Luciano Giubbilei (Laurent-Perrier garden) and co-designers Tommaso de Buono and Paul Gazerwitz (The Telegraph Garden) emerged as clear favourites among other show garden designers on Monday.
Both eschewed pizzazz and went instead for a contemporary twist on classic European style, gaining praise for their use of space and sense of calm.
Fellow Main Avenue designer Cleve West, who designed for main show sponsor M&G Investments said: "I like Luciano's garden, the simplicity. I don't think I could ever be as restrained as he is. He's got a great eye for detail, it's all about atmosphere that's the most difficult thing to achieve.
Cloudy Bay designer Andrew Wilson agreed: "I do like Luciano’s garden, it’s got a calmness about it, an airiness," he said.
Jo Thompson, who designed The London Square Garden in the Fresh section as well as Perennial’s stand display, said the Telegraph garden was very photogenic, and had gone down well with her Italian Dad.
She added: "I like Luciano's mounds of beech and his sculptures."
TV ethnobotanist and garden designer James Wong said he liked both front runners.
"What I like about them is there’s a lot of space. Luciano has a central pond with small rills coming into it that’s really nice, but then you see the planting too. Chelsea should be about attention to detail. "
Giubbilei and de Buono are Italian. Gazerwitz is from the United States. Last year the Best in Show award went to the Australian garden team.
Irish TV gardener Diarmuid Gavin and BrandAlley Chelsea designer Paul Hervey-Brookes were among those who praised Patrick Collins’ A Garden for First Touch at St George’s rock garden.
"I love Patrick Collins’ garden, I think it’s really clever," Hervey-Brookes said.
Gavin said: "I liked Patrick Collins’ rock garden and the small rustic Artisan gardens, especially the (DialAFlight) Potters’ garden."
"There’s a lot of the same big posh gardens with clipped everything, they don’t really do it for me," he said.
Cleve West drew praise from several designers for his gravel planting and attention to detail.
"Cleve has a very beautiful planting," Luciano Giubbilei said. "I like that very much. I like Tomasso very much too, it’s quite bold having the lawn in the middle of a show garden. It’s quite a bold statement, it’s quite simple."
Hugo Bugg’s cracked paving on the RBC Waterscape Garden, made to evoke a dried up riverbed, was popular while others described his design as bold and brave.
The show opened to a dry, sunny day which reached 26 degrees. At Charlotte Rowe’s garden, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity No Man’s Land, Stephen Fry, Rowan Atkinson and Caroline Quentin read war poems to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and were joined at one point from the stage horse from play War Horse.
Inside The Great Pavilion Birmingham Parks Department recreated a trench in its commemorative garden, which The Queen walked through, asking questions of designer and head of the city’s parks Darren Share. A garden inspired by modern conflicts – designer Matthew Keightley’s brother has completed four tours of Afghanistan with a further tour to come - the Help for Heroes Hope on the Horizon garden was also praised by designers. Matthew Childs said he thought there were "interesting shapes in there" while Hervey-Brookes said "there are parts that are really lovely. I love the 3D quality of the block work and the sculptures with Fastigiata Hornbeam.
Hillier Nurseries celebrated its 150th anniversary this year with its customary display in the centre of the Great Pavillion while Alan Titchmarsh poured his 50 years of gardening from his childhood home in Yorkshire to his current one on the Isle of White into one show garden, co-designed by Kate Gould.