29 May 2014

My RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014 (Day one)

(I think they were enjoying how excited I was to be there!)


If readers of this blog can possibly bear to read another post about the Chelsea Flower Show (there have been so many and such excellent coverage this year), I really do want to write about my day out.  It was a corker and my thanks go to Interflora yet again for my prize of two Saturday tickets.

As it happens, the RHS press office also stumped up an eleventh hour press pass but by this time I could only go in the afternoon on Tuesday so whizzed over to collect a show catalogue and have a quick look round. Tuesday is the first day that it's open to the public and the show was absolutely mobbed - and got worse in the evening slot. I dislike pushing (and being pushed!) so, at the back of a deep crowd, I decided to leave most of the show gardens until early Saturday morning … and be grateful that there wasn't an editor waiting for my copy before going to press!

It certainly wasn't a wasted afternoon though; as I knew I'd be returning, I was able to drift through the crowds making the most of any gaps that I spotted.  Thus, I got to chat with Paul Hervey-Brookes who designed the Brand Alley garden; drawn firmly from the early Italian Renaissance gardens, it was awarded a bronze but I thought there were many ideas in the space that could easily be taken forward into a domestic setting. (Don't be surprised if I come back to this topic.)  Just look at that gorgeous raspberry colour!


I'm suspecting a favourite colour theme going on here … 

Paul Hervey-Brookes.
A lovely chap who took the time to tell me about his garden and let me wander  round - yes! I went beyond the fence!

I stood next to designers Wayne Hemingway (remember avant-garde fashion house Red or Dead?) and his wife Gerardine as they discussed their thoughts on the Telegraph garden for the BBC cameras (they loved the structure and planting but thought the marble was overused. It should be noted they have a large pristine lawn in their own garden.).


I worked my way along one edge of the Cloudy Bay garden, listening to the comments all around me. My impression was that the grasses seemed to dominate the planting but there was a lovely airiness to the garden. I was able to name a few of the plants for a gaggle of ladies behind me as Andrew Wilson, one of the designers and head of the Society of Garden Designers, passed by which earned me one of his famous beaming smiles.  Seems like a nice chap.


We all wondered about this one which I was told was Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus, or Gladioli byzantina if you prefer.  A truly gorgeous eye-catching colour that had been teamed beautifully with burgundy astrantias, purple salvias, red roses, lavender Baptisia australis and pink campions (Silene). It's a plant that needs to be the star of the show with a strong supporting cast!


Put that bed together with the larger Cloudy Bay planting that included purple Allium hollandicum, irises, verbascum, Ammi majus, bronze fennel, foxgloves, aquilegia and, of course, grasses (Deschampsia) and it all becomes rather beautiful - like one of Hannah McVicar's illustrations.


A proper brick-based greenhouse has long been on my wish list so the sight of the Alitex stand lured me over. Admiring the wonderful veg growing within and fabulous planting without, I was introduced to the charity Thrive who help disabled people towards a life of health and wellbeing through gardening.  The plants had all been grown by Thrive gardeners in Battersea.  Hearing about their work and subsequently reading their website, I feel a separate post about this marvellous charity is called for.

I was glad to glimpse the Homebase garden 'A Time to Reflect' for the Alzheimer's Society. Adam Frost had created a calm, peaceful space filled with memories and sounds. My much-loved dad has early Alzheimer's so this garden was especially poignant for me and reminded me of our childhood days on the beach and in the countryside as a very happy united family.


My plant highlight of Tuesday afternoon was this Chrysanthemum coronarium or chopsuey greens, mainly because I'm growing this for the first time!  This is a fast growing vegetable that can be on your plate 6 weeks after sowing, likes part shade and every bit of it can be eaten.  And rather pretty to boot!

I finished my Tuesday outing with an evening lecture at the Royal Geographical Society; the event was an 'in conversation' talk from garden designers Dan Pearson and Fergus Garrett, hosted by Anna Pavord. I came away with a deep respect for Dan Pearson whose gardening philosophies I thoroughly agree with. It was a splendid event where they talked about their childhood and adult influences, their horticultural backgrounds, gardening styles and what they thought of the Chelsea show. I particularly liked Dan's phrase that as a gardener he likes to "sit gently on the land, preferring to grow with a garden and be a part of it rather than to transpose yourself onto it.  I like that.


I went back to Chelsea on Saturday and will be writing up highlights of that day in my next post - the bold, the bonkers and the beautiful - including my thoughts on Cleve West's garden which, yes, I eventually got to see and thought utterly delightful.





30 comments:

  1. Look forward to Cleve's garden - he always seems to come good.

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    1. It was the treat of the day for me, Sue. Especially as Cleve was standing in the garden talking to some guests. *thrilled*

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  2. I think that the majority of the punters at Chelsea must be way above the average in terms of horticultural knowledge. I'm discouraged from attending by the vast crowds though. I want to be able to admire things in peace without being jostled!

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    1. I know exactly what you mean, Mark! I'm afraid that the crowds are part and parcel of these events. Getting there early gives a bit of leeway with the crowds but it soon gets up to speed! I hate being jostled which is why I could go back on another day.

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  3. Lovely photos, I'm glad you had such a good time. I'd be excited to be there as well! One day...

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    1. I'm not sure I'd bother if it wasn't within easy reach, CJ. It's a lovely show to go to though but not if you have a very long drive home afterwards!

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  4. It's great that you got into one of the gardens. I'm sorry to hear about your father. I think seeing it twice is the way forward. I came back thinking I had missed quite a few things, although looking through the photos, I think we did get most of it. Its nice to digest it all and then go back to the bits you might have missed or want to see again.

    I would have thought that the night would have been quieter....

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    1. I felt quite the little paparazzi zooming around with my camera on the wrong side of the fence and it was so nice to have a proper chat with the designer. Special. I went twice last year as well and it definitely makes a difference; you see things you missed the first time around. (I managed to miss half the great pavilion and the artisan gardens last year!) There's a lot to take in during one day isn't there - well done for doing the show and then the travelling!

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  5. Oh my that greenhouse is fabulous, if only you were allowed to sit in it. Your photos look fabulous, I have never been to keen to visit Chelsea Flower show before but as the years go by it becomes more appealing.

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    1. Isn't it just the business, Joanne! Actually, there was a very comfy leather armchair in the greenhouse but they'd put a very realistic but nonetheless pretend cat on the seat - probably to stop people having a rest there! If you ever do get tickets to Chelsea, I'd recommend trying to find a hotel to stay in - your feet will thank you for it!

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  6. An interesting post. I didn' t go to Chelsea this year so it is great to read other peoples' impressions of it. I look forward to part two.

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    1. It was certainly well covered between blogs and tv this year - you probably saw more of the show than I did, even though I was there!

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  7. Now that sounds like a very good day out (apart from the crowds and the pushing!) Getting to see a whole range of inspiring gardens and then hearing Dan Pearson and Fergus Garrett talk about gardening... your head must have been buzzing with ideas by the time you got home. Looking forward to your next post, and more photos from the show.

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    1. I was glad of the walk from the Royal Albert Hall (next door to where the lecture was held) back to Knightsbridge tube station to clear my head a bit! Such a lot to think about - and the realisation of having get your thoughts in order for a blog post! Such a lot to think about! But good, definitely very very good.

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  8. I haven't been to Chelsea for quite a few years and enjoyed reading about your trip. A brick based greenhouse is on my wish list too, time to buy another lottery ticket. :(

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    1. Definitely Jessica! I'd be outside all year round with a greenhouse like that. Next post, I'll show you the armchair that was in the greenhouse. Everyone needs somewhere to sit while eating tea and cake … ! ;)

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  9. Caro, I am having serious envy!!

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    1. … Just like I did with your beautiful greenhouse, Erin! It's lovely to hear from you again, so pleased as I've been able to find your blog again!

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  10. So interesting. I hope someday I can visit there, and learn about a lot of thing.

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    1. Thank you, Endah. For a gardener, there's certainly a lot to see and marvel over at Chelsea.

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  11. A most enjoyable post, and good pictures. That sure is a good looking greenhouse.
    It's good to see you mention Thrive, which is a good cause that I support.
    I'm looking forward to your, bold, bonkers and beautiful post! Flighty xx

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    1. Thanks, Flighty! I thought you'd like the greenhouse, it was a beauty and with cold frames on the outside! Meeting the people behind Thrive was the absolute cherry on the cake for me; definitely one of the most worthwhile conversations I've had for a while and a cause well worth supporting.

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  12. I just love the Brand Alley garden, I'm a fan of colour.
    So many lovely plantings and plants, what a memorable day you had.
    I shall look forward to a new post on Thrive.xxx

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    1. Ah, brilliant. It was that raspberry pink on the walls, SO gorgeous, definitely a colour I could live with and I thought the designer had chosen very well given the Italian theme. I liked the garden a lot and thought it a shame he got only bronze - there was a lot to consider in that garden.

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  13. Looks like you had a lovely and worthwhile day.

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    1. Oh I did, Sue. A rare day out and all the more precious for it.

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  14. To sit gently on the land. A great aspiration in the midst of such vandalism of Mother Earth. Glad you had a lovely day. I've never been to Chelsea but always watch it on TV.

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    1. It's a memorable phrase, Bridget, and one that we should all take to heart. I really respect the way that Dan Pearson gardens, he's very sensitive to the spirit of a place and designs and gardens in a gentle way. A great man to listen to.

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  15. What a fabulous greenhouse. I watched the coverage on tv but there must be so much that you miss unless you're actually there in person. I look forward to hearing more.

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    1. Haha! It shows that we're all gardeners, everyone loved the greenhouse! It was certainly one that you could imagine getting very cosy in. Tv coverage gives very good information about the gardens but it's the opportunity to stop and really look that being there gives.

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