If Chelsea Flower Show didn’t exist, we would have to invent it – otherwise we wouldn’t have a ceiling for our artistic gardening ambition to hurl itself against. Much of what you see there is near-impossible to re-create, misguided or just barking-mad – but witnessing the misguided or the barking-mad is actually quite exciting, like watching Diane Abbott calculate the Treasury Budget.
You will already have had it ‘up to here’ about good and bad Chelsea gardens (in a nutshell, garden plants didn’t get big medals this year – I’m sure they will have a resurgence in the future), so we propose some new medal categories. Firstly:
Best Overheard Comment: I nearly chose a lady talking to her friend as they neared the Maltese Quarry garden, ‘Oh yes, this is the garden for people who don’t like gardening’, but the winner for me was a heavily-accented female voice saying ‘Do you think I’d better join the RHS now?’ Male voice in reply ‘Let’s get you into the NHS first, dear’.
‘Garden That Makes You Go ‘What Da?’ My eventual winner was the Bermuda Triangle Fresh Garden. Really?
Best Moment of the Day was when the very nice man at Harkness Roses said I could reserve THREE roses to pick up at the Saturday sell-off . My Plant I Most Want To Take Home award went a luscious Calycanthus on the Hilliers stand – or was I just seduced by its positioning behind matching aquilegias and brooms? I can imagine that Caroline’s best moment will involve champers, and Laura’s coveted plant will be much more esoteric than mine – finding some lesser-spotted Pelargonium broomhandleupitsarsii or some such no doubt.
Yes, now that the show garden designers have clearly given up on producing any thing that resembles a garden, favouring instead great swathes of landscape from random parts of the globe such as Malta, the boreal forest of Canada, and Yorkshire, I think the new set of Growbag awards are very timely.
Frankly some of the trade stands now out-shine the show gardens. Thank goodness for the pavilion where some semblance of horticulture-as-we-know-it remains, and of course the ever present chance that you might see a gardening celeb being interviewed live. It was during an interview with a particularly effervescent and rather unnaturally buxom Carol Vorderman that I awarded my: Best Overheard Comment, which went to a wife hissing to her clearly transfixed husband ‘She’s practically sixty you know’
‘Garden That Makes You Go ‘What Da?’ has to go to that blessed Maltese Quarry, I agree that the Bermuda Triangle was bizarre, but at least it looked relatively cheap to make whereas the ratio of expense to aesthetic output in Jamie Sasson’s abandoned quarry, would take an entire box of Malteser’s to contemplate.
My Best Moment Of The Day, for the second year running, was washing my hands in the vast water fountain in the ladies loo where Heyland and Whittle products flow like milk and honey in a harem
The plant I would Most Like To Take Home was the Jack Pine in the Royal Bank of Canada stand but a close second was a Pelargonium myrrhifolium var. corianderfolium which Elaine may indeed consider esoteric and Caroline won’t even be able to pronunce.
I feel no shame, I had other things on my mind. Choosing the hottest day of the year so far to visit Chelsea wasn’t the best strategy for a blue-skinned resident of Scotland. I needn’t have worried though, there was literally a Pimms bar on every corner, which also helped me support the swing singers to belt out some great wartime hits.
I was able to nail two of our top awards in one swift minute. Beyond doubt my ‘What Da?’ award went to ‘Breaking Gound’ created by Wellington College, where I also picked up my best overheard comment: “Bits of Birmingham look like this.” Laura’s right, many of the gardens just look like clever set-design for Trainspotting films now. Poor Chris Beardshaw. His assumption that it was still about creating lovely gardens was ignominiously corrected when judges denied him Gold, although we mere mortals loved it.
My best moment must have been when husband Mike finally ‘came alive’ to the full delights of Chelsea albeit only after spotting a solution for screening rubbish bins (what is wrong with men?) and, fuelled by Louise’s enthusiasm for them in her last column, my coveted plant at the 4pm bell will be the Abutilon ‘Marian’ from Wall End Nursery.