Leon KlugeWas Chelsea a bit mild this year?

Every year Chelsea has its challenges for us, whether it would be the wrong signature on the right paper, or the wrong paper with the right plant or any other combination you can imagine, Yip, the joys of red tape!
This year was no exception. Every year we experience mild to warm weather at the show, with a few drizzles of course, and I always pack the warmest, thickest winter woollies I own for London’s summer and never touch any of them, so this year I thought to go without (ok ok, I needed space for plants in my suitcase)……..

Best part of the show, Joanna Lumley Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Best part of the show, Joanna Lumley at the Chelsea Flower Show 2013

It was painful, I have never been that cold in my life, with frozen rain – they said it was hail, but I think it wanted to snow! and no Starbucks close by to ease the situation at site.

Freezing! With Catherine Stewart at Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Freezing! With Catherine Stewart at Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Make no mistake, I love Chelsea! I need my fix for the year. It’s a get together and rekindling of friends in the industry from all around the global village. Each year we make big plans to go out at night party and catch-up, but Chelsea has the ability to sap all your energy with build-up, and you are as weak as a wilted poppy at night.

Streptocarpus at the Dibleys stand Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Streptocarpus at the Dibleys stand Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Alpine garden Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Alpine garden Chelsea Flower Show 2013

This year I loved the plant exhibitions in the great pavilion, the great alpine collections and the amazing streptocarpus from Dibleys. And due to the colder weather I actually saw some flowering cherry trees. I have never seen that before, as they don’t tend to do well here between the elephants.

But I have to be honest that although the gardens were spectacular (yes also Australia) I did miss the …. how should I call it….the Darmuid Gavin effect! The Chelsea Flower Show to me is in a way like fashion week in New York. It gives inspiration for new thinking, new ideas to gardening, and while some of the clothes on the fashion runways might not be practical to wear, or sometimes a bit scary looking, they might just trigger an idea to use as an element in that design to create something of a movement in fashion.

It’s the same with gardening and designers such as Darmuid test the boundaries of gardening (and also the boundaries of the RHS judges, I think) but it makes great viewing pleasure. Big hype and always give me plenty to think about in designing out of the traditional gardening box.

Australian garden pod Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Australian garden pod Chelsea Flower Show 2013

This year the gardens seemed very mild, and safe, but let’s be honest there were a couple of daring elements at the show. First of all the seedpod in the Australian garden. Loooooved it, I want one! And I am so glad that the Australian garden had some proper iconic Australian plants in it at last (and not strelitzias and clivias). It was amazing for me to see grass trees in real life. I have always wanted to see that, and don’t get me started on the huggable Brachychiton trees.

Me and the Australian garden pod Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Me and the Australian garden pod Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Grass trees in the Australian garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Grass trees in the Australian garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2013

After the Fire garden by James Basson, Chelsea Flower Show 2013

After the Fire garden by James Basson, Chelsea Flower Show 2013

After the Fire garden water feature Chelsea Flower Show 2013

After the Fire garden water feature Chelsea Flower Show 2013

The ‘After the fire’ garden designed by James Basson was to me spectacular. What a talented guy! The garden seemed very simplistic, but the detail in that space was impeccable, from the fire made clay pots, the lights in the garden that gave the impression of glowing ambers at night, and the charcoal burnt soil. To me that was a garden that could tell you a thousand stories.

After the Fire garden chairs Chelsea Flower Show 2013

After the Fire garden chairs Chelsea Flower Show 2013

In the East Village garden Chelsea Flower Show 2013

In the East Village garden Chelsea Flower Show 2013

The East Village Garden was probably my favourite garden at this year’s show. Nothing extremely daring in the design, but beautiful planting and astonishing features. It gave me a sense of peacefulness, and a garden design that would be great in my back yard. Not to mention bumping into Helen Mirren in the garden. (Could not utter a word).

Using grass (barley) in garden design. Love it! Chelsea Flower Show 2013

Using grass (barley) in garden design. Love it! Chelsea Flower Show 2013

 

So maybe wackiness was not in the foreground this year, but ‘awesomeness’ would be the right word to describe the show.

 

 

 

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Leon Kluge

About Leon Kluge

Leon Kluge is an award-winning landscape designer who was part of the successful South African team at Chelsea in both 2010 and 2012, and the Gardening World Cup in Japan in 2011, and then won a Gold medal at the 2013 Cup. Leon is known for his modern, contemporary landscapes, sustainable community projects and his specialisation in vertical gardens. His company Leon Kluge Landscape Design is based in north-eastern South Africa.

2 thoughts on “Was Chelsea a bit mild this year?

  1. Jeff Howes on said:

    A visit to Chelsea flower show It is on my to do list and it from all report a must see.
    So till I get there reports and pictures like yours keep my enthusiasm up.
    Thanks,
    Jeff

  2. Paul Urquhart on said:

    I’d have to agree with your general summation, Leon. Usually I will wait patiently to get some good pics but this year, it all seemed a bit, well tiresome. As usual, all gardens were put together masterfully but the designs overall lacked any pizzazz, and were, as you say, safe. I know the organisers introduced the Fresh category to introduce some adventurousness (or as Tim Richardson likes to say, conceptual element) in the designs but it may take a few years for it to filter through to the main display. What if they just took out the judging and let the designs stand on their own without this point-scoring mania that drives the designers AND sponsors! Now that would be revolutionary. Maybe it was the cold, but I spent more time in the marquee than in other years and loved it.

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