So, for Chelsea Flower Show 2015 I pinpointed a warming of the colour palette with pinks, only to find most people commenting on the arrival of orange. Let's see what I can get wrong this year.
Actually, I stand by my opinion. There wasn't that much orange - not as much as this year, for sure. Though, this time it's dressing gardens in a whole range of tones from fruity bright to pastel soft and wandering into a sort of umber, with a backing chorus of furnishings and hard landscape.
Let's mix it up a bit and start with Artisan Gardens.
The Meningitis Now Futures Garden
This has plenty of orange because it's the brand colour of the charity. Designer John Everiss created the Evader's Garden last year, which told a strong, emotional story but relied heavily on the sculpture to create the garden. It was something he took to heart. As he took me through the planting this year, he said, "It's easy to fall into the trap where design overcomes planting, and we have to remember this is a flower show."
The colour itself is part of the story. On the right, by the wall, it appears once. "An orange fleck," said John. "It represents the lightest touch, the point of contact with the charity, where they first offer support." Move over to the left-hand side and increasing orange represents an increasing level of contact, until - in a leap over the wall - there's loads of warm colour to contrast with the blues and purples left behind. This is where help is fully offered and "where you are enveloped in the charity".
John Everiss has in no way lost his ability to narrate. By the time he'd explained the various figures, all created by Graham Chapelhow from 3D scans of children who have experienced meningitis and its grim consequences, I was totally in love with this garden.
Five-year-old Liam approaches the wall, not yet knowing he has meningitis (Liam himself has had meningitis a number of times), Gareth curls against the wall, unable to squeeze through (he died of the disease at sixteen). Lauren is struggling through the wall, reaching for help (Lauren herself recently set a new British Para-Cycling record) from Louise, who has reached the other side and survived meningitis (Louise is a member of the Irish Para-dressage team) and double-amputee Jake stands firm, staring into the future.
If this were a garden in the real world, the walls would probably be around the edge, which would make a delightful design.
The AkzoNobel Honeysuckle Blue(s) Garden
Over in the Fresh Gardens (and surely the conceptual nature of the one above could have made it a shoo-in for this category, too), The Honeysuckle Blue(s) Garden was filled with plants originally used for dying. Calendula featured prominently.
The woad looked great against the dyed backdrop:
What most preoccupied me at the time, though, was the impression that something large and furry had died in the middle of it:
Sir Simon Moulton Urban Garden
Orange appeared in a rather different guise in Sir Simon Moulton Urban Garden, designed by Lee Bestall. The overwhelming injection of the colour came from the giant screen behind the plot and I don't think it did them any favours. Rather, it created a rather garish feel that wasn't their fault and overwhelmed the highlight dots of orange employed in the planting.
That orange was the ID colour for the Fresh Gardens and colour of choice for the text on all the information boards in that section. May I strongly suggest it's ditched next year? The boards - orange on grey - were an absolute pain to read.
External influence aside, this garden had another artificial source of orange in the bark of the silver birches.
The idea is that the trees act as beacons to guide people to the oak seating, but actually it adds a bit of balance to all those purples. The colour is created by painting the bark with sunblock - which is used in Arizona to protect trees from the relentless rays which can crack bark and also to act as a mite repellant - into which has been mixed paprika extract. "Yes," said Lee, "it will wash off."
The Modern Slavery Garden
And on the edge of Fresh Gardens (by the distant outpost of a tea tent which catches you just as you wonder if you'll survive further trekking) was The Modern Slavery Garden by Juliet Sargeant, there for the first time and winning Gold. She went for a mix of hot colours which combined in a fiery glow against the blacks of the Sintered Stone coping and edging, the charcoal mulch and the dark-leaved planting.
I loved this garden - really strong colours and lines where the design wasn't overwhelmed by the message but underpinned it very well.
And the lupins looked good too:
The Garden of Mindful Living...
This Show Garden didn't employ flowers but, nevertheless, created an overall orange-y feel with seating, photo and corten steel.
The Telegraph Garden...
...displayed various hues.
Watahan East and West Garden...
... had this slightly strange mix of pinky-brown with orange.
Harrods British Eccentrics Garden...
...by Diarmuid Gavin, threw everything into the mix - I presume that represented eccentricity. Though, in view of some of the combinations above, I think the boat had sailed on that one.
Antithesis of Sarcophagi
Finally, enough! As a complete contrast, here's one that didn't have any colour, let alone orange.
In fact, what the heck, maybe it did. Maybe inside that cube it was bursting with orange. Who knows? And, to be frank, who cares?
The only thing I like about this is the way the portico of the Chelsea Hospital building behind has blended with it in the photo to look as if they're joined, and that's serendipity. This inside-out 'cleverness' has been done to death. Could we stop now, please?
Still, I've just noticed the man in the safety jacket...
For more on Chelsea:
The Personal Connection with Nature's Rhythms about The Papworth Trust garden (with video) (on Wireonwire.com)