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