Chelsea Flower Show brings out the best and worst in us gardeners
"It’s the greatest show on earth if, like me, you have a passion for plants and more than a passing interest in good garden design. Each year, new flowers are launched while others are rediscovered as gardening fashions turn full circle. Many new plants fall by the wayside, of course, but the best become garden stalwarts.
Take the rose ‘Iceberg’, for example, a debutant that stole the show in 1958 that is still one of the most popular white floribundas today. While, the launch of Heuchera villosa 'Palace Purple', in 1983, arguably changed the face of gardening - credited with inspiring more natural styles of planting that blossomed during the decades that followed. At last year’s Centenary Show, an RHS panel was cited with the unenviable task of picking the best of the best over the past 100 years. They plumped for Geranium ‘Rozanne’ which hit the horticultural headlines in 2000 for its summer-long display of gorgeous, white-eyed, violet-blue saucer-shaped flowers…and I love it!"
While, the launch of Heuchera villosa 'Palace Purple', in 1983, arguably changed the face of gardening - credited with inspiring more natural styles of planting that blossomed during the decades that followed.
Chelsea "Plant of the year" award winners
What to expect from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Regulars to Chelsea will know that it’s a great place to catch up on all the latest potting-shed tittle-tattle. But it is not the hotbed of horticultural intrigue and designer jealousy that some like to portray. It is true, that the foremost plant breeders, nurserymen and garden-designers vie with each other for the greatest of all gardening prizes – the RHS Gold Medal and ‘Best in Show’ rose-bowl. But there’s a genuine sense of camaraderie behind the scenes – especially during the build-up to the Show. A few characters like their practical jokes, of course.
You might think that the competition is most fierce in the Main Avenue, where the prestigious Show Gardens line-up like preening peacocks – it’s a grand horticultural procession. The designers are rightly lauded for their amazingly manicured and lavish productions. Each garden contains thousands of plants and lorry-loads of hard-landscaping and garden sculptures. But it is in the Great Pavilion, which houses the wares of over 100 leading growers and nurserymen, where the competition gets up-close and personal. Under canvas (well, it used to be canvas), the atmosphere is hot and humid and the rivalry gets deadly serious. Hillier Nurseries leads the way with 68 Gold Medals in as many years at the pinnacle of horticultural showmanship. But there are plenty of newcomers snapping at their heels. In fact, nearly half the exhibitors at this year’s Show are Chelsea debutants. That’s why I love it so much. Not only can Chelsea accommodate the leading nurserymen and doyens of design, but it offers the opportunity for the next generation, too.
If it all gets too much, though, you can always step outside for a spot of fresh air and refreshment. While standing in the queue you can feast your eyes on the latest gardening products and gadgetry. There are stands and stalls for everyone - offering all manner of garden-related paraphernalia; from the practical to the fun and downright whacky! One of the best innovations at the Chelsea Show in recent years, has been the introduction of many smaller gardens. This not only gives new and contemporary designers a chance to show what they can do on a limited budget, but it also allows more visitors to see a wide range of planting ideas at close proximit
If you are lucky enough to get a ticket, make the most of your visit by doing a little research before you go. Check out the dedicated RHS website for news and lists of gardens and exhibits. The crowds at Chelsea reach their peak from midday, with the afternoon tickets often the first to sell out. If you want a bit more elbow room, I’d recommend you take advantage of the evening tickets. Your time at the Show maybe limited to a couple of hours, but you will see more and get more done than you would jostling through the crowds earlier in the day. You’ll save money too, since the evening ticket is about half the price of an all-day affair.
One of the best innovations at the Chelsea Show in recent years, has been the introduction of many smaller gardens. This not only gives new and contemporary designers a chance to show what they can do on a limited budget, but it also allows more visitors to see a wide range of planting ideas at close proximity.
Best show garden 2017 gold medal winner
Designed by James Basson, winner of the gold medal for best show garden. This garden features limestone columns planted with grasses, evergreens, perennials and unique maltese ground cover - exclusive to the island.
Inspired by abandoned limestone quarries and voicing the poignant message that humans must act to save our planet's delicate environment through sustainability and recycling, the garden houses varying ecologies divided into separate zones.