The Royal Horticultural Society is putting on the worlds most prestigious ‘Chelsea Flower Show’ again with gates set to open on Tuesday 23 May.
The green field site of the Royal Hospital Ground turns into a whirlwind of excitement and an extravaganza of colour and scent. It fills me with joy and trepidation all at the same time every year! In a quiet corner of the floral marquee, the jewel in the crown of the show, away from the hussle and bussle of the main site, I pause for a few moments, because here all the nurseries have started to arrive and with them the smell and aroma of all the flowers you can imagine from all over the world, they are beautiful, like nothing I have ever found anywhere else.
Chew Magna growers in the Great Pavilion
By far the best exhibit for me is always our locally grown delphiniums by Blackmore & Langdon; they are stunning this year and a must to see. My top tip, when you visit the show, as soon as you enter the marquee, is stand still for a moment, close your eyes and take in a deep breath, you will never forget the smell of the floral marquee at Chelsea Flower Show, then head for Blackmore & Langdon’s
Let the Artisan Gardens be your first stop
The show brings 28 gardens in all, a mix of large, small, artisan, fresh and the new radio 2’s feel good gardens. This year it is most defiantly the artisan gardens I suggest you seek out, it’s worth really spending some time here, but try to get there early in the day to avoid the crowds.
They are found a little off the beaten track, in dappled sunlight, quietly understated and slightly hidden. I love this space and the gardens are always full of character, less polished than Main Avenue and all the better for it in my opinion. They are the hidden gems of the show.
I was really taken by ‘The poetry lovers garden’ inspiring us all to create our own peaceful retreat at home and ‘The seedlip garden’ inspired by the story of Seedlip, its 17th-century origins and modern-day pioneering approach to distillation depicting the 350-year-old journey from book to bottle. ‘The planting palette is influenced by Seedlip’s botanicals and species relevant to both modern and ancient herbal medicine’ a really interesting story to tell and defiantly worth looking out for. The ‘World Horse Welfare garden’ is also very charming and is being relocated locally to the sanctuary in Somerset if you miss it at the show.
The Show Gardens
The large show gardens are a little disappointing this year and noticeably there are less than usual but there are three that really stand out for me.
Tracy Foster is recreating the charming Yorkshire coastline which she does incredibly well, she is a talented lady and is able to take you on a journey to this beautiful diverse landscape, I would strongly urge you to make a beeline for her garden.
The other large garden that has a great concept is Darren Hawkes restful haven for a cancer care charity. The ‘secret garden’ is surrounded by a three meter high hedge concealing what’s inside so you have peak through holes in the hedge or climb a staircase to view it. The hedge envelopes the garden so once inside you feel safe and secure. I love the planting in this garden that is ‘more ramshackle than formal’ and is a really fresh attitude for the show gardens that I support.
The final show garden that really caught my eye and interest was Chris Beardshaw’s music inspired garden looking at the emotional responses created by a garden and the relationship that has with music. I agree with Chris in that ‘there is a link in the way both music and a garden is created, in rhythm, pace and structure’. He quite rightly says ‘they both deal with stimulating our senses and emotions’. It is worth visiting the show just to take this garden in, spend some time there and really understand it, the quality of the build and planting is exquisite. Best in show for me.
The talk of the show: James Basson’s M&G Investment Show Garden
I can’t talk about the show gardens this year and not mention James Basson’s garden for the show sponsors M&G Investments, it is their last garden as the sponsors for RHS Chelsea and whether you love it or hate it, it is set to be a show stopper and is already the talk of the show, creating many mixed feelings. It is inspired by the principles of ecological sustainability and the need to preserve our fragile planet, a concept with which I strongly agree. Huge towers and grids of stone represent a quarry in Malta which has been reclaimed by nature. The planting may not be something you would want to take home and recreate in your own garden but it certainly gets its message and concept across for the visitors to take home and consider.
New for this year BBC Radio 2’s five gardens, with help from Chew Magna’s Jon Wheatley
Radio 2’s five feel good gardens are however, by far the best of the show ground and, although not being judged, will be the visitor’s favourites I am sure. They mark the 50th anniversary of the station, showing how gardens can appeal to the senses.
Each garden features a different DJ from the station and local RHS judge Jon Wheatley from Chew Magna is helping Mary Berry with the taste garden for Chris Evans. It is full of perfectly grown fruit and vegetables and looks fabulous.
I love Matt Keightleys texture garden which is tactile and has the most beautiful planting pallet finished with a real sense of quality and sophistication.
James Alexander-Sinclairs listening garden for Zoe Ball is fantastic and great fun, a firm favourite with the crowds, playing music beneath the ground allowing visitors to experience a physical sensation of feeling music through their whole body. There are three beautiful water features where visitors will be able to see the ripples and patterns in the water created by the music as well as feel the vibrations through the floor.
Up and coming designers Tamara Bridge and Kate Savill have worked with Jo Malone to create Jo Whileys scent garden.
Sarah Raven has created the colour garden for Anneka Rice with the most spectacular planting colours and a beautiful shed lined with glass bottles of every colour in the rainbow.
All five gardens are a ‘must see’ and I think make the show what it is for this year, a real success.