Growbag Blog

The3Growbags go to Chelsea!

If Chelsea truly taps into the zeitgeist of the horticultural world then there are some definite trends emerging. It is now mandatory to have a scruffy garden in which at least half the plants (formerly referred to as weeds) must be edible.

Alongside you will need a state of the art outdoor kitchen and a range of Ottolenghi recipes – slinging a few sausages on the barbie no longer cuts the mustard.

There was a definite assumption that it will never rain again during a UK summer – eating al fresco is de rigueur now according to Chelsea!

We also all need to instal a tree fern – bright colours are out, ferns are in.
If you absolutely insist on planting a proper garden plant it must either be a camassia or a thalictrum. And the only acceptable rose is ‘Mutabilis’.

On Saturday all three of us got together and, with the (slightly drink-fuelled) 4pm plant sell-off in prospect, we really got the Chelsea ‘here comes summer’ vibe.

So what about the gardens. We were at one with Monty this year. Sarah Price’s gorgeous Benton irises and lime washed backgrounds…. to die for. As for the others, Chris Beardshaw’s myeloma garden… immaculate; Jihae Hwang’s Korean garden….would ‘slightly dull but worthy’ cover it?; Mark Gregory’s Savills’ garden…raised-bed gardening with knobs on, but very pleasing knobs.

No doubt, like us, you’ve been devouring the BBC coverage this week, and taking it with a pinch of salt. For instance, Toby Buckland gamely attempting to show us how we could apply show garden techniques in our own gardens. Really? The gorilla nest on the Fauna and Flora garden? Or indeed Cleve West’s upturned tree covered in nettles and brambles. Frankly there is rewilding and then there’s a ghastly mess!

So down to the customary 3Growbags special awards.

First up the best overheard comment goes to an audible aside from Joe Swift to Sophie Raworth whilst perched on a protruding gantry above the ‘Cavernoma on My Mind’ garden: ‘don’t think we’ll recreate that scene from Titanic – that didn’t end well….’

Sophie Wraworth and Joe Swiftv
We all overheard Joe’s comments to lovely Sophie.

A close second was a weary husband muttering to his wife ‘we’ve been here for an hour already and only looked at four gardens, this is worse than taking you round IKEA’

And runner up was Caroline’s neighbour as she was directing the stall holder to the variety of lily bulb she wanted ‘I’m looking for Eternal Love’ to which he sighed philosophically ‘Ah, we’re all looking for that ..’

Plant we most wanted to take home.
For Laura this was the latte-coloured floribunda rose on the Peter Beales stand ‘Koko Loko’ despite the withering looks from Elaine.

Rosa Koko Loko
Rosa Koko Loko – Laura felt the colour was channeling Sarah Price whilst Elaine saw more of Miss Haversham

Caroline fell for the gorgeous Rhododendron ‘Daviesii’ which would actually be a safe bet for her in the Scottish Highlands as it can apparently withstand -20

Dizzying scent, gorgeous autumn colour and hardy to -20. This azalea is a dream come true for Caroline.

Elaine admits that she absolutely doesn’t need more roses, but considered R. ‘Dannihue’ a new introduction from David Austin, a total beaut.

Oh no! Not ANOTHER rose that I have to have……..!

What Da’ moments came thick and fast Elaine’s was the jarringly coloured ‘insect’s eye’ laboratory in the middle of the Royal Entomological Society Garden.

I was glad it was made of recycled steel and glazing panels, but the impact was of fluorescent artificiality instead of iridescent Nature.

Whilst Caroline felt the ‘back to nature’ theme had been taken just a little too far in some of the floristry exhibits

Not likely to win ‘Wedding Decoration of the Year’. Has the drive to be ‘au naturel’ gone a bit too far in the floral display section?

And Laura felt that the starkly sterile seating area in the RBC Brewin Dolphin garden, whose only focal point was a central drain grating, had been slightly improved by the orange powder sprayed all over it by the Just Stop Oil protesters

Chelsea 2023
In a way it was a shame they did such a good job clearing up the orange dust ….

There were a couple of moments of pure fabulosity – Laura’s WAY over-the-top excitement when she found the weird horse chestnut taking over a large area of Chris Beardshaw’s garden had won its own special prize. She started telling anyone who would listen literally ALL about it:

Pleased as punch that the tree she fell in love with on his stand 4 years ago won a special prize for Chris Beardshaw’s gold medal garden this year. It’s Aesculus x mutabalis ‘Penduliflora’ as everyone within 10 metres of her now knows.

Caroline’s best moment was the realisation that her daughter Briege, who had mainly been invited along for decorative purposes was actually showing a genuine interest in the way plants grow.

Briege was clearly delighted to be listening to a plant’s root activity through electronic sensors at the Teapot Trust’s lovely Elsewhere garden.

And Elaine’s was definitely as she contentedly walked out of the show ground, following the green-velveted behinds of the girls who had sung 40’s songs so wonderfully on the Ranelagh Gardens Bandstand an hour earlier.

Don’t they look FABULOUS! They can really sing too……we’re thinking of getting similar matching outfits for Chelsea 2024

More NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

Another huge theme at Chelsea was encouraging pollinators so we decided to offer our lovely Bee House free of P&P this week! Simply add the code FREE23 in the coupon box at the check-out

This little grass was on nearly every stand at Chelsea – it’s very trendy right now, but it comes with a health warning! Nevertheless it’s Louise’s Great Plant this Month

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.

15 replies on “The3Growbags go to Chelsea!”

Could well be, Will! They honestly looked and sounded great and the crowd round the bandstand really loved every minute of their set. Hope to see you soon…..

Thank you for a concise , thought provoking and interesting review. I recorded the Chelsea flower show on Tv and have watched 2 programmes basically because I’ve been in my one and half acre garden every evening until almost 10pm (slogging my guts out weeding, planting and working on it) . The programmes I did watch I enjoyed ,I was particularly bemused by Rachel de Thames outfits ,were they supposed to be retro or hasn’t she bought any new clothes since 1968 ?, personally I would have given the old Laura Ashley garb back to Mary Hopkin !. The gorillas nest sounds interesting it gave me an idea for my jungle area , I could leave the broken bamboo culms and the mulch , pile it all up and tell visitors it was my version of a orangutang abode, I could even get a life size plastic one to give them the idea ? What do you think

Eileen this made us really hoot with laughter (Caroline here and I’m still at Laura’s in the southern sunshine!). You’re talking your way into a role as a fourth Growbag here. I’d patent the orangutang home, everyone will want one!

Forcing plants to flower for one week in May was always a weird reality where everyone dresses up and nothing is real. Thousands of people six deep leaning over each other to gawp and try to get a glimpse. Each year the show gets more like a virtuous “changing rooms” slapping itself on the back for creating a freak show.

Alistair there’s no doubt you’re posing a credible school of thought about Chelsea here. ‘Everyone dresses up and nothing is real’ has, though, been the concept for many a very enjoyable event…horticultural or otherwise. Great to get your views on this one.

Thank you so much, Deborah – we always have a lot of fun at Chelsea and we’re glad we managed to convey some of the laughs! Hope you keep enjoying our ramblings….

Love your Chelsea highlights..totally agree with ALL your comments…see you soon Elaine .

Thank you Irene, ‘great minds…..’ and all that’! Elaine here, and yes, less than a week to go before we’re part of the first NGS Eastbourne Garden Tour. Desperately hoping for weather like we’ve had this weekend, for sure……..All the best

I really think you three girls should be doing the commentary on the box…at least you say what you see!!and it would be such fun!!
Have those that be forgotten it’s Chelsea FLOWER show!!….and some exhibitors need to look up the dictionary meaning of garden!! enough said!

Oh Angela that’s a lovely thought but I don’t think they’d let us loose on the Beeb somehow 🤣🤣 It definitely was quite an unusual take on what a garden should be this year, and it’s not surprising that the most classic English garden won People’s Choice was it? And that’s not to say it wasn’t great for wildlife too, the bees were absolutely humming round Chris Beardshaw’s garden, but he just wasn’t virtue signalling biodiversity as overtly as some of the other (so-called) gardens. It’s all great fun though and gets us all talking and thinking doesn’t it. Best wishes Laura

Thanks Charlie, glad we managed to bring out a bit of the fun of it especially for folk who maybe weren’t able to go, that’s really what it’s all about, sharing the enjoyment. The hats are really helpful when we’re trying to find each other in the crowds!! Hope you’re keeping well and thanks for all your messages on our other platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook …so many) Laura x

Ha, ha! Hilarious! Loved your comments. You have articulated what everyone is really thinking! At least my mum and I are 😄

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