garden in 2007. Kate Gould might also appear alongside more female and younger designers including Ann Marie Powell.

Public tickets for RHS flower shows went on sale 3 October 2016. RHS members' tickets went on sale on 1 September.

Shows on offer include Cardiff (7-9 April), Malvern (11-14 May), Chelsea (23-27 May) Hampton Court Palace (4-9 July) and Tatton Park (19-23 July) as well as the new RHS Chatsworth Flower Show (7-11 June).

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