Plant days more….

If you thought the little adventure in France would spell the end of plant days, I’m afraid not….there’s more to come!  Lots more.….and next on the agenda was the great RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  Really it’s near impossible to know where to start, and so I just thought I’d pop in an image of something that made me smile…..somewhere between the Show Gardens, the Tent, the Gardener’s Market and the Artisan Gardens, there was a collection of wonky ladders, resting together in an otherwise empty swathe of grass.  With so much activity going on around them, they represented a moment of calm and quirkiness.  I liked them!

But really I should start at the beginning, and with the winner: Dan Pearson’s truly magnificent Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden.  By the time I got this far through the show (having entered from the opposite direction), I was already feeling slightly overwhelmed… although each garden is breathtaking in its own way, there is one after another after another, after another. But something about the Chatsworth Garden made me stop in my tracks.  It was beguiling, understated, calm, multi-layered, anchored.  It wasn’t saying look at me…it was just there, deeply right, good, transportive. Inspired by two areas of the Chatsworth grounds….the Trout Stream and Joseph Paxton’s Rockery, I was delighted to read that many of the features and plants will be taken back to Chatsworth for transplanting in the autumn.

I find it almost beyond comprehension that plants can be manipulated into being just at the perfect stage of maturity to sit alongside each other at Chelsea….so many of them, as specified to the growers, then placed as if they grew all by themselves, to be at their best during that one week.  

Of course, my images fail to do the scale of this garden justice.  And I took so many images it’s almost impossible to choose, but hopefully these will convey the lightness of touch and subtlety displayed in Mr Pearson’s design process and capable hands. It was truly delightful.

The other garden I found captivating was James Basson’s Perfumer’s Garden for L’Occitane.  I swear the man must have brought bucket-loads of earth from Provence….its consistency, let alone the Lavoir, concrete brick wall and rills, (not to mention the plants) all looked to be straight from a scene…actually no….made you feel as if you were standingin a village in Provence! (Perhaps the wall was disguising a railway track behind????).  It was exceptional.

Its this kind of attention to detail, on close inspection, that is a wonder to see at Chelsea. It underpins a sense of permanence, without which the plants would not look as if they belonged.  And the plant choice here listed so many favourites, just as you would expect of a Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse!Bay, Osmanthus, Olive, Cistus, Rose,Thyme, Olive, Peony, Salvia, IrisLavender and Fig (and I reckon the odd weed for good measure)!  While I’d like to include all my images of this garden for you to see, as I truly was enthralled, I guess I must move on….

Whilst I wasn’t enamoured with the whole of this show garden, I’m apt to fall for a white wall that sets plants off to perfection, juxtaposed as they are against a stark, bright background and I found this collection quite captivating.  By Fernando Gonzalez for the Pure Land Foundation Garden.

And you know I fall for almost every garden tunnel, wigwam and structure I see!  I thought the sturdiness of this one quite handsome! The Sentebale Hope in Vulnerability Garden, by Matthew Keightley for Prince Harry’s South African Charity.

This cool garden for a hot climate, The Beauty of Islam by Kamelia Bin Zaal at Al Barari, contained all the elements of traditional Islamic pattern and plants that tell the story of trade along the old Spice Route. I found its secret corners, pools of water and white gravel quite mesmerising.

While there were many more Designer Show Gardens….and all of them quite fantastic….there is so much more to cover so…..

Then it was off to the Artisan Gardens, where the crowds were so dense it was near impossible to get a close view!  I thought the moss wall of this summer house in the Edo no Niwa – Edo Garden by Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory to be a striking element of great beauty and composition.

While to end my chapter on show gardens (as I reckon I must!), I can’t help but include the The Trugmaker’s Garden, which looked to be so authentic, it could have been sitting on the edge of an English village for a century or more.  And you know I love a trug!

But only real ones.  The theme for this quite magnificent exhibit by Serena Fremantle and Tina Vallis (first time RHS Chelsea designers!), was born from the realisation that traditional artisan Trug making skills are dying out….as cheaper mass made versions corner the market. Well not at Glenmore I say, where I bring them in very small batches from master Trug maker Bill Blair in New Zealand, who’s beautiful Trugs are traditionally made from material copiced and collected by Bill himself, before fashioning them into shape. I took so many photos of this exhibit I could write a short book, all with the excuse that I must send them on to Bill – I think he’d have loved this! (They’re heading your way Bill….the photos….soon!).

Which brings me to the big Tent, the Grand Floral Marquee, the Great Pavillion (depending on which piece of blurb you choose to read!).  Whichever, it’s full of floral exhibits on a grand and breathtaking scale!  Pelargonium anyone?


Flycatchers standing to attention….

Crazy flowering succulents….

And on and on it goes….something for everyone….Dianthus, Fuchsias, Alliums, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Hippeastrums, Crysanthemums, Auriculas, Violas…..the list is endless, and colourful.  Are you feeling a little dizzy?  Do you need to sit down for a cup of tea?

I’ll leave you with one final image, from the floristry competition.  The theme was celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland and the task was to make a weird and wonderful fantasy floral tree.  I thought the canopy of this one was quite delightful, by Kate Bainbridge of Simply Flowers.  She’d won a Silver-Gilt medal and I thought it the prettiest of them all.

Of course, there were glasshouses and zinc planters, sculptures and gates, garden furniture and tools, gumboots and gardening gloves galore.  All of it a wonderful, dizzying whirl of excitement.  A fantasy world for gardeners….pure Chelsea!

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