Chelsea Calling


Regular readers of The Frustrated Gardener might have noticed the absence of posts about the Chelsea Flower Show so far this year. There’s a reason for this – I have decided to take a year off. What I really mean is that I am stepping back from writing long and detailed posts in order that I may enjoy the show at leisure with my very special guest, Helen of Oz. Going to Chelsea is one of the highlights of my year, but recently the pressure to post, and to post well, has consumed more and more of my time at the show, leaving less time to actually enjoy the experience. I felt it was time for a break. Whilst I may never master the art of mindfulness, I do recognise the benefit of living in the moment every now and again. If you’re feeling let down, never fear, I will be sure to take time to reflect on our day at the end of the week. Between now and then my coverage will be via Facebook and Instagram where I hope to post as many lovely pictures as I can between sipping Pimms and gawping at the flowers.

I’ve been trying to avoid all the hype that accompanies the build-up to the show, but there does appear to be a consensus that 2019 is going to be a good year for show gardens. Let’s hope so. It will have been a tricky build for the designers and nurserymen, with such a chilly start to the spring: perhaps cool conditions are easier to mitigate than warm ones, since plants can always been coaxed forwards with a little supplementary heat.

The Trailfinders ‘Undiscovered Latin America’ Garden, designed by Jonathan Snow

There are a handful of gardens I am excited to see, the first being The Trailfinders ‘Undiscovered Latin America’ Garden by Jonathan Snow, the designer who brought us a vision of the South African winelands in 2018. This year’s garden looks completely different, but is no less accomplished. The garden occupies the challenging yet visually arresting rock bank site, where a previous Trailfinders garden won Best in Show. Could this be a good omen? With towering monkey puzzle trees and that stand-out, vermillion-painted walkway, it is sure to be a show stopper.

The Welcome to Yorkshire Garden, designed by Mark Gregory

Judging by what I’ve seen already on social media, the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden is going to take some beating in the popularity stakes. Ever ambitious, Mark Gregory’s design recreates a Yorkshire canal complete with a pair of narrow lock gates and a lock keeper’s cottage. The cottage has its own carefully tended garden and beyond the gate lies a species-rich meadow and lush waterside vegetation. As always the level of realism achieved by Landform Consultants is exemplary and this ‘garden’ will, without doubt, be a crowd-pleaser extraordinaire.

The Dubai Majlis Garden, designed by Thomas Hoblyn

Finally, lest I get drawn back into the very trap from which I am trying to escape, I am particularly looking forward to seeing The Dubai Majlis Garden designed by Thomas Hoblyn. There is a bit of a formula at Chelsea, so I admire any designer who attempts to break it, especially if they are transporting me somewhere hot and sunny. Inspired by the sculptural beauty of arid landscapes, the garden’s hard landscaping combines white limestone and burnt sienna gravel to create a feeling of sun-baked terraces. Bountiful planting around a sweep of water as cool and polished as marble suggests a desert oasis. All very uplifting, especially after two drizzly, back-breaking days working in the garden here at The Watch House.

Whether you are visiting The Chelsea Flower Show in person, virtually via social media, or watching the coverage on television, I hope you have time to give it your undivided attention. It is, after all, the greatest flower show on earth. TFG.

Lead image – The Savills and David Harber Garden, designed by Andrew Duff. All images courtesy of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show website.

The M&G Garden, designed by Andy Sturgeon