Tuesday, 26 May 2015




Flowers, flowers everywhere!  London is intoxicated   during this floral week of the calendar and it shows! 

 This year the theme is Fairy Tales,   appealing to children and adults of all ages.  There is a competition and one can vote on line.  

On the day of my visit to Chelsea,   I noticed many groups of ladies  walking together, talking, laughing, carrying soft bags bulging with Chelsea Flower Show spoils.  There were couples, young and old and camera-laden individuals,  all supported by a common love of the garden. "The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies"  Gertrude Jekyll 

I've decided that gardeners are as obsessive as they are compulsive and I guess I’m one of them!  The weather was abysmal at the beginning of the Chelsea Flower week.  7 - 12 deg Celsius to be exact and visitors had to battle strong icy winds, rain and hail.  

Many Chelsea enthusiasts plan their outfits months in advance.    Floral dresses, jackets, suits, and hats galore!  The British are an intrepid lot and NEVER cancel because of the weather.  Chelsea exacts more however.  Tickets are bought months in advance and  people travel from all corners of the globe for this experience.  The unseasonal icy weather was borne bravely!   Layers and layers were pulled out of bags, covering up the florals!    When it rains,  umbrellas at Chelsea are dangerous!   On the day of our visit, we were lucky.    No rain and a slight chill in the air and a little sunshine.   

Chelsea is the culmination of the undiluted perfection of thousands of floral endeavours. The months and weeks of intricate planning.  Heating, cooling or whatever it takes to create a perfect specimen at just the right time.  Huge trees are moved,  pleached,  trimmed and planted to look as if they have always been there.    The experts have ways of tricking nature to perform her magic. It is astonishing seeing perennials all flowering next to each other in the planned borders.  Gardeners know that various perennials and bulbs flower at various times throughout the year,  and yet at Chelsea expert growers manage to get them to all flower together! 

Visiting Chelsea often results in people rushing home and re-imagining their gardens.    For me,  each visit has resulted in an affirmation of my love of  the glory of flowers.  If you don’t like flowers,  then perhaps give CFS a miss! This year,  the perennial was king.  

I was overwhelmed and inspired by the varied  mutations and combinations  of colour, shape and form.  Each  year there are new plants to learn about or familiar flowers in new colours I've not seen before.   I might add more colours to my small herbaceous border at home, which I hadn’t before considered.   

 I booked tickets from 3.30pm until 8.00pm.    We rushed to get there on time and in hindsight, being later might have been easier!  There were hundreds of people all eager to get inside and begin exploring. We filed into the grounds like a heard of cattle.  Extremely polite cattle mind you.  Not a single shove or push!    

There were fifteen show gardens this year.  All of them built from scratch in just 19 days.  They will be dismantled in 5 days.  Taking photos was challenging and all are my own with the exception of two which I have noted.  Below were my favourites: 

The Telegraph Garden - GOLD

This was the first garden we visited. It was designed by Marcus Barnett and is  based on the De Stijl movement.  I’d never heard of the De Stijl movement and Google describes  'ultimate simplicity and abstraction, both in architecture and painting, using only straight horizontal and vertical lines and rectangular forms”.  This application is very evident in this  design.    I loved the planting, and in particular,  the very fine grasses which added whimsy and movement.   

The Time in between garden

  The designer is an Australian and I quote from the Royal Horticultural Society website.

"Charlie Albone, an Australian-based designer has created his first RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden,  a space to update his late father about his life since his father passed away.  Aged just 17 when he lost his father,  Charlie has been keen to tell his father about his life since.  An emotive space,  the garden has different sections,  each telling the story.  The first section celebrates life with beautiful, romantic planting;  a water feature in the second section which is a space for reflection;  and the third, at the rear of the garden, is an intimate space to sit, connect and communicate with loved ones"  The purple, green and white and grey scheme was beautiful and I spotted a few proteas!  The purple Aliums and Iris were sensational!  As Mick Conway, of Conway landscaping in Australia built this garden, it was of special interest to us.

Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden

This garden marks Chatsworth's debut at Chelsea. 
The designer Dan Pearson represents a "small, less-trodden part of the 105 acre Chatsworth Garden".  Pearson's passion for untamed, naturalistic planting has it's perfect place in this garden.  The rocks were all brought in from Chatsworth,  and the theme was inspired by Chatsworth's ornamental Trout Stream and Paxton's rockery.  There is a plan to move the entire garden back to Chatsworth after the show.  

The Homebase Garden

Although essentially a modern garden,  certainly in the hard construction,  the designer Adam Frost applied a traditional perennial border planting to compliment his use of cement concrete, corten steel and cedar. I was not overwhelmed by the choice of lavender paint mixed with the orange of the cedar,  however,  the planting linked in with this scheme was clever.   Both photos below are from the RHS website. 

Sentebali - Hope in Vulnerability

Designed by Mathew Keightley,  this garden celebrates the opening of Mamohato Children's centre in Lesotho and is also one of Prince Harry's charities.  The garden features a traditional building, built using traditional materials and methods surrounded by a garden which depicts that landscape.  I loved the building with it's thatched roof and stone detail as well as the garden, waterfall and a rickety fence.  These details were all so familiar,  reminding me of the country I was born in.    

I was very excited to see Botanica exhibiting.  They are based in Australia and their birdbaths are magnificent.  

I had never heard of James Doran before.  As I approached his space, surrounded by gasping onlookers,  I was astounded.  His life-size sculptures, created out of driftwood are spectacular.  They are not cheap,  but I would imagine would be an amazing addition to a large landscape garden - 

The Great Pavillion was a treat!  I actually forgot to take photos most of the time !  

The Auriculas were the highlight and I managed to have a chat to one of the growers.  He seemed to think I have a fighting chance with my little collection back home in Australia!

A huge variety of Heucera

Morgan Stanley Healthy Cities Garden

Undoubtedly my favourite garden at Chelsea was designed by Chris Beardshaw.  "The formal geometry of paths, hedges and walls symbolises the physical infrastructure of a community, while vibrant plants denote the social elements within as they are diverse in origin, colour and character but work together to form a successful community".   I loved the vibrant perennial combinations.  The planting was full,  generous and alive! 

Chelsea really is a special experience, and there is always something new to inspire one!  I am hoping to visit again in two/three years.

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