Today the famous British weather excelled itself … in drenching everyone from Mary Berry to Alan Titchmarsh, in flattening countless delphiniums and in spoiling what might have been a glorious preview of the nation’s newest flower show at Chatsworth in Derbyshire. Fortunately the gardening cognoscenti are not readily thwarted by a drop of rain, a patch of boggy turf or gusting wind and the show went on … at least until lunchtime when Health and Safety decided enough was enough and cleared the showground lest someone get flattened by a flying fuchsia. The floral marquees were the the first to be evacuated as they looked ready to take off and land in the river Derwent. Poor Lee Bestall’s metallic cows spent most of the time on their sides in the meadow (I was always told it was going to rain if cows were sitting down), and the paths on Sam Ovens’ garden were rapidly turning into impromptu water features. Those exhibitors who didn’t brave the weather today have a nasty surprise when they turn up tomorrow morning. My advice if you’ve got a ticket for the show is to wear wellies, and have spare socks and shoes in the car for the drive home.
The press tent was filled with journalists, writers, photographers and bloggers warming their hands on cups of tea before teasing apart soggy maps to work out where to go and get wet and muddy next. TV crews battled with soggy sound booms and tried to keep their presenters dry. Meanwhile designers tried hard not to notice the flowers being torn from their carefully cultivated plants as the judges approached in their sou’westers, clutching slippery clipboards and damp score cards. Hats off to Alan Titchmarsh for being the best dressed man I have ever seen in wet weather gear and to Raymond Blanc for ignoring the weather entirely and donning a black suit, white shirt and smart shoes. Mary Berry, who would look glamorous after 5 days at Glastonbury, kept standards up for the ladies.
It’s all rather a pity as the setting for the new show, even in driving rain, is majestic. The layout that the RHS have adopted for Chatsworth is spacious, and should make for a relaxed event with lots of wonderful picnicking opportunities. As at Hampton Court, some of the gardens suffer from lack of adequate backdrop, which is the reason why I wish the RHS would invest in slightly less obtrusive structures and signage for their shows. Even in dim light the bright white pavilions and restaurants distract from what’s in front of them, and as a photographer they are a complete curse.
I had three favourite gardens, about which I shall share more when I’ve downloaded all my photographs. They were Sam Ovens’ Wedgwood Garden: A Classic Re-imagined Garden, which was standing up to the elements remarkably well; Neil Sutcliffe’s Cruse Bereavement Care: ‘A Time for Everything’ and Lee Bestall’s Experience Peak District and Derbyshire Garden. Others, such as the Brewin Dolphin Garden by Jo Thompson and the Agriframes Garden by Melinda Thomas and Fleur Porter, has very much suffered the brunt of the weather and might perk up later in the week.
I’ll be returning tomorrow when I hope the wind might have died down sufficiently for me to enjoy a peak inside the two floral marquees. In the meantime, spare a thought for these dancers, braving the elements to launch the Brewin Dolphin garden at 10am this morning. TFG.