The Chelsea Flower Show is one of my favourite annual events – what better excuse to abandon your desk, and head into the sunshine with your pals? This year I went along with my sister and one of her ex-colleagues, Andy. Not only are these guys great ‘bants’ (and they like Pimms), but they also know a thing or two about gardens (being garden designers), so they’re the perfect Chelsea buddies!
I loved a lot of the gardens this year, but there were two clear winners for me. The first, a small Artisan Garden called ‘Together We Can’, was a Silver Gilt medal winner, and was designed for the disability charity Papworth Trust. I really should have filmed this garden because its beauty, aside from its bold use of purple and running water, was in its peaceful and playful water percussion.
My second favourite garden was called The Garden of Potential and it featured huge rugged boulders balanced on top of clean oak beams. I liked the juxtaposition between the ancient weathered boulders, and the ordered composition of the garden. There was also a fun water feature in the form of a level-changing gutter which zig-zagged through the garden, and a fence that tipped over to form a path.
Another of my favourites was the AkzoNobel Honeysuckle Blue(s) Garden, which is part of a larger Farm of the World initiative, aimed at educating people on the age-old sustainable techniques of using plants for their dyes to create fabrics in beautiful colours that appeal to our innate sense of nature.
If you followed any of the show on the news, you will have seen that this year also featured a spectacular display of handmade poppies in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. This ‘garden’ was designed in collaboration with the 5000 Poppies Project in tribute to the soldiers who fought in the Second World War, and featured a whopping 300,000 crochet poppies from 50,000 contributors.
The Chelsea Pensioners themselves could be found enjoying the gardens, and I loved hearing snippets of their conversations. One gentleman joked that one of the garden displays had ‘gone a bit rusty’ despite the deliberate effect, and at one point a chap named Ernie seemed to make a break for it.
This year, I think it’s fair to say that a lot of my favourite gardens featured seating areas (not that I’m lazy, or anything!). I particularly loved the curved ‘bench’ in The Chelsea Barracks Garden, and the wooden carved semi-circular sloping bench in the Winton Beauty of Mathematics Garden, which aimed to celebrate the mathematics and algorithms that underpin all plants, growth and life.
As well as the show gardens, Chelsea also features a range of exhibitors, including a host of well-known well-to-do brands, and a number of specialist sculptors. One or two of these caught my eye, such as these gorgeous handmade wooden horses, or the sculpted swans and owls by Simon Gudgeon.
I find Chelsea inspiring every year; in 2015 I fell in love with orange Geum after seeing it in so many of the show gardens, and right before this year’s show I saw it for sale in Homebase! It now lives in a pot in my garden, and I love the burst of colour. Oddly, a water lily that I bought last summer following Chelsea also raised its first lily pad of the year on the day of my 2016 Chelsea visit – in homage!
This time, I fell in love with lupins and fox gloves (and learnt the difference between them – huzzah). I also loved the tiny yellow buds of trollus (or ‘trollop’, as my Garden Guide Andy first surmised…), and was pleased to see orange poppies, strawberry plants and even stinging nettles on the plant lists.
I could happily have spent another half day at Chelsea this year. After spending possibly a little too long in the Pimms tent, we had to rush the last few gardens as our time was up, and the sun was setting. All in all we had a really fun day out, and by the end, all our spirits were lifted. Bring on next year!
If you like the look of Chelsea, don’t miss the Hampton Court Flower Show which takes place between 5-10 July in Surrey. I’ll be going along once again with my sister, Andy and Grandma!
What were your favourite gardens?