|The Daily Telegraph Garden (Gold) designed by Cleve West and Best in Show|
I had said before going to this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show, that I expected it to be one of the best in several years. There was a kind of excitement in the air weeks before the event, buzz on the twitterfeeds and a general air of expectation growing as the press releases, news articles and blogs started into full swing.
With such a good line-up of designers, yes it might just be a vintage year, but you never know. Perhaps, after all, with all the gloom and doom just now, we really wanted to feel that here was an event on which the sun would shine, we would all be delighted with wonderful floral displays and drool over gardens to die for. And we did!
Pictured above, Sarah Eberle's 'A Monaco Garden' (Gold) with a pool we all wanted to sample and that touch of sun which we were all looking for. For me this garden was certainly Monaco and brought back many happy memories of a trip there.
The lovely Cleve West can do no wrong for me and we were all thrilled that his delightful garden for The Daily Telegraph not only won a Gold but also Best in Show. One plant which caught my eye on this garden was Dianthus cruentus, it positively glowed and stood out in a sort of 3D 'look at me' way. Definitely on my shopping list that one. Cleve can always weave the classical with the contemporary and his use of modern and traditional materials on his garden worked so well. He is one designer that always has time for you and is only too willing to show you round his garden or answer questions, so well done Cleve on your success you deserve it.
This year, Chelsea was cool, calm and collected. The gardens oozed peace and tranquility while at the same time stimulating one enough to get excited about a particular design theme or idea. The Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Luciano Giubbilei (Gold) was another of my favourites - a romantic garden where you wanted to linger and absorb the vibes.
I was disappointed that Bunny Guinness did not get Gold for her garden for M & G (the Show's sponsors). Her Silver-Gilt, in my opinion, is not worthy of this garden. Perhaps, as someone said to me, it was too crowded.
I didn't think so, it was a modern take on a traditional kitchen garden and I loved it. Someone near me commented that he thought it "was beautiful" and I had to agree with him. It brought a big leap of delight to my heart and I loved the colour, the layout and the planting.
|Bunny Guuinness 'M & G Garden'|
I also liked her choice of Pelargonium Voodoo, used in some of the pots on the wall, her use of the pleached trees and the general overall integrity of the planting. I longed to be able to get inside that garden to really look into each of those planting areas and delight in the variety of plants. After the show, elements of her garden will be donated - the fruit and veg to The Royal Hospital Chelsea and the raised beds and a selection of flowers to the RHS Campaign for School Gadening, who will be re-homing the plants in a new Community Garden at Christ Church CofE Primary School.
The 'Irish Sky Garden' brought all the 40 shades of green that is Ireland to life and we were delighted that at long last Diarmuid Gavin has won a Gold at Chelsea. This enormous garden was proving to be a sensation on press day and you just felt that if he couldn't achieve a Gold with that garden he might as well take his spade home and forget it. I am sure for those lucky few who were able to hitch a ride in the pod the view over the garden would have been amazing.
|Irish Sky Garden|
James Wong and David Cubero achieved their second Gold at Chelsea on their second visit with another fantastic Tourism Malaysia Garden. I pleased to report that I helped in oh such a tiny way before judging by lending James a 20pence piece for him to use with his cleaning rag. My simple claim to fame! Well done on yet another delightful and interesting garden.
The tallest ever garden built at the Show, the B & Q Garden, (Gold) designed by Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins, had so much going for it that you could spend a whole morning just looking at this garden alone. The bug wall was very clever and colourful and the way the tower block had been constructed with the hanging plants eye catching. There were some mumblings about gardens going too high this year, but personally I felt this was refreshing. I would like to see the shape of some of the plots changed in future years so that designers can be even more imaginative - very few of us have gardens which are perfectly square or oblong after all and in some cases this could be quite challenging.
Among the Artisan Gardens I found a couple of really brilliant little gardens. The Hae-woo-so (Emptying one's mind) Garden (Gold) designed byt Jihae Hwang (Muum) was a real cracker. There was a wall on that garden which looked as though it had stood for a thousand years and again here was a little Korean garden full of peace and calmness. We won't go into the toilet side of it but suffice to say it was merely a little shack at the bottom of the garden. Delightful and worthy of the Gold and best in category. Also liked A Postcard from Wales, cleverly based on Dylan Thomas's Laugharne home. The Literary Garden, with its lovely phrases, made one pause and think, particularly the clever waterfall - "We never know the worth of water till the well is dry".
All sorts of images stick in the mind from a Chelsea Press Day, the 'celebs' - the gardens of course - the wonderful smell and displays of the Great Pavilion - new plant introductions - the lady in the toilets who sounded just like Lady Bracknell when she said: "What, No Mirrors!" Vanity dear, vanity.
The clash between the steel band and the bagpiper was rather fun as they seemed to play at the same time at one point, the Chelsea Pensioner sitting on a little rocking horse on one of the trade stalls was a bit surreal and I was quite taken with the Morris Minor traveller on another trade stand which so reminded me of my first car.
Nice to see Charlie Dimmock at the show and to have had the pleasure of sharing a taxi from Euston Station with two lovely Chelsea Pensioners, John and Stan, thanks for your company guys.
Check out the Reckless Gardener - www.recklessgardener.com
- website for news of the show and the RHS Chelsea Plant of the Year which has been awarded to Anemone 'Wild Swan' bred by Elizabeth MacGregor and presented by Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants. It has white nodding flowers with blue reverse with a flowering season from summer to autumn. Second went to Saxifrage 'Anneka Hope' and third 'Blue Lagoon' a Verbascum bred by Thompson & Morgan.
It's over for another year, we move on to Hampton Court and Tatton Park and many other Flower Shows in between. But the magic of Chelsea 2011 will stay with me for the rest of the year. I feel complete, satisfied and soothed by this year's experience, which is nice. Rather like a good champagne there is a pleasant after-taste, the memory lingers and the images are still fresh. All that remains now is to find the plants on the 'must have' list and get them to grow in our wet, Cumbrian climate!