Visits with interesting plants

Visits May 2019 – RHS Chelsea Flower Show

What does the Chelsea Flower Show have in common with Strictly Come Dancing?

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has a lot in common with Strictly Come Dancing. You don’t need it, you shouldn’t take it too seriously, but life would be a lot duller if it didn’t happen. But while Strictly seems to last for months, The Chelsea Flower Show only lasts 6 days, and for those 6 days it makes gardening glamorous.

The months of planning and the hours of sweaty, tiring work needed to create any garden, let alone the spectacle of a Chelsea garden, isn’t seen. We don’t focus on the blood, sweat and ingrained dirt, we just focus on the impeccably glossy results. And while I agree with many of the criticisms (yes, the big gardens are a tad unrealistic, and some of those flowers wouldn’t naturally be out in May) just allow yourself to be swept along with the lovely madness and enjoy it. Like with Strictly.

The show gardens

Undeniably the most unique thing about the Chelsea Flower show is the number of show gardens, and the scale of them on Main Avenue. No penny pinching here. Strangely (to me at any rate) these are the feature that probably attract most criticism of the show. The trend this year for woodland gardens mean that some of them didn’t contain many flowers, it’s true, and it is debatable whether a lock, no matter how cleverly constructed, constitutes a garden at all. But for sheer bravado and theatrical display these show gardens would be very hard to beat. And a designer like Chris Beardshaw can combine his skill at designing a landscape with a real passion for what most of us look for in a garden; flowering plants. His garden was my favourite, creating a sublime display with plants that, for the most part, you could probably find in any good garden centre. Inspirational indeed.

The floral marquee

Inside the floral marquee you can be sure to find plenty of colour. These are only a very small selection of the stands. It’s easy to get lost in there and go round in circles, as you get distracted by one stunningly executed display after another.

Including the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year competition

Every year a shortlist of 20 plants is set out in the floral marquee and inspected by members of the RHS AGM forums and committees (including myself), who then head off to vote for their favourite. This year the variegated sedum in the first picture was the winner (Sedum takisimense ‘Atlantis). I was torn between Agapanthus ‘Fireworks’ (which came third) and Clematis ‘Elodi’, which crucially isn’t a climber but a low growing, mounding clematis that’s more like the herbaceous types, but with large flowers. I thought this was a real novelty but it ended up being bumped into fourth place behind the agapanthus. Which one would have got your vote?

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