RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2018: Preview

Liz Patterson, Show Manager for the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, will have been glued to the weather forecast for the last fourteen days. Last year’s inaugural show, in the magnificent park surrounding the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, was hampered by spiteful weather and lengthy traffic delays. Press Day was a total wash out, with everyone evacuated from the show ground in the early afternoon for fear that some of the structures might blow down and cause injury. The shoes I wore that day went straight in the bin. All seemed lost, but the sun returned for Members’ Day and the show went on to welcome thousands of visitors. Not much gets between the English and a good flower show! Liz can sleep soundly tonight, at least as far as the weather is concerned: light winds and only a 2% chance of rain we can cope with. As for the parking situation, we shall see!

Scanning over the site plan, visitors can expect a new and improved layout, with the show gardens grouped together and an extensive plant village offering some amazing opportunities to purchase. An inflatable replica of the famous Great Conservatory (aka The Great Stove) returns, as do the enormous Devonshire and Cavendish Marquees. These will host over a hundred exhibits from nurserymen, growers and plant collectors from across the land. Lessons have been learned and I am looking forward to a great day assessing trade stands for the RHS again tomorrow.

I am slightly apprehensive about the number of show gardens this year, substantially down on last year and sited very much on the fringe of the show. This is not a surprise, given the event is kicking off only ten days after Chelsea ended. There is only so much sponsorship available, but gardens are one of the main draws for a flower show of this calibre and I’d like to have seen a few more in the programme.

Top billing goes to a colossal installation of phalaenopsis orchids being staged in the Great Conservatory. Over 5,000 plants of 100 varieties will be used to adorn chandeliers, decorate a waterfall and form a living wall. Floral Designer Jonathan Moseley is the man with a plan to transform this space into a phalaenopsis fantastia.

The Chatsworth estate is vast and impressive, lending itself to bold and ambitious projects. A massed planting of 12,000 Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Razzamatazz’ will be planted in a river formation beneath the facade of Chatsworth House. If you’ve ever wanted to capture yourself having a Timotei moment, this could be the place to do it.

A scarcity of show gardens will be partially counterbalanced by a new competition which invites designers to create ‘iconic’ borders with the theme of movement. The initial Long Border competition was open to students, garden designers, community groups and talented individuals. The top eight borders have been realised in full at Chatsworth and will be presented to the public this week. I think this is a great idea, providing visitors with ideas that should be incredibly easy to replicate or adapt at home. I also like that the RHS have invited entries into an affordable category from a diverse variety of entrants, including complete newcomers. Below is a long border entitled ‘Summer Breeze’ by designer Kristian Reay, which heralds the approach of a long, hot summer. Here’s hoping.

Finally, a new Living Laboratory will explore the vital role plants play in an urban environment. Plants and technology will be displayed to highlight how different varieties can help address a number of challenges we have in our towns and cities, including pollution, flooding and lack of plants for pollinators.

The Chatsworth Flower Show, in partnership with Wedgwood, runs from Wednesday June 6th to Sunday June 10th 2018 and tickets are still available. Keep an eye on my Facebook Page, Instagram and You Tube Channel for updates.

Top and bottom of post – Sam Ovens’ Wedgwood Garden at Chatsworth in 2017.