I was a Chelsea virgin up until my first visit to the flower show a couple of weeks ago. Over the years I have watched it on TV, so I thought I knew what to expect. I didn’t – I was blown away by it! A great day with so much to see in a relatively small area. I used my Quidco account to get money back on the tickets, which meant they worked out at £142 for four people – not a cheap day out but well worth it as a treat for my Dad’s birthday. Top tip for next year – to get sensibly-priced tickets, consider joining the RHS for £40pa.
On the day, the four of us found very early on that we were all working at a different pace, and so to avoid any fisticuffs we thought it best to divide and conquer and just meet up periodically. Next time I would even consider going by myself to get the most out of the day.
The Exhibitors were very helpful and happy to lend advice and discuss issues as well as giving you details on their products. The variety of plants and gardening paraphernalia available was astonishing and all the gardens were inspiring. I was really pleased to see woodland planting and wild flowers everywhere as that is what I love and tend towards at home. I now have many new ideas for additions to my own garden and I have already made a start and planted some lupins.
Some of my favourites – there were some very interesting shaped Alliums on display scorodoprasum, sphaerocephalon, sativum ophioscorodon. There were also lots of new plants that caught my eye: Maconopsis Jameson Hybrid, Lupinus Polar Princess, Primula Vialli Arisaema Sikokianum, Cypripedium Kentucky Maxi. I must also make time to do some research on the carnivorous planting as the green hues tinged with other colours were so vivid they stopped me in my tracks.
What stood out for me were the recurring themes of nature, wellness and health, which seemed to underpin many of the gardens. These are benefits that gardeners have long since known about, and thinking about it I don’t know an unhappy gardener when they are in their garden! My Dad is 80 years of age and he still gardens a few days a week – he is happiest when digging and watching the robins pull at the freshly dug soil. I have realised the benefits myself over the last 10 years both mentally and physically, when friends would say “you’re too young to garden” I’d laugh and say “one day you’ll understand!”. Then they would say “really?” and screw their faces slightly to the side, and now they ask my advice, give me cuttings, ask for seeds and of course many a glass of wine enjoyed. So who was right?
Chelsea can seem exclusive, but gardening doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Start small “a window box of herbs”, await the end of the summer and beg seeds and cuttings from friends and neighbours, etc. There are lots of gardening blogs and online inspiration, as well as fantastic ideas on Instagram so check them out. If you don’t have a garden, see if there’s someone who might like your help tending theirs and maybe share the spoils of berries and veg. This is quite common in other countries where land is put to work and not left fallow. Once you are bitten you will have a gym and a therapist for life and you will also be able to enjoy the fruits of your effort all year round.
Lastly I have to mention the art at Chelsea, as there were some stunning displays. I especially loved the awe inspiring driftwood sculptures by James Doran Webb. I shall save my pennies and one day in many many many years I may just buy a little itty bitty one. Until next year Chelsea – “Adieu”.