Growbag Blog

The Growbags award their own Chelsea Golds


Our Chelsea Flower Show Review 2017:

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.  


Calycanthus behind matching aquilegias and brooms

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.

Carol Vorderman – she’s practically 60 you know!

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 Maltesers to contemplate.

Pelargonium myrrhifolium var. corianderfolium

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.

Gold standard Breaking Ground, or broken Birmingham?

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.

Bin screening – a massive turn-on for my husband

My best moment must have been when husband Mike finally ‘came alive’ to the full delights of Chelsea on 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.

It’s Full Petal Jacket for the Growbags today. None of our partners will come with us on a Saturday when the plants are all sold (mainly to us which is the problem apparently). Obviously we already have Elaine’s three Harkness roses to deal with, but Laura is definitely on her own getting a 30 foot Jack Pine on the Tube. If you’re seeking an antidote to the opulence of Chelsea – check out the refreshing integrity of Louise’s Great Plant this Month.

NB If you’d like a bit more gardening chit-chat from the3growbags, just enter your email address here:

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

17 replies on “The Growbags award their own Chelsea Golds”

I love plants in plots, , I know hardly any names of plants, I even think some weeds are bonnier than plants – but I LOVE your blog gals – too much to ask to behave today? Ok just don’t get locked up x

Jeya so lovely to hear from you. Teeming in Battersea right now! We’re heading in xx

Great blog as ever! Had me laughing out loud over my porridge! Keep it coming. I gave up watching Chelsea on television because of the lack of gardens and vastly relieved that at least two of you agree. Sweltering heat here in the far north.????????????

Hello Betsy, glad to hear you are getting the good weather as well, I remember a few years back when you were brave enough to come to Chelsea with us three – you probably still bear the scars!
Laura x

It takes some stamina to “Do Chelsea” in a day amongst the myriads of others. When I was a student at Wisley in 1961, six of us were sent to help clear the debris from the exhibits as they were being rushed to the closing bell. Afterwards, we had the marquee to ourselves as there was no ‘champagne bash parties in those days. It was just magical. I wrote an article for the Wisley Gardens Club Journal on ‘ Day at Chelsea’ which could be on the W G C Website.
Gardening Scotland next weekend when we will no doubt here complaints that it is nothing like Chelsea. Heavens forbid, there is only a tenth of the population north of the border compared to England.

Hello Bill, you’re not wrong, it takes real stamina to get round Chelsea on the final day, check out our Facebook page to see how many plants we had to lug home! Very best of luck with Gardening Scotland next weekend, best wishes Laura

Watched Chelsea on the TV and was hugely disappointed with the big display gardens, I haven’t a quarry, grand Canadian landscape or even a piece of Yorkshire coast to plant up and play with but I could relate to Chris Beardshaw’s garden. Have I lost sight of what Chelsea is about do you think?
Couldn’t bring myself to brave the crowds this year,
Thank you for doing it for me.
Loved the blog

Hello Gayle, I agree and said the same thing to Elaine during our picnic lunch at Chelsea today, but she said it was a Good Thing as at least it got people talking about what makes a good Chelsea garden. Let’s hope they work out the answer by next year! Best wishes Laura

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Irene. Chelsea really got us talking this year didn’t it! but it really is the most wonderful show and no doubt you’ll already be planning next year’s visit, the same us. best wishes, Caroline

I have a query for you lovely ladies, it is, who was Mrs Kendall Clark? One of our very favourite geraniums growing in our garden for years now. Beautiful greyish blue. Many thanks.

It’s a very good question Jenny. It comes up quite highly on a Google search so you are not alone in your curiosity. We’ve asked Cranesbill Nursery if they know the answer and will post it up if they do. It’s a gorgeous colour. Our discussion shows what a fantastic gift of immortality it is to have a plant variety named after you (although Mrs K C may still be alive of course!)

Jenny – an update as promised. Louise Sims (who is far more able than any of us Growbags) provided this from the website of Dorset Perennials, it sheds just a little light:

Geranium pratense ‘Mrs Kendall Clarke’. Each individual flower is like a church window, beautiful powder blue with pale translucent veins. The flowers are held well above the foliage on stiff upright stems and face boldly outwards. 2ft. June-July. Equally at home in the border or wild garden. Will rebloom if cut back after flowering. The original plant was posted to Walter Ingwersen in the 1930’s by a Mr Kendal Clarke, a benefactor whose identity is lost to history. The original plant is described as being pearl-grey with a rosy tint, but over the years it has changed and the form now found in the trade is the powder blue, veined form that we sell.

Don’t know whether that satisfies us or makes us more curious! xx

Yes yet again I was a Chelsea ‘pack horse’ and as usual had a fabulous time. I spend more each year and this year only managed one bag that wasn’t mine. Clematis ‘Rebecca’ I loved and a wonderful deep crimson rose. The 3 grow bags are really fun and we had a marvellous time. Shame about the standard of most of the show gardens

Lyn it was over too soon! Cant believe what an invigorating effect your ‘lime cordial’ had on the afternoon. I had to set the alarm on my phone when I got on the train to make sure I appeared as scheduled at Hitchin and rather than be discovered days later slumped in a siding at Cambridge! xx

I took my daughter to Chelsea for the first time this year – she and her husband now have an increasing interest in their garden in Leeds – all my coaching and guidance must be having an influence. I did try to gently provide her with some rather forthright views on some of the messy gardens this year though – your comment overheard at the Maltese garden might have been mine!

Great blog thanks you 3 – I understand we all might have some HHS pedigree in us? School tried to help us develop a love of gardening by giving us a shared plot to tend.

Thank you so much for commenting Christine. Wholly agree – these ‘metaphorical’ show gardens are less confusing when you’re an old campaigner to Chelsea, but for the uninitiated they often look in need of a good strim don’t they! How exciting that your daughter is getting the gardening bug -I hope mine also catches it in time.
Yes all three of us agree HHS gave us the most fantastic education – a great foundation for life. Weren’t we lucky? kind regards, Caroline

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