We visited Chelsea this year on a jam packed sunny Thursday. The earlier wind and rain of the first three days gave way to sunshine and by the time we arrived at 11a.m its fair to say the place was heaving. We made our way through some jolly trade stands, buying a few rusted plant supports en-route to the 8 Artisan Gardens. Finding little room just to stand and take any garden in or even walk from a to b we did a u-turn, had a cup of tea and listened to the band. Fortified we headed to the bottom of main avenue, to view some of the 15 large show gardens.
Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth Garden was built on the Triangle, slightly away from other gardens and overlooked by the lofty media platform where Monty Don and Joe Swift delivered the nightly show. Pearson designed his brilliant, brilliant garden for folk to walk all the way around, there were no ropes except for a metre wide strip at the path entrance and exit, which traversed his garden, originally it was planned for all visitors to walk through the garden and view from the inside, health and safety put a stop to that and just a few selected guests were allowed on. There was even a bench for visitors to sit on. How inclusive!
From the triangle we headed up main avenue first stopping at Sean Murray’s garden, the winner of ‘The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge’ TV programme. To highlight the RHS campaign to green our tarmaced and concreted over front gardens, Sean’s prize for winning the TV show was the opportunity to design the ‘Greening Grey Britain’ Chelsea garden.
Of the 15 main gardens, we loved Prince Harry’s Hope In Vulnerability garden and it was voted the People’s Choice show garden. The garden was designed to raise awareness for Sentebale’s mission to tackle the stigma of HIV in adolescents, helping to provide access to care and education and providing psychosocial support. This was a garden that looked as if people lived there.
The planting style this year was wild even on the more formal gardens. I prefer wild at home but Chris Beardshaw’s style of planting on his ‘Healthy Cities Garden’ was truly beautiful. A wonderful selection of texture, form and colours.
After the show the Garden is being entirely relocated to Poplar in East London as a part of a community project. The Healthy Cities programme focuses on giving children a healthy start through a variety of initiatives.
And the garden loved most by Monty Don.
The Perfumer’s Garden was a short step away from the 9 Fresh gardens, rapidly becoming my favourite part of the show. Unlike the Artisan category, which is squeezed into an oppressive tunnel. (My suggestion if anyone with any clout reads this, is at the very least a one way system for the Artisan category or put all the swanky greenhouse trade stands down there). The Fresh Gardens like the Chatsworth garden can all be walked around. Our favourite the World Vision Garden.
This is another garden designed to raise awareness. World Vision is the worlds largest international children’s charity and the garden was inspired by Cambodian rice fields. The dark reflective water representing the fear of hunger that vulnerable children in Cambodia live with. Hope was symbolised by delicate violets. World Vision are asking folk to be involved and on Friday July 10th wear something floral as a fundraiser.
The People’s Choice Fresh garden winner was awarded to the beautifully planted ‘The Breakthrough Breast Cancer Garden’
We dipped in and out of the the Floral Marquee now named the Great Pavilion, its a whopping 12,000m, which according to the Telegraph is the same size as two football pitches and enough room to park 500 London buses. There are around 100 exhibits and the smell is wonderful. We had watched the interview on TV before coming with the young couple in their 20’s Laura Crowe and Jack Willgoss at their first Chelsea and exhibiting perennial Violas. Having met when they were training in Horticulture at RHS Wisley they are now fulfilling their dream and run Wildegoose Nursery They won a silver-gilt, not bad for their first time!
We then made our way back to the Artisan gardens for the third time, the second time the one garden causing the major traffic jam was still surrounded by people. But at 7.45p.m just before the show was closing I finally managed to see the Japanese Garden.
This year Kazuyuki Ishihara was awarded his 7th Chelsea Gold Medal. Piped to the post for People’s choice Artisan garden was the Breast Cancer Haven Garden, my photograph does not do it justice. So I am showing you another garden in The Artisan category instead.
Of course we would go again, I love the razzmatazz of the show gardens and especially enjoy seeing the wonderful plants inside the Great Pavillion, but the crowds are something else. In 2004 Chelsea was extended from 4 days to 5, maybe just one extra day to spread the crowds out would be good.
55 thoughts on “Chelsea Flower Show 2015 – A Crowded Affair”
Wow. How lovely. These gardens look so interesting. And not too over-the-top. I am always amazed hat they can recreate such real-looking gardens in these flower show displays. What a skill and art that must be.
The build process is just three weeks long, of course the design and planning is much much longer, but incredible to see the transformations, especially the Chatsworth garden.
I can imagine. Would love to attend one of these years.
I’ve never been tempted by Chelsea Flower Show until I read this – though the thought of all those crowds is rather off-putting. Maybe next year …
I think the trick is to find a way to be there on the Monday, before RHS members and the public are let in from Tuesday to Saturday!
Thank you so much for the tour of Chelsea. When I lived in the UK I loved watching it on TV though never braved the crowds! The gardens look amazing – hard to choose a favourite, though Dan Pearson’s stands out and love the Trugmarker one too!
I really liked the wilder natural gardens most and could happily have the Trugmakers garden at home! 🙂
That’s a great top selection and lovely photos. I couldn’t face the crowds this year in fact, so it is nice to see reports from brave souls.
I’m a terrible queuer so amaze myself when I buy the tickets, glad we went though.
I did enjoy my virtual visit and I have never been to Chelsea. You did well to get such great photographs in the crowds that you describe. The gardens all seem breath-taking and inspiring. It intrigues me when horticulturists fall in love with a specific genera of plants, like the viola nursery. I often wonder if I was going to specialise what I would choose. Amelia
Now thats something to ponder on Amelia, I really like Violas, but they are not much help to insects and bees, some form of Alpine I think would be my choice.
The Pearson garden must have been a wonder, but I would have also loved to see the Perfumer’s Garden and the Trugmaker’s Garden. Yes, I am a romantic at heart! And to me, these seem to embody an almost spiritual connection between the gardener and plants.
The Perfumers garden was certainly the most romantic and was inspired by a resurgence of perfume plantations in Grasse. Yes I agree about the spiritual connection too.
Lovely photos Julie. Thank you, Chelsea is wonderful, but it is nice to sit in my armchair and look at your photos rather than battle with the crowds. I sat Chelsea out this year but I will be at Hampton Court . I love Dan Pearson’ s garden. I heard him talk at the Garden Literary Festival a couple of years ago and he was so interesting.
We haven’t visited Hampton Court for a few years, but I remember a much more relaxed feel, especially arriving at the show on a boat. Attending the GLF must of been a real treat.
Thank you – I really enjoyed your post and pictures – I only get to watch Chelsea on tv and it always looks heaving. I go to tatton fairly often as there is a lot more space and you can get right up to the gardens too.
Chelsea had very little on Fruit and Veg, I hear that Tatton is a much better show for Grow your own. Its the furthest RHS show from us here but I would really like to visit.
Yes there’s ‘show allotments’, lots of sellers, nurseries selling plants to take away, country fair type stuff/food sellers and plenty of space. Its definitely worth a visit – esp on rhs day as less busy… def need a car to get there though.
Thanks for sharing your visit, Julie. I couldn’t make it.
You are welcome. 🙂
To my eyes, they have nothing on the garden in your header photo. Just sayin’.
🙂 m & jb who would adore exploring your garden
Thanks so much! Thats my own garden in the header. 🙂
I only managed to see a bit of Chelsea on the TV this year so am really enjoying all the posts with wonderful photographs. I love the colour schemes in the plantings. I am intending to buy more plants online next year to hopefully get more choice than in the garden centres.
Yes I understand that, choices are very limited unless its a specialist nursery or online. Plus an online purchase is considered rather than a make do or impulse buy in a garden centre
That is a good point, but you are reliant on photos for the colour of things and I would imagine online is very unpredictable as screens vary so much. I have a long list of recommendations from blogs I follow though, which will be a good starting point.
Great to have a whirlwind tour, since I didn’t watch much of Chelsea on TV this year. I think I would agree with Monty Don about the l’Occitane garden, but your choice, the World Vision Garden, was both beautiful and thought-provoking. Thanks!
I love the gardens most with a story to tell or that are representing a great charity. I find it hard to relate to the hotel style gardens with corporate backers.
The crowds sound off-putting but how wonderful to see those gardens in person. I’d love to have that Healthy Cities Garden relocated to my place.
Me too Susie, Chris Beardshaw is a really talented plantsman, his combinations and design were magical.
Beautifully composed and taken photos given how crowded it clearly is/was. A great snap shot for someone who’s never been, and doesn’t have TV! And what stamina you have, getting there early and still around at closing time!
I wonder if there were any plants/flowers there which you’re likely to follow up and buy?
I’ve always thought that for the smaller nurseries, it must be really difficult to justify the costs of being there, since I don’t think they can sell any plants until the last day? Can they?
Thanks Julian, I have only been once on a Saturday which is sell off day and it was comical, folk were giddily buying all sorts of huge hard to carry plants and then its a bus or tube ride with them! I didn’t really know what to buy so settled on one purple cow parsley Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’. There was a girly Verbascum on Chris Beardshaw’s garden ‘Merlin’ that I would really like and Rhododendron Luteum on Dan Pearson’s garden, our soil is borderline acidic so hope it will be fine here.
Great choices, Julie. We have the luteum and the scent is fabuous of course, we’ve seen en masse Ravenswing drifting through a bed at Aberglasney and it looked fabulous. F found one today at a plant fair in Monmouthshire, so it’ll have to be put somewhere, and we’ll see if it seeds around…
Thanks for the tour….one of these days I’ll be in the UK in late May and actually get to see it all in person, but until then it’s great to have an armchair tour. I must say that I really like Chris Beardshaws garden – it has just enough formality and wildness together to fit into most situations
Absolutely Matt, I felt just the same. Thats a quality not many of the other gardens had.
Thank you so, so much for sharing these lovely photos! They lift me up! Someday, not sure when, but someday, I’m going to take in the Chelsea!
You are welcome Janet, glad you liked them, hope you do get to visit too. 🙂
Oh it does look lovely Julie. Thanks for sharing your images and thoughts on it all. I have never been to Chelsea and probably never will, as crowds are a major problem for me… is there a word for a fear of crowded places? LOL! I have been scouring the internet for news and images of Chelsea, as the BBC programmes and clips are not available abroad. Wonderful to see that view of the Chatsworth garden (great shot!), and you are right about the Hope In Vulnerability garden – it looks like someone lives in it and cares for it. Very clever to create that impression. I hadn’t seen any pictures of the World Vision Garden, but find the symbolism quite moving. Thanks again! 🙂
Cathy, I am sure there is a word – sensible for one. Thats frustrating about the TV coverage, I hear from Marian that the Great Chelsea Garden challenge is on You Tube, that was a real feel good competition show run just before Chelsea. In a such an opulent show the charity gardens really do pull you up.
Beautiful photos and great commentary. 🙂
Thanks Su, I’m tall so crouching down to take photos came at at a head hitting price from other folk with large bags an early start is needed next year!
Ouch. I guess the lovely photos are some small compensation 🙂
I really enjoyed your photos of these gardens…they showed some of the best aspects and plantings…i especially loved the first garden you showed as it was wild and peaceful….
Thanks Donna, wild and peaceful is a really good description, it was my favourite too. 🙂
Your description and lovely photos of Chelsea are a treat, Julie! I have never been and this year didn’t even manage to watch any of the programmes. I would like to go to one of these shows but they all seem to be at a time of year when I am doing other things. I’m not at all good in crowds either so that may put me off. Maybe one day I’ll get to go!
I’m not very good at crowds either Clare, some of our local villages have open gardens, our village is biennially. I find that a much nicer way to spend a day looking at gardens.
I agree! It’s so much more relaxed.
OH my-thank you for a wonderful tour with lovely photos-I could stay there for hours!!!! I have to admit- I am a wild one lover + boy do they know how to make it pop and speak to my heart!
I’m a wild one lover too Robbie! Love that times have changed and folk actively make wild gardens now.
I generally avoid flower shows because I don’t enjoy crowds, so I especially appreciate the tour provided in this post. The People’s Choice garden would have been my choice as well!
I like the idea of your flings, we do not seem to have them over here or at least I haven’t heard of them. Seems a much more civilised way of seeing a garden.
They keep them to under 100 people, which helps.
Someday I’d love to see the Chelsea event. Someday. Until then thank you so much for sharing the photos.
If somehow you could arrange to go along with the Royals, celebs and press on a Monday before its open to the crowds otherwise very early in the morning or Saturday on sell off day, although getting that home would be a little tricky for you!