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Friday, 26 May 2017

Press Day at RHS Chelsea 2017

Every time I've been to Chelsea, it has always been hot. Driving through the countryside on Monday  to an early train, I could feel the promise of a scorcher. I was right.

They say the sun shines on the righteous, and it was true. The garden designers and plant growers and  The Royal Horticultural Society were all blessed with a beautiful day which enhanced their beautiful creations and created an almost holiday vibe to what is the greatest Flower Show in the world.

But it wasn't a day off by any means. I was with my friends Dave Andrews, garden designers Chris Gutteridge and Karen Gimson ,to provide live content for four radio programmes on air, and pre record an hour long programme for Sunday...the longest running gardening programme on local radio in the country.

Our first port of call was the Linklaters Garden for Maggies which was designed by Darren Hawkes. This was attracting a lot of attention, being a sunken garden and also a secret garden., surrounded by a ten foot high hedge. Once inside, you view the garden from above, a contemplative garden, a sanctuary..designed for cancer patients , but being Press day it was rather busy....

Main Street here at the Chelsea Flower Show in some ways reminds me of the Champs Elysee in Paris. Stylish, expensive, the place to be and the place to be seen, this is where the main show gardens are and where the celebrities can be seen posing for countless photographs.

 You couldn't miss The Silk Road Garden, Chengdu, China which was created by architect Laurie Chetwood and garden designer Patrick Collins. Big, bold and vibrant, it celebrated the culture,  history and plants of the area.

I was really taken with the viburne pragense bruns see so many on one stand was glorious, and I did like the epimediums......Wudang Star, Fire Dragon and Mandarin Star, just as exotic as their names.

Oh and there were a couple of animatronic pandas too!

Further up Main Street was James Basson's design for the M&G Garden. Now this was awarded Best in Show, which has really ruffled the foliage of many visitors .
 Malta, a limestone quarry, and grasses. Mmn, I usually like his designs, but this one didn't get me oohing with delight. There again, I don't like grasses.  I never have, never will....I'm just the same with Abba songs. I've loathed them a passion since "Waterloo", and I wince when I see their songs on a programme's playlist, and I have to say "Here's Abba and ....."

So leaving the ( at least for me)  horticultural equivalent of Abba, Karen and Chris were in raptures ...they were really appreciating the terrace, the woodland, the delicious planting of the Morgan Stanley garden. I coveted the oak and limestone pavilion, and then as I interviewed and shared a glass of prosecco with Dewi, a delightful Chelsea pensioner, I was entranced by the playing of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.

Certainly  the Welcome to Yorkshire garden fulfilled its brief, featuring a beach, a cliff, a shoreline and an abbey ruin. Tracey Foster has designed one of the biggest gardens, with over 3,000 plants and tonnes and tonnes of sandstone and chalkstone. I liked this.

And do you know, I rather liked the 500 years of Covent Garden designed by Lee Bestall. I loved the arches, the apple trees, the delicate palette of planting to reflect apple blossom, all reflecting  such an iconic place and how it developed.

So, those were the show gardens which caught my eye . There's fewer of them than usual,  but there were more artisan and fresh gardens which are always a source of pleasure. They're far more accessible than the Show gardens, with more affordable ideas and inspirations, so I din't feel short changed at all.

Now, you may call me biased because I work for the BBC, - you'd be wrong, but I really appreciated the Radio 2 Feelgood gardens featuring the five senses. For me, the two that worked the best were the Anneka Rice Colour Cutting garden and the Chris Evans Taste garden.
 First of all , the cutting garden. This was an absolute delight, a feast for the eyes with the wonderful colour combinations. Gold, pinks, magentas, all packed so cleverly and artistically into the space. So many plants in nine square beds...loved, loved , loved....

This is a collaboration between Sarah Raven and Tricia Guild, two women who have done so much to bring colour and joy into our homes and gardens.

It was also so good to see vegetables take pride of place in The Chris Evans Taste Garden. Mary Berry knows all about the best and freshest ingredients for her recipes, and these were really celebrated here.

The glossy red stems of the chard and the sheer crispness of the lollo rosso made me want to hop over the piece of string and go and pick, pick, pick to my hearts content.

There were so many other gardens I only caught glimpses of, we were running to such a tight schedule. One of the last ones we recorded was a thought provoking one which I'm so pleased won gold.

Mind Trap, sponsored by idverde is the creation  of Ian Price. It's the first time he has exhibited at Chelsea, and it definitely won't be the last.

From the outside, you can see what it's like to be trapped in the centre of the garden, the four metal walls almost closing in. Ian has been living with depression for the last fifteen years, and this garden is a manifestation of his feelings when the black dog looms.  Yet there's hope too, with much more vivid coloured planting outside the walls showing that there is hope, and colour can come back into your life.

Ian is such a good interviewee...not slick and glib, but honest, personal and sincere. His garden spoke to so many people including the judges .I look forward to seeing more of his designs.

So, with so many gardens to see at Chelsea, this is merely a personal memoir of some of them.

 Next time here on the blog...the Floral Pavilion, with planting perfection!

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