Up close and personal Chelsea Flower Show 2013


Christopher Bradley-Hole’s gorgeous Telegraph garden

A visit to Chelsea this year fell on a very cold Thursday, where the forecast was heavy rain at one, so we left home quite early and were through the gates by 9.00a.m. The grounds were already filled with people and getting anywhere near a main show garden took a bit of patience. In the nicest possible way, the first few gardens although beautiful would be perfect in the grounds of an upmarket hotel. But its personal and appreciating plants and gardens is about how they reach out and touch a part of your soul.

The beautiful Iris ‘Sugar Magnolia’ planted on Ulf Nordfjell’s Laurent-Perrier garden, available from Crocus.

Iris 'Sugar Magnolia'

Iris ‘Sugar Magnolia’

The Orlaya grandiflora on Prince Harry’s garden was my “I want that” plant of the day. Later I was thrilled to find the seed available on Hardy Plants gold medal stand inside the marquee.

Orlaya grandiflora

Orlaya grandiflora

Then the Homebase garden, ‘Sowing the Seed of Change’ yes this is for everybody, a lovely mix of edibles and affordable planting stylishly put together and designed by Adam Frost.

Aquilegia - columbine

Aquilegia – columbine

Homebase 'Sowing the Seeds of Change' garden

Homebase ‘Sowing the Seeds of Change’ garden

We headed to Flemings Australian garden and absolutely loved the planting and concept, brilliantly designed by Phillip Johnson. Last year, in the same space was Diarmuid Gavin’s seven storey high sustainable garden and beside that the Korean garden and my favourite, Chris Beardshaw’s  ‘The Furzey Garden’. The Australian garden, was on its own this year, replacing last years three gardens (is this corner for the non conventional?) apparently a little controversial that it took best in show, but to our untrained eyes, it was head and shoulders the main show garden winner. We queued to view and joyfully shuffled at a snails pace along the roped off garden. Expecting to see burnt browns and oranges, the garden was filled with lush greens, pinks, reds, mauves, greys, silver and gorgeous use of yellow and not one lovely delicate Cow Parsley relative in sight. This was a garden that made me engage and want to find out more not just about the plants but the country they originally grew in too.

Flemings Australian Garden designed by Phillip Johnson

Flemings Australian Garden
designed by Phillip Johnson

Ptilotus exaltatus

Ptilotus exaltatus

That could not be said of any of the other main show gardens this year. I think this is what I want more than anything from a show garden – a show. I want to be drawn in to find out more – Chelsea is a pricey ticket, when I get there, having arrived  on a crowded train and the jostle is so dense I cannot stand back on my own to admire a garden, I want to be entertained and excited and absolutely most of all educated by something new.

Bracteantha bracteata – paper daisy wildflower

Le Jardin de Yorkshire

Le Jardin de Yorkshire

On to the Artisan gardens, all of them beautiful in their individual way, 8 gardens all different and hard to choose a favourite. Each entertained, engaged and educated me, leaving me wanting to explore and find out more about the different countries and regions or causes they represented.  The very high standard of concept, design and planting of these tiny gardens, made viewing each one an absolute delight.

Lady's Slipper Orchid  Cypripedium calceolus

Yorkshire Garden Lady’s Slipper Orchid
Cypripedium calceolus

Planting on the Yorkshire garden, included a rare Lady’s Slipper Orchid.

Inspired by the footpath in the The National Botanic Gardens of Wales ‘Get Well Soon’ garden, designed to be walked on barefoot, stimulating reflexology pressure points.

Get Well Soon footpath

Get Well Soon footpath

and Un Garreg, One Stone, inspired by the Breacon Beacons, had the most beautiful planting, both peaceful and moving.

Un Garreg - Crafted from One Stone

Un Garreg – Crafted from One Stone


Un Garreg


Un Garreg – Aquilegia


Un Garreg – Astrantia


Un Garreg – Verbascum

Un Garreg planting

Un Garreg

Then off to the Grand Marquee and finally the Fresh Gardens, I am not sure why the division in allocated space between Fresh and Artisan, as amongst the trade stands the Fresh gardens felt slightly second class, within the show layout. Shouldn’t new ideas be embraced more warmly?

Digital Capabilities planting

Digital Capabilities planting

Then with an hour left before our train home, we revisited the Artisan gardens, and the main shopping avenue with Franchi’s Seeds still crowded with delighted customers. We really enjoyed our day and left in admiration of those who put a show on in the face of some really challenging 2013 English Spring weather. Chelsea is not for everybody, but horticulture is diverse, thankfully. At a time when funds are being raised by the RHS to encourage the young into a gardening life, here at least are some of the aspirational plants, gardens and products, which showcase the diversity horticulture has to offer and hopefully be enticing enough to encourage younger gardeners to make horticulture a way of earning a living.

7 thoughts on “Up close and personal Chelsea Flower Show 2013

  1. A lovely review with fabulous photos. I love the idea of a barefoot footpath. The colour white seems to be a feature of the gardens you showed us – very refreshing. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Loved comparing your impressions with mine, they coincided pretty much. I loved that Iris! I also agree about the placing of the Fresh gardens, you are quite right they were too mixed up with trade stands. I also photographed that lovely stone pathway, it reminded me of one of the paths in the garden of the Forbidden City, In China. Christina

  3. Wow! A wonderful post! I would LOVE to go to this show one day. Your photos are beautiful and I can see why you wanted Orlaya grandiflora, it looks gorgeous. I wish we could get all the plants and seeds you have over there over here in the U.S. Jealous! :). Thank you for sharing.

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