12 Jun 2014

My RHS Chelsea (Day Two): Surely the last blog post on Chelsea!

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.
The Viking garden was interesting. Of course, the garden was inspired by the sponsors, Viking River Cruises but how do you link Vikings and a flower show. The clue is in the word 'Artisan'; the longboat prow was custom made by master craftsmen in Falmouth, Cornwall and yours for only £18,600.  The design and build were authenticated by the British Museum. Even the rune stone steps are available for £3,250. (I did wonder if there was a hidden message in those symbols!) That seems to be the way with garden design - the landscaping and 'features' cost way more than the plants (unless you buy mature trees for your garden).  I did, however, really like the pools of water; these would be a brilliant way to safely introduce a water feature into even the smallest garden - especially if they can be programmed to suddenly shoot a jet of water skywards!



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.


24 comments:

  1. You certainly made the most of your visit, Caro - and thought about what you saw pretty deeply, it appears. Your views are very eloquently expressed too!

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    1. Aww, thanks, Mark - high praise and much appreciated! Glad you enjoyed the post, I wanted it to be personal to me and my experience of the show (which, needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed!). I could have gone on but, well, we have to draw a line somewhere and I want to tell of what's happening in my own garden!

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  2. A lovely look back at the show Caro. I hope to see The Herbs again over the summer as they've been taken to Midsomer Norton via Scotland!

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    1. Pleased you liked it, Michelle, thanks! Just looked up "Herbs in Midsomer Norton" and am gutted that I didn't see Parsley the Lion - he was my favourite! How could I have missed him! I'm really surprised at how sturdy they all are as they've been 'on the road' for several events. Well done to the florists of the South-West! I shall now be expecting an outbreak of Herbs fervour this summer. C xx

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  3. Beautiful set of photos. I found it easier to sit and appreciate them a little after the event when not every blog post is about chelsea. Thanks :)

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    1. I know what you mean, Jenny. When it's all on tv every night and then on all the blogs, it can feel a bit like overkill, however beautiful. Glad you liked this post, it was fun to write!

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  4. Loving post Caro. It's nice to sit back and read your thoughts after the Chelsea hubbub has passed. I'm with you on wellies as planters, mainly on a practicality basis - there's just not enough space for anything to grow in them. I loved the Peter Rabbit stand. I'm sure some thought it was a bit twee but I loved that romanticism and escape back to childhood. And wasn't Patrick Collins' garden just brilliant. It made such a change to see a garden on a slope, it felt a bit more real I think for it. Glad you seemed to have a better day on the Saturday. ;) x

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    1. Thanks, Louise. Hope I wasn't too harsh on the welly growers! They might be okay for a bit of mint or a pansy (with drainage holes) but much better to recycle outgrown wellies to the charity shop or smaller footed friends. I could have forgiven SW gardens if they'd abandoned the wellies next to rock pools, a fishing net and a crabbing bucket for authenticity - with or without the planting! I'm pleased you also liked the Peter Rabbit garden, it definitely harks back to a gentler (some might say 'better') age. Cxx

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  5. Oh I'd have been in seventh heaven - especially with Peter Rabbit, nothing tugs at my childhood heartstrings more than Beatrix Potter!

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    1. Hi Annie, lovely to see you over here, I love your blog written from the New Forest too! Lovely part of the world that I know well. If the photo above was tugging at the heartstrings, you should have seen Peter's little blue jacket as a scarecrow in the rear - very authentic! I'd quite like to visit Beatrix Potter land in the Lakes now!!

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  6. There's so much in your post that wasn't covered on tv, that's the downside of not being able to attend in person, you end up missing so many things. The Telegraph garden was my favourite, though I may have changed my mind had I seen them for real, and I love Patrick Collins' garden too.

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    1. Really? Wow, I haven't got round to watching all the tv coverage, even now, so thanks, Jo! In truth, all the gardens were seriously beautiful, even the ones with an important message like the RNIB Mind's Eye garden. Obviously the tv coverage concentrates on the highlights of the show; I've been fascinated to read different perspectives and reactions to the show over many other blogs. As a gardener, I like to see all the plants and planting combinations up close!

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  7. By far the best post I have read about Chelsea even though is a little belated. I loved your different take on the show and your favourites coincide with mine. Not sure why we have stopped visiting each other's blogs of late but here I am to rectify the situation.

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    1. Ah, yes, guilty of holding back on this post, Elaine - but thanks for your wonderful compliment! I'm frantically juggling garden, planting, job, family and college deadlines at the moment. I did seriously consider closing the blog down for a month or two to catch up - but then I'd miss the best bits of the summer blogging! So, something has to give and at the moment it's writing this blog and catching up with others. So glad you've popped in to say hello! xx

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  8. I found that this post was almost certainly the most enjoyable Chelsea show one that I'd read. Lots of lovely photos as well, I especially like the look of that armchair.
    Well done on mentioning the Leeds Allotment society. Flighty xx

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    1. Ah, Flighty, what a wonderful comment for me to read! I feel like I've won Gold myself now! Thank you. Oh, yes, gorgeous armchair, eh? Just like the ones we had in my school library so I've a soft spot for beaten up leather armchairs. (My school library was a bit like a gentlemen's club in ambience and positively encouraged loafing around, reading.) The Leeds allotmenteers were such great people - the sense of pride in their work and sense of fun over the presentation was obvious! I love that they bothered to come down to London to promote the value of allotments with such good solid values. Meeting people like this make the show really sing for me. C xx

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  9. What a wonderful post, I'm glad you took your time to reflect and gives us the biggest and best post that I've read on the subject to date. I love those lupins and could cheerfully live in that greenhouse too. The egg shape things are fab too, and that last garden looks so peaceful and natural, what a garden should be. xxx

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    1. So pleased you enjoyed the post, Snowbird, thank you! I'll have to stay away from the folder with the photos in now as I keep thinking of other things I wanted to write about! Patrick Collins' garden was truly calming. I saw a video of him talking about the garden beforehand; he drew inspiration from his childhood home in Cornwall, a beautiful place with a stream. It's a pity it was sold off piecemeal on the last day; a lot of stuff ends up in skips apparently which is sad (and a waste!).

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    2. Skips??? really? how awful, I'd hang around and grab stuff, as I'm sure some must do! Get back to your folder and post some more, I'll enjoy it!xxx

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  10. A great post. I enjoyed reading part 2 of your Chelsea visit. It is great to see parts of it that I missed with the TV coverage. Lupins seem to be back in fashion after being out in the cold for years.
    I agree with you the Daily Telegraph garden was lovely but a bit impractical to have at home. How would you maintain that perfect lawn? I prefer a few daisies and no chemicals. I love the Patrick Collins garden.

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    1. I love that everyone has enjoyed this post, it's brought a big smile to my face - thank you, Chloris! The Telegraph garden looked fabulous, a real dream garden and, as in any dream, one would be able to send the gardening staff out at dawn (before the family awoke) to clip the lawn into perfection! Haha! Yes, I also noticed that there wasn't a single creeping buttercup or daisy on that lawn - wouldn't stay like that for long under my care! Great that lupins are fashionable again, they integrate so well with other natural planting. A great plant.

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  11. Some really beautiful gardens there. I've been noticing lupins everywhere this year too, and I know exactly what you mean about a Kaffe Fassett tapestry. I love the Pennards garden and the Leeds Allotment Society one too. Good to know they're so passionate about spreading the allotment word. Love your header by the way, your blog's looking lovely. Hope you have a good weekend, CJ xx

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  12. What lovely gardens you photographed, I still want that greenhouse even more for that chair. I could curl up & snooze in it with the scent of tomato leaves!

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  13. I'm so glad you managed to get into the show at the last minute. Your images and review has been a wonderful way to brighten my Monday evening! Sarah x

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Caro x

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