Chelsea Flower Show 2013
You may have noticed that it’s Chelsea Flower Show this week. I was there on Monday for press day. Chelsea is still an event in the horticultural calendar that I look forward to. Even if it is a bit of a circus and even if it does start to feel a bit same-y each year. It is what it is – artificial, a bit corporate and something of a media frenzy – but if it gets more people interested in gardening and plants then that’s fine by me. It’s also the best – or at least the most prestigious and visible – showcase we have in this country for garden design. Plus it’s a good excuse for a jolly and a catch-up for horticultural folk.
Having said all that, I didn’t think it was a stand-out show this year. Disappointing given it’s the show’s centenary. I expected a bit more pizazz. Garden gnomes just don’t cut it.
My favourite garden was Christopher Bradley-Hole’s design for the Daily Telegraph. It’s the one that most captured my attention and gave me the most viewing pleasure. Beautifully executed, it was stunning, striking, peaceful. It spoke to me and made me stop and stare. Not that I would want this garden for myself – what a bitch all those cubes of box and yew would be to trim. But it’s the kind of thing I like to see when I come to Chelsea and I like the idea behind it.
I also enjoyed the East Village garden by Balston Agius for being a bit different from your usual Chelsea designs with its sinuous lines, bold planting and angular viewing platforms that jutted out into the garden.
I thought two gardens were let down by the hard landscaping elements. Sadly the Sentebale garden didn’t appeal to me at all. The planting at the side, along the wall, was pretty but the hard landscaping was too much – far too dominating and out of proportion to the garden – and I didn’t like the material used. The polished grey stepping stones and expanse of grey steps up to the grey round house left me a bit cold.
Chris Beardshaw’s garden had some gorgeous planting but the path down the centre didn’t work for me – it was ugly and distracting.
The garden looked much prettier viewed from the side (bar the unsightly barrier tape keeping people off the plants).
The other things that I enjoyed were the artisan retreats, which returned for a second year. No doubt they appeal to me because I hanker after a garden studio of my own, plus they’re situated in a nice quiet spot. This one housed a Japanese-style dye workshop. The clothes inside were made by students from the London College of Fashion and dyed using natural plant dyes. So pretty.
In the pavilion I was completely captivated by this display of an entire 30-year old apple tree, roots and all, that had been dug up from an orchard by East Malling Research. Utterly beautiful and displayed to great effect.
If you’re going this week then have a great time. If not, there’s always the Chelsea Fringe – back for its second year there’s a host of garden-inspired events (many of them free!) happening all around London until the 9th June.