Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chelsea - what else - the gardens!

Before it becomes total history, I had better give you a few thoughts on this year's Chelsea gardens.  Possibly I am becoming totally numb to the effects of these little pieces of horticultural theatre but whilst some become more and more outlandish, the rest seem to be tediously boring. The emphasis on naturalistic planting and the lateness of the season meant that many of the gardens were distinctly lacking in colour at the beginning of the week when judging took place.  I do appreciate the problems of growing in a difficult season, but when you compare these gardens with the amount of colour on exhibits like  Hillier's, it makes you think that it should be possible, in even a difficult season to bring plants at the right stage of development.

M&G Centenary Garden - where's the colour?
Hilliers stand in the floral marquee - no shortage of colour here
The Best in Show was the 'Trailfinders Australian Garden', amazingly a modern rock garden, constructed on the area known as the rock garden bank. For many years this was where rock gardens were always constructed during the era when they featured heavily at Chelsea. As well as a natural billabong and waterfalls in dramatic rock work, the garden featured a modernistic studio room perched at the top of the garden. The garden was filled with native Australian plants from lush ferns to colourful kangaroo paws and bottle trees.

Another of my favourites was the 'East Village Garden', inspired by the design of East Village London, formerly the athletes village during last year's Olympics. This was very much a modern landscape but included many traditional elements. A curving path, alongside a sweeping lawn and a sunken pool with tiered waterfalls led the eye through the garden to a glazed building. Colourful planting including yellow azaleas, grasses and striking white arum lilies gave the exhibit the feel  of a real garden.

I couldn't see much point in 'As Nature Intended', 'The Telegraph Garden' was geometric but flat and boring and whilst 'Stop the Spread' may have had a message regarding plant health, it lacked interest. These are bottom of the barrel for me.

'As nature Intended - so?

'Stop the Spread'

The tedious 'Telegraph Garden'

The Fresh garden category allows for creativity and innovation with few restrictions and amongst these gardens, I loved the beautifully designed and constructed 'Brand Alley Garden'.

Once again the Artisan Gardens were small and lovingly created but between the bleakness of 'Hebridean Weaver's Garden', the starkness of 'Le Jardin de Yorkshire', the tranquillity of the 'Tokanama Garde'n, the austerity of 'Un garreg' I felt distincly in need of a floral pick-me up! Again little colour and certainly no humour!

Hebridean Weaver's Garden

Le Jardin de Yorkshire

Tokonama Garden
Un garreg - one stone

I just didn't appreciate the centenary sculpture commissioned by the RHS and set amongst what looked like a roadside shrine, although I did love their display of wheelbarrows including bronze, silver and gold! Great fun!

I can't even imagine the brief for this monstrosity and dread to think where it will end up permanently
Ephemeral art but fun!

Amongst the rest, I liked the 'Arthritis Research Garden', which told the story of coming to terms with this debilitating condition. The garden moved from a dense shaded woodland through to the more open and colourful main garden. The 'Brewin Dolphin Garden' included an interesting 'sunken island' with lawn, grasses and box shapes within a water feature. The 'M&G Centenary Garden' also had some lovely traditional English garden elements as well as modern sculpture and good planting which hopefully will have coloured up by the end of the week. The 'RBC Bluewater Roof Garden' also included some pleasing shapes and beautifully constructed decking, complemented with good planting.

Arthritis Research garden
Brewin Dolphin Garden

M&G Centenary garden

M&G Centenary garden

RBC Bluewater Roof garden

RBC Bluewater Roof garden
Likes and dislikes - all very personal and subjective - I guess there will be many who won't agree with me or have seen other things in the gardens that I have missed. Whatever you think, it is nevertheless amazing that each year for the last 100 years, gardeners, landscapers and nursery people have staged this incredible horticultural spectacle which continues to draw huge crowds each year! Long live Chelsea!


  1. Thanks for the tour...some of those to me are stunning, but in a minimalist view without flowers. But as I sit inside in air conditioning, a bone-dry 90F outside, everything (except the one you noted as "monstrosity") looks great to me, with some degree of merit!

    I'm torn between the gently curved forms of the 'East Village Garden', and the careful textures of the 'Brewin Dolphin Garden'.

  2. Thanks Ian for bringing a little but of England to Palm Springs via your blog. Wonderful photos as always which conveyed more enthusiasm and excitement than did the BBC.

  3. The East Village Garden is possibly our fave of the main show garden. The Trailfinders Australian Garden deserved its Best in Show award.