Chelsea Flower Show! This show in London is an annual and powerful magnet that attracts gardeners, garden designers and all the associated businesses and artisans.
Great excitement for me as I manage to buy an evening ticket to ‘Chelsea’, having almost given up on the possibility of going this year. Tickets are like gold dust! My preferred time slot is 5.30 pm to 8.00 pm, when it is cooler and less crowded around the popular gardens and exhibits.
Once in through the gates, I decide to focus on three gardens as well as the Great Pavilion and to treat myself to a glass of champagne!
First up is the Harmonious Garden of Life designed by French designer, Laurélie de la Salle. This garden appeals to me for two reasons. Laurélie uses her knowledge and experience to create environmentally friendly gardens. Secondly, the gardens she designs are primarily in hot and dry areas where water conservation is important, which in turn influences her choice of plants and garden materials. One small example is that instead of a traditional lawn, a clove meadow is featured which provides blooms for pollinators and enriches the soil as clover is rich in nitrogen.
Next on my list is the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED)’s garden: Giving Girls in Africa a Space to Grow designed by Jilayne Rickards. Created on a restricted budget, the garden demonstrates some techniques for gardening sustainability such as inexpensively constructed growing beds. It particularly highlights the CAMFED focus on helping girls in rural Africa stay in education and teaching them sustainable agricultural techniques to help them and their families thrive. All the plants grown provide food. Apart from appreciating the goals of this garden, I really like the energy and vibrancy of the design and colours.
To mix it up a bit I then visit the Great Pavilion to get my Chelsea ‘fix’ of roses, hydrangeas and clematis. I look at many of the exhibits and am always drawn to these dramatic, mood enhancing displays. Who can resist walking among the roses: it feels like walking into a parallel world of different fragrances, colours and textures.
Coming towards the end of my tour of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea this year, I head to the champagne bar!
Fortnum and Mason of Piccadilly are the official supplier of champagne to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I select a glass of their Brut Reserve, made by Louis Roederer, which is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Also on offer is the Fortnum and Mason Rosé NV, made by Billecart Salmon, which is again the blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier but this time rosé. Fortnum and Mason also offer a Blanc de Blancs which is 100% Chardonnay and made by Laurent Hostomme.
Happy with my champagne choice of Brut Reserve, I wander off to join the queue for my last but not least garden choice.
This is the RHS Back to Nature Garden, co-designed by The Duchess of Cambridge and landscape architects Davies White. The brochure and accompanying plant list states that the objective of this garden is: “to highlight the benefits of the great outdoors on our physical and mental wellbeing and inspire children, families and communities to connect with and enjoy nature – which is core to the charitable work of the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society).”
I enjoy the stroll through this compact, choreographed garden. The use of a winding path through the predominantly green landscape featuring fun places, like the wooden tent, the tree house and the great ball of string swing, provides that magical mix of adventure and calm that would interest the child in us all.
There are so many wonderful exhibits at ‘Chelsea’ and I appreciate all the hard work, time and effort put in by the many exhibitors. Thousands of people come each day to the show, which is spread over 11 acres (4.45 ha). I am writing about a very small percentage of what can be seen and enjoyed there.
Experience has taught me that less is more when visiting such a magnificent flower show as ‘Chelsea’ and my feet thank me for this approach. The experience is always enhanced by a glass of champagne!
References: The Harmonious Garden of Life Laulérie de la Salle
CAMFED Giving Girls in Africa a Place to Grow http://www.camfed.org www.jilaynerickards.com
RHS Back to Nature Garden www.davieswhite.co.uk
Fortnum & Mason http://www.fortnumandmason.com
Royal Horticultural Society. www.rhs.org.uk