Irises and plants in shades of purple dominated at Chelsea, with many predicting that popular show themes would flourish throughout the year, writes Sophie Barnett. Foliage and ornamental grasses as foil plants were popular with visitors. The purple theme continued into shrubs and foliage, with rusty colours also attracting attention and Japanese maples at the fore. TV presenter Charlie Dimmock said irises were attracting the most attention: “Bearded irises seem to be making a comeback — they are all over the show.” Crowds were attracted to French firm Cayeux Iris’s stand. Claire Austin Hardy Plants also showed bearded irises. Sun garden writer Steve Bradley said purple and mauve were dominating the show, with the new purple millet ‘Purple Baron’ and purple stock Matthiola ‘Hot Cakes’ attracting attention on the joint Writtle College/Sun pyramid stand. “There’s still the cottage garden movement and as we are getting drier, lavender — another purple — is coming even more into the fore,” said Bradley. Roses were regaining their lost popularity and would grow even more popular in coming years, he said: “In the next few years, Harkness Roses, Peter Beales and David Austin Roses will still be at Chelsea. People are realising they can get roses with no diseases after years of having a bad reputation.” Notcutts Woodbridge garden centre manager Nick Bugden said he felt purple was “massively popular” with younger gardeners, but “the more mature generation are still going for creams and silvers”. Notcutts’ purple Coprosma repens ‘Pacific Night’ from New Zealand attracted wide interest. Bugden said: “Evergreens don’t normally have that colour foliage.” Owner David Howard of Howard Nurseries in Norfolk said irises grabbed attention and dominated his stand, with 11 different varieties, from ‘Action Front’ to ‘Snow Queen’. He also provided Stipa gigantea to several exhibitors, including the best-in-show garden. He said: “It gives the garden a bit of height and you can put it at the front of a border to add something more.” Garden writer and broadcaster Peter Seabrook said: “This is the best show in the world because of its depth in horticulture. We would not see the range of plant material anywhere else. That is the quality of our nursery trade.”
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