We’re all off to glorious Chelsea Flower Show this week. Here are five things I love about it:
1. It’s completely mad. How ridiculous to virtually dig up and re landscape an area of our capital city simply for a flower show. I just love that we do it every year.
2. It’s in a trendy part of London. For country bumpkins like us there is still something exciting about the Chelsea embankment. It makes us feel cosmopolitan.
3. The camaraderie you sense on every part of your journey. You can spot fellow show goers on the train, fingering their show guides and on the minibuses taking people to and from Battersea Park chatting excitedly about what they are most looking forward to seeing. We are a band of brothers.
4. The fact that everyone exhibiting, everyone, has pulled out all the stops to bring you best that they can offer, to be the best that they can be.
5. The smell as you enter the grand pavilion – not quite as evocative now as it used to be in the days of the canvas marquee, but still that heady mix of nectar and bark chippings as you step inside makes me feel glad to be alive.
I agree with you, Laura, every one of those points works for me, too. And here are 5 more reasons to go to the greatest flower show on Earth.
6. There is always a huge buzz around the big-name garden designers and their show-gardens, Chelsea is gardening’s Ascot – it brings out the celebs and the TV coverage is fantastic – so exciting to rush home and see if you can spot yourself on the telly that night.
7. We can enjoy a pleasant feeling of smugness tinged with humour as we study the Artisan Gardens, spotting the dandelions and nettles so artfully placed, and know that WE TOO have achieved that charmingly neglected air in several corners of our own garden.
8. Although many of the show gardens are bonkers, all of them cost a fortune, and there are always some you just don’t like – too much concrete, too alien, too naff, or just too…..designed, perhaps. BUT every year, there is one that blows me away and ends up bursting my photo album and garden notebook. It will be FULL of plants, full of colour, set against immaculate landscaping. Last year it was Chris Beardshaw’s Healthy Cities Garden – aaaahhh, all that glorious blue, purple, green and white! I wonder what my fave will be, this year?
9. I love all the extraordinary veg stands, the amazing creations from Trinidad and Tobago, and the carnivorous plants. I love them being there. But this old girl is a perennial plantist at heart – I pore over new aquilegias on Hardy’s beautiful stand, gaze in wonder at the glorious irises from Cayeux, the clematis from Evison’s…
10. And the very best bit of all? When that bell rings at 4pm on the Saturday for the big sell-off, and the entire contents of the marquee get up and start moving round the room! I’ve always put my name on a few treasures to collect, but there’s also a thrilling first-come-first-served at some stands, and honestly, it is utterly wonderful being among thousands of people turned on by fabulous plants.
The laden walk back to Victoria, the journey home on the train – ‘Burnham Wood come to Dunsinane’…what a day!! And I haven’t even mentioned the social side of things….
You can safely leave that to me Elaine. I’m fully prepped for the growbags’ annual Chelsea orgy next Saturday.
My best memories of 2015 won’t though include Princess Kate – a gorgeous new clematis which, at our strategic planning meeting at lunchtime (hic! – see picture), Laura had detailed me to acquire for her at any personal cost upon the 4pm bell. It called for bravery, courage, tenacity, and judgement (but luckily no integrity), and I did it! For just 10 British pounds I clinched a Princess Kate from Taylors’ Clematis stand!
Carrying aloft what felt like the FA Cup I tottered back through the marquee, down the minibus queue, over the car park and almost to the car, when the fatal stumble occurred (see the strategic planning meeting earlier) setting off the unmistakable pistol crack of Princess Kate’s stem snapping at her base.
She showed none of her namesake’s resilience. Her planted root simply rotted in its grave, now requiring me, according to Laura, to steel myself for the same purchase next Saturday. Was last year’s prosecco intake a defining element of the initial success at acquiring Princess Kate or the source of her downfall? I think the former – it won’t hurt to repeat surely….