As it’s Thursday, and I didn’t have the time to write about it at the time, here’s my own little summary of the joyous day I spent at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018!
This was my first ever visit to the show and it’s fair to say I was excited. Very excited. The event lived up to my expectations and I felt awed, inspired, influenced and delighted while I was there. Although watching the highlights on TV give you a pretty in-depth view of the show gardens and plants, as well as a useful commentary from experts and the designers themselves, there’s nothing like standing right beside that garden and experiencing it for yourself. Admittedly, you’re sharing that experience with hundreds of other people, all jostling for a good view, but it’s still a great experience.
Of the show gardens, my ultimate favourite was probably the Yorkshire Garden – I just loved its lush cottage garden planting, the stream and the beautiful stone building. It looked like somewhere I could sit and enjoy for hours (assuming it wasn’t still in the middle of Chelsea and being viewed by thousands of plant-hungry people).
I also loved the artistic creativity of the Harber and Savills Garden – I enjoyed its colours and the view down the line of the garden to the sculpture at its centre. The one that took me by surprise was the South African Wine Estate, which I expected to feel ambivalent about – in fact I loved the different stages of this garden and the way it captured all the aspects (I assume) of the kind of land it was depicting.
The winner of Best Show Garden was of course Chris Beardshaw’s garden for the NSPCC. I felt a little underwhelmed by it at the time, but I now wish I could go back and take another look at it again, having read a little more about it. I think you would also fully appreciate the garden if you were able to get inside it and stand amongst the plants and enjoy the seating spaces. This is, of course, impossible, but it must give the judges, celebrities and journalists a sense of each garden which we can’t quite achieve observing from the outside.
I felt the greatest connection to some of the smaller gardens, however. The playfulness of the Seedlip Garden was brilliant. I loved that every plant in it was from the pea family, and yet it was interesting and varied, as well as educational – I never knew there were so many ornamentals in the pea family! (As a sidenote, if you haven’t tried Seedlip I’d encourage you to do so! It’s a non-alcoholic spirit and it tastes of the garden. Lovely with an elderflower tonic.)
The Artisan Gardens also impressed me – they also seemed more playful in their creativeness; there was a freedom in these which I imagine the bigger Show Gardens can’t quite access.
Of these, the ones which stood out for me were the Billion Dreams Indian garden with its blue Mecanopsis and gorgeous patterned marble walls; the peaceful and elegant Japanese Hospitality Garden (amazing moss balls!) and the Laced with Hope Garden – this last one reflecting on the journey of a child with cancer. Its graffiti wall certainly wouldn’t be for everyone but I loved the explosion of colour, which was also reflected in the planting, and the sculptures which I think really illustrated what the garden was trying to achieve.
The Great Pavillion was almost overwhelming there were so many flowers and plants on display. The highlight for me was the The National Dahlia Collection. So many dahlias on display in one place… I added loads to my wish list but the real inspiration was the planting combinations. They looked fantastic next to hostas, grasses, foxgloves and aquilegia. I’m still learning about how and where to grow my dahlias and this was really helpful and interesting. I will definitely try to combine some of these in my garden in future.
So, what did I take away from Chelsea? Inspiration, ideas and a packet of seeds. Sweet pea ‘Harlequin’ in fact. Other stand-out plants which I will now seek out: lupins (especially ‘Masterpiece’), more geums (‘Mai Tai’, ‘Cosmopolitan’) and it’s reaffirmed my desire for some astrantia, having seen a variety of these on show too.
I really did love my visit to Chelsea – I felt like I was in Plant Heaven all day, which is how I feel in my own garden, only with extra Pimms and a few more celebrities! Will I go back? Yes I think I would – although ideally on a day or time when you could avoid the worst of the crowds. It’s definitely made me keen to see more of the RHS Shows too – next on the list, Chatsworth… 😉