|Seeing the site on the Sunday afternoon, it always looks as if its going to be a long night to get ready for Monday morning judging!|
No gardener will be unaware of what a tough late winter and spring it has been. And this has undoubtedly had an effect on the maturity of plants in many displays and the amount of colour that they were showing. Amongst the exhibits that I judged, there were a few major disappointments, with plants not being ready. However disappointing this may be for the exhibitors, the judges can only take into account the exhibit before them. At the formal dinner on Monday, the President announced, as had so many Presidents before her, that this 'Chelsea would be the best ever'. Whilst the centenary show undoubtedly has many highlights, from the aspect of plant quality this superlative is a little optimistic!
Bearing in mind how cold it was when judging at 8am last Monday, I am amazed that we judges were in a generous mood but from amongst 103 exhibits in the Floral Pavilion, we awarded 62 gold medals. In order to achieve this standard, the exhibits and the plants within have to be almost perfect, so it is indeed an award well worth achieving.
|Hart's Lilies - Gold Medal|
|Dibley's Streptocarpus - Gold Medal|
|Birmingham City Council - Gold Medal|
|West Country Lupins - Gold Medal|
|Pheasant Acre Gladioli - Gold Medal|
|Bowden's Hostas - Gold Medal|
How can one possibly highlight the best from amongst such a wealth of plants? The Diamond Jubilee Award, sort of best in show for the nurseries, went to Warmenhoven who had brought an exhibit of Amaryllis and Allium all way from the Netherlands, as they have done for so many recent shows. Not only was the plant quality exceptional but the display was amazingly creative, with some 30 different cultivars of Amaryllis hanging from a gantry above our heads. Beneath this on four separate islands were geometric arrangements of Allium and some Ornithogalum. I had the privilege to be involved in judging this exhibit and was thrilled to know that our recommendation for this top award had been confirmed.
|Warmehoven - Gold Medal|
|A 'Sistine Chapel' of flowers!|
|Just one of many bowls of alliums|
The National Farmers Union stand, showing the best of British produce; fruit, vegetables and flowers, was once again spectacular, not only in the quality of goods displayed but in the innovative way in which they were arranged. Sadly it is rumoured that this may be the last year they will be exhibiting.
|NFU - a giant market stall|
|Fruit and Veg jostle with flowers|
|Allium flowers heads with - yes red onions!|
|The Best of British!|
In the science area, there was a curious stand from the University of Reading, demonstrating grass-free lawns, composed of various flowering and foliage plants. Although the display boxes at the show looked interesting, I have to admit to a certain amount of scepticism about the sustainability of this in a practical situation. Nearby there was a exhibit from Tregothnan Gardens, featuring a unique and original Wardian case that had been discovered locked away in a garden shed. This simple device was key to the successful transport of so many plants across the seas and back to the UK in the 19th century. East Malling Research Station had an exhibit related to fruit trees and rootstocks, the centre of which was a mature apple tree with its entire root system washed free of soil. It is amazing to see how far this hidden part of a plant extends.
|No-grass lawn from Reading Uni?|
|The original Wardian case - one wonders what treasures traveled across the seas in it all those years ago|
|Internet pic - few days on from judging and already looking more colourful|
|Imagine all these beautiful blooms arranged by the Warmehoven or NFU team - could be a WOW!|
Once again, the RHS hosted a plant of the year competition which this year was won by a Mahonia called 'Soft Caress' (full name Mahonia eurybracteata subsp ganpinensis 'Soft Caress' - got it?) which has delicate, prickle-free leaves and yellow flowers in late summer. Alongside this was a competition for the plants of the century, with 10 contenders, one for each decade. This one will be decided by public vote and announced at the end of the show.
|Mahonia 'Soft Caress'|
|And what it should look like in flower|
|Clematis 'Kaiser' one of the other entrants|
|Diascia 'Sundiascia Rose Pink' - another hopeful - I like this one!|
|Rose 'Easy Does it'|
|Tulip - 'Princess Irene' - not new but love it!|
|Arisema sikokianum - lovely woodland plant|
|Rhododendron 'Germania' - I don't really like rhodo's but just get a hit of this for colour!|
|Corydalis 'Canary Feathers'|
|Paeonia 'Coral Sunset' - again - such an intensity of colour!|
|Hosta 'Hacksaw' - nice contrast to the huge paddle-leaved types|
|Not quite sure how this 'Hosta 'White Feather' manages to survive with so little chlorophyll|
|Meconopsis punicea - I'd never grow this but I just love its sad and tawdry red flowers|
|Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' - must get this!|