Chatsworth Flower Show 2017: Press Day

Reading time 6 minutes


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.


View along the Derwent from the Palladian bridge, with floristry by Jonathan Moseley

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.


Laughing in the face of adversity

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.

A very imposing bee!

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.



Dancers in the Brewin Dolphin Garden, designed by Jo Thompson

Categories: Flower Shows, Garden Design, Landscape Design, Perennials, Plants, Small Gardens, Weather

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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19 comments On "Chatsworth Flower Show 2017: Press Day"

  1. I love this post ! Fantastic writing as always and had me laughing out loud . Amazing photo of the gorgeous and brave dancers !
    Think I will head north next year for this show. x

  2. I’m not going to the Show so it’s great to read your experience of it. My heart goes out to the organisers and I do so hope it all goes well. I definitely plan to go next time and I look forward to your next report.

  3. Thanks for the post Dan. I am sorry the bad weather prevented the organisers and visitors from having some fun . We are lucky to have a sunny and warm weather here in PL. I am waiting for your report from tomorrow’s visit , hoping the wind and rain will stop eventually …
    Greetings , P 🙂

  4. Oh dear, was hoping it was only that bad down here… Feels like November storms and rain! After feeling slightly envious for the chance to go there, I now rather pity you. Here’s hoping tomorrow will be a much nicer experience! I certainly wish everyone involved in putting on this new show better luck for the days to come. Looking forward to your coming reports – and perhaps add a hot lemon to your G&Ts, just to ward off any colds??

    1. Apologies for the delayed reply Stefanie. I managed to escape without catching a cold, thanks mainly to my friend’s coat and fleece that I had to borrow at the last minute. I have continued taking the G&Ts daily, just in case there are any bugs lingering in my system 😉

  5. Oh dear, what a shame, I can’t imagine how the weather could have been worse. How brave and intrepid gardeners are to try and carry on enjoying what should have been a fabulous show in such awful conditions.

  6. Sorry it was such a wash-out but glad you had better weather the following day. (Btw, do you think the RHS is spreading itself a bit thin with new shows and gardens?)

    1. It does feel like that could be the case, but equally I admire the RHS for really forging ahead. So easy for them to stick to what they’ve done in the past but, no, they are building new visitor centres, investing in gardens and staging new shows. In doing so they are bringing flowers and horticulture to more people and remaining modern and relevant. Provided they are spending wisely, I salute them for that.

      1. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge RHS fan (volunteered at Wisley for a few years before we moved) and they are doing great work raising the profile of horticulture’s importance. It’s good to move forward and grow but also important to make sure the infrastructure is in place for long-standing shows to maintain their appeal. It seemed like Chelsea missed out on some verve and talent this year. Just saying 🙂

  7. I am waiting for your report from tomorrow’s visit , hoping the wind and rain will stop eventually …
    Greetings , P 🙂 Thanks for the post Dan. I am sorry the bad weather prevented the organisers and visitors from having some fun .

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