Impressions from a Chelsea Virgin
On Tuesday I made my first ever trip to Chelsea Flower Show. I realised as we had lunch before making our way down through Sloane Square that I didn’t seem to have any expectations of what I would see which was a rather weird sensation. Surely I should be looking forward to certain things or maybe even dreading others. I should have things I desperately wanted to see or ideas to acquire. But no my mind was blank. I suspect that this was because despite having watched Chelsea for years on the television, having followed this year’s build up via the photos on twitter and through some blog posts I couldn’t really believe I was actually going – it was like a dream, but more trance like than euphoric.
There is just so much to take in – every aspect of horticulture you can think of. Gardens and plants from right up near the Arctic to lovely displays from South Africa. It wasn’t only the plants and gardens but the people. I was surprised that it wasn’t as crowded as I had expected. There was a bit of a bottle neck around the courtyard gardens but it was good-natured and with a bit of a strategic shuffle and a keen eye for an opportunity we managed to get a good view of most of the gardens. But people watching was proving to be quite a distraction from the plants – there were the corporate types in their suits, the lovely ladies dressed up in their hats and heels and then the more down to earth gardeners like your truly dressed in sensible shoes!
Due to the number of people around the gardens I found it hard to take in whole gardens but I have come away with a lot of impressions or cameo views from the gardens. I absolutely loved the planting on Jo Thompson’s The Unexpected Gardener for Thrive garden. The colours of the roses and irises were just so sumptuous and were complimented with the Mathiasella bupleuroides ‘Green Dream’ and Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’.For me this was the best garden in the show. The flower meadow on the front of the HESCO Garden built by Leeds City Council won my heart. Whilst many were admiring the replica canal lock which was the main feature of the garden, I was drooling over the toadflax. I understand that there was also poppy in the mix and they are hoping that these will be in flower by the end of the week. What is more the nice man from Leeds gave me a packet of seeds as per their mix. I have just got to work out where to have a mini wildflower meadow!
I was taken with the L’Occitane garden. I thought the planting was very reflective of Southern France and the Mediterranean, especially as the weather was warm you could smell the lavender and I felt quite transported. I was particularly taken with the path up the slope, which made me feel that a cart had been pulled up between the rows of lavender. Interestingly when I was looking at this garden there were few others there as the Daily Telegraph garden over the way was attracting more people. This garden had been awarded Best in Show and seemed to be the one everyone was talking about even before we got to the show. However, whilst I admired the planting particularly the movement created with the grasses and the use of rusty coloured Irises and Verbascums at the time I wasn’t keen on the metal sculptural shapes. However, on looking back through my photos at a couple of days distance I see the garden in such a different way and how the colour of the metal rectangles pick up on the colours in the planting particularly that Iris Action Front. I suspect that if I could have walked into the garden rather than being stuck on the outside looking in I would have appreciated the garden more.
Of course we went to the Floral Pavillion but sadly my camera battery was dying by this time so I concentrated more on making notes of plants I liked and where I could get them. However, I couldn’t walk past the Rhododendron ‘Fireball’ without squeezing one more photo out.
So whilst there has been much talk about what makes a good garden, which one should win Peoples Choice, whether gardens should have themes, what is the latest trend in gardening for me Chelsea 2010 is a collection of images and sensations not just visual but smell and sound.