|On a practical, take-it-home-with you, level, the Telegraph garden was my first choice.|
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.
Here we are again. After a quick end-of-month interlude, I'm back to reviewing my Chelsea photos. Visiting Chelsea Flower Show is a bit of a twelve course dinner: looks great, you want to eat it all but, my gosh, there's too much for one sitting! There's a bit of mental pressure to get the blog posts written and published in tune with the rest of the blogging world but it's much more relaxed to pop back later via photos and really think about what I've brought away with me in ideas and inspiration.
This year, there was colour …
This rainbow of lupins was a startling sight! I admit this wouldn't be to everyone's taste but it was certainly eye-catching. Part of my teenage years were spent living in the countryside in Yorkshire. I loved it, apart from the nightly ritual of checking my bed for earwigs. In the summer, they were ever-present. I heard that they were particularly drawn to lupins in the garden; although we didn't have any lupins, my dislike of earwigs latched onto that thought. This summer, for the first time, I've planted lupins in the gardens here as they've been gradually creeping back into my thoughts; this display just sealed my admiration. Designers are taught to draw inspiration from all around and I could easily see this image as a textile - a Kaffe Fassett cushion or embroidered panel, perhaps.
Of course I had to search out the Interflora stand as they were the reason that I was able to be at the show on Saturday. The emphasis here, as with so much of this year's show, was on young talent and the company had chosen five of its finest young florists to decorate large hanging egg shapes, for which they were awarded a gold. Jolly well done - and it's great to see young people given the chance to shine.
There was inspiration:
A pretend cat slept in the Alitex/Thrive greenhouse - presumably to stop people getting too cosy in that lovely armchair. Most people did a double take, thinking that the cat was real! But what a great chair for sitting in while drinking tea and reading at the end of a gardening day. Bring me a kettle and I could live in that greenhouse.
More inspiration, seen in the Pennards garden: this little lookout perch for a bird waiting for grubs and worms. (A good use for old worn out tools.) I really liked their before and after staging of the effect of gardeners going off to war leaving nature to reclaim the land. The wildflower 'weeds' were most poignant.
The friend that I took with me to the Saturday show declared a loathing for garden artefacts inscribed with aspirational messages. I partly agree but not when confronted with this lovely bench… or is it a sculpture? Not only is it a good solid chunk of wood but the words capture the mood of a summer's day perfectly. As does the song. It would look gorgeous in a woodland setting, quite in the spirit of the place.
Onwards to tea and cakes at the Leeds Allotment society: What a lovely bunch of people they were to chat to! I asked why they exhibited at Chelsea and was told that the importance of preserving our allotment heritage was highlighted to the gardening public and, as a charity, their exhibit fees were waived. The cost, of course, was in transport. The enormous and perfect veg had been lovingly grown by their allotmenteers (with more than a few spares!) and the display put together by their members. I loved it - even the little robot who had been cobbled together out of bits and pieces (his head is a biscuit tin!), an allotmenteer habit if ever there was one! And what about Mrs Scarecrow? She's turned up for Chelsea in her sunday best - I think she deserves to go back into pride of place at the allotments.
Finally, in 'the big tent', Peter Rabbit in the Beatrix Potter garden for Hooks Green Herbs caused a few nostalgic sighs. Ignoring the big bunny for a moment, look at how cleverly the space has been used with so much packed in: beans, nasturtiums, lettuces, borage, alliums, lemon balm, thymes, sweet woodruff (peeking out under the gate), foxgloves, campions, sweet rocket, angelica, honeysuckle - even an espaliered apple tree! Surely cottage garden inspiration for the tiniest space? And presumably there were no radishes because Peter had eaten them all. And I'm glad it's not only my veg garden where the nasturtiums take over!
After the excitement of the show gardens and the excellence of the pavilion trade exhibits, the sun had come out and it was time for a woodland walk past the Artisan Gardens on the way to lunch. Last year this area excelled so I was anticipating a treat. Several of the gardens were well up to the mark but it's an area best viewed early in the day before the crowds arrive! Squeezing in, I managed to see the Topiary garden (lovely green and white planting) and the Potter's garden (Dial a Flight) with its sensuous planting:
|Brilliantly 'natural' planting in the Potter's garden: |
geraniums, cirsium, iris, foxgloves, sweet rocket, Orlaya grandiflora, poppies., aquilegia.
It seems that many people, including me, admired the Japanese garden and especially the moss balls. I've recently read that a couple of days before the show opened, the waterworks sprung a leak which flooded the garden. With less than a day to put it right, the garden was deconstructed, repaired and put back again. Very impressive and in time to win a Gold. There was so much detail in that garden, no wonder it was called 'A touch of paradise'. The garden was based on a mythical place of such beauty that all your troubles are forgotten but, once visited, can never be visited again. Very fitting considering it would all be gone at the end of the week.
And there was synchronicity:
The more I look at my photos of the gardens, the more I absolutely love the Telegraph garden. Yep, the one with the big lawn. (First photo, at top.) The shape of those big shrub 'pebbles' is just an invitation to bounce on them and I could see this as a family garden with kids loafing around on the grass in the sun. Imagine the peacefulness of sitting in this garden at the end of the day, with the view (out over the countryside, of course! or perhaps the veg garden) framed by the pleached lime trees (Tilia x europaea). It would be a pleasure to maintain with just a bit of therapeutic pruning and shaping.
Those same box balls appeared in the Homebase garden, the Laurent-Perrier garden, the M+G garden and the topiary-opera garden. It was the same story with the planting schemes. Of all the thousands of plants to choose from, the same ones appeared over and over. Still, silver linings, at least I can now spot and name several previously unknown plants with confidence.
And so to Cleve West's garden for M+G. I thought it was beautiful. All of it. I really liked the planting in the gravel and the way this drought area flowed towards the sunken courtyard fountain and the denser planting at the back. It would have been so easy to take inspiration from Beth Chatto's famous drought garden but I think Cleve took it a step further; roses and irises interplanted with dianthus, sedums, santolina, erigeron, succulents, nigella, cerinthe (hello old friend!) and artemisia at the front while the same drought planting (alliums, sedums, nepeta, salvias) were closely planted for lushness on the other side of the courtyard. Wonderfully inspirational. And it's so cool that he carved the 'Tree of Life' sculpture himself. Multi-talented.
And, finally, no-one could say that Chelsea takes itself too seriously! Fifty years in Bloom from the South West consisted of four gardens put together back to back. This is the seaside garden with Punch and Judy and a succulent and sedge creature that was very reminiscent of, er, Dill the Dog. (Remember The Herbs on BBC tv?) Have I mentioned how much I loathe old wellies used as planters. At the risk of hurting feelings, it's unoriginal. Move on, people. (Sorry.)
Talking of bonkers, need I mention pianos and gorillas made of rosebuds or giant moth nets over trees? No? Good. As Kenny Everett used to say "It's all in the best possible taste." Good old Chelsea, we love you.
Let's just leave quietly with a backwards glance at Patrick Collins' garden for the Neonatal unit at St. George's Hospital, Tooting. All put together with bravado and luck, it worked on every single level. As a story, as a garden, as excellent design.