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

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26 thoughts on “Chelsea Calling

  1. So very excited about tomorrow … it’s two years since we last shared Chelsea together… so looking forward to you sharing your wealth of knowledge combined with me providing the ‘average punters view’ ha ha….Chelsea in Bloom was wonderful today, such incredible talent and design skills on display..augers well for a sunny, happy tomoz…. although, I know my simple outfit won’t come anywhere near your sartorial elegance. 🌱💚🌱💚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. By all means enjoy yourself. You give so much. I will be patiently awaiting any tidbits you offer. I hope to go there next year myself. I will be so excited I wouldn’t remember to even take pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good for you! I too am looking forward to the Show tomorrow. Chelsea is pure escapism and I love it.
    That said, I have been a little disappointed with the RHS show in recent years as there is too much repetition, perhaps down to the plants coming from one or two suppliers. I would really like to see designers working on plots the standard size of a new build garden. The country is getting covered with these homes and I think it would be fantastic to see what the main designers would come up with on a set budget.
    I agree the Yorkshire garden looks as though it is going to be spectacular but is it a design or a pastiche of the countryside? Is that a bit harsh? I don’t know. I just feel when the RHS talks about sustainable gardens and young designers they are not reaching far enough. Or maybe it’s the BBC coverage that needs to shift focus.
    There I’ve said my bit. What do you think?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t disagree with any of that. Most of the show gardens are not that realistic in terms of replicating on a normal budget, but I suppose they are to garden design what a couture gown is to fashion. They are there to be aspired to, to set future trends and to be ‘sold’ to a privileged few. As such they are an essential part of the hierarchy and without them we’d be worse off. Perhaps that’s one way of looking at it?

      Regarding the Yorkshire ‘garden’ – it’s a pastiche of course, but, again, isn’t that part of our gardening tradition? Haven’t we often tried to represent natural environments and other cultures through our gardens? As a form of advertising I’d definitely take this over an expensive TV ad.

      For all its faults (and there are many) I think what the RHS is achieving in these days of austerity is quite remarkable. I guess the big limiting factor is money, and so what the garden’s sponsors want, they get. On the whole I think they are an organisation the nation should be proud of.

      If you spot me tomorrow (I’ll be wearing a cream jacket and a green hat – so should not be difficult!) please say hello. In any case, have a brilliant day x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for taking the time to respond so swiftly.

        I really like your couture analogy. It is after all a show, not real gardens. I shall endeavour to just embrace the grandiose spectacle and not to think too much about how much it costs, how much will be wasted or how poor the garden might look in other seasons.
        Gardens as a form of advertising, I had not thought about them in this way and this has altered my appreciation a little.
        As for sponsors you have hit the nail on the head. The sponsors dictate the form the show takes. Of course they do.
        I shall definitely say hello if I see you in your green hat. Have a fab day you. x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In my humble experience, the RHS would be astounded, what some young people could create with limited budget and a lot of imagination. Many young people have not had, the miserable, boring, horrid constraints, that impact on imagination. I’m sure that the
        RHS, would be blown away with the concepts they were offered.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree about the challenge of the standard block …it’s great to have aspirational gardens, but a touch of reality to inspire new young gardeners starting out would be fabulous…especially what can be done with limited funds…really pushes creativity ..Maybe the RHS should sponsor some final year students from the horticultural institution to do this, would be wonderful to see what they Could create.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I think a separate category could be added for just such a scheme. Sponsorship would help get them started and the entry standards could be just as tough. Yes! Come on RHS do something new

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I shall look forward to your appraisal at the end of the week and comparing your thoughts with mine. I hope the TV coverage is up to it. Enjoy your visit, and may the weather be as good as it is here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s been dismal here for the last two days, so I’m looking forward to some sunshine tomorrow.

      I’m watching the TV coverage now. Alas I don’t have a lot of time for any of the presenters other than Monty. Rachel is growing on me but the others set my teeth on edge.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Enjoy the few days Dan and good idea to switch off the technology …much as I think you outdid the BBC’s coverage last year by a long mile. I thought Monty’s interview of John Pienaar today was particularly brilliant …what if politicians debated in a garden as opposed to Westminster. Would it change both the nature and even the outcome of the debate …fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I need to watch that segment again as I was a bit distracted. I heard him talking about the rose garden at 10 Downing Street but then tuned out. I like how Monty gets to do all the decent interviews …. and thank goodness for that!

      Like

  6. Enjoy your visit and I will enjoy your opinion at the end. Last year I was very disappointed in the TV coverage as it was all very samey and interviewing celebs who knew very little about gardening added nothing for me. I hope all the planting is not going to be identical – last year lupins seemed to rule, this year as far as I have seen it is foxgloves.

    I have enjoyed the conversation between Doris and Helen – love to see how a blogpost can generate such great interaction. Wasn’t there a show a few years ago for young/new/student designers to create a small space, the winner of which got to do a small garden at Chelsea? Or am I truly going senile?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you could be right. Like you, I can’t remember exactly.

      The celeb interviews are tedious aren’t they? They are just padding to make the programme long enough. Perfectly nice people but I don’t need to know what John Bishop thinks about a garden thank you!

      A few plants and colours usually dominate. This year is supposedly all about green and the planting I’ve seen looks very sophisticated. We shall see!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ll be there on Thursday so I’m looking forward to hearing your expert views as and when you share them (but please do have a glass or two of Pimms and a few days of smelling the roses before you hit the keyboard again). Chelsea is fantasy gardening for me – I loved the humour of the Sipsmith pea family garden last year – and I enjoy the How Did They Do That? as much as the What Have They Done?

    And if we’re playing the Balloon Game with Chelsea presenters I vote we don’t throw Joe overboard. He comes across as someone who is genuinely interested in whatever is in front of him and seems to be able to establish a rapport with anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good for you Dan. Just enjoy it and look forward to seeing your amazing photos on Insta. Can’t make it this year (allotment calls) but will try to get to Hampston Court.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You know, I totally get it about wanting to avoid the hype, especially since our San Francisco Flower and Garden Show has been getting slightly more disappointing every year.

    Like

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