So all in all a great Chelsea. Compared to last year, I found far more I wanted to photograph in the show gardens, and my appreciation and enjoyment of the marquee intensifies year on year with my increased knowledge – and quest for yet more knowledge – regarding particular plants.
The Artisan Gardens were their usual triumph of how much you can fit in to a tiny space and, like the judges, I loved the Kazuyuki Ishihara ‘A paradise on earth’ garden which won Gold and Best Artisan Garden. According to the RHS website the garden was ‘inspired by the fable of Togenkyo, a place of beautiful scenery that can help people to forget their troubles and strife, but that once visited cannot be revisited.’ Although I definitely come to Chelsea for a ‘flower fix’ there was something incredibly beautiful and serene about this garden, which was almost entirely foliage and textures:
I also loved the Gold winning, DialaFlight ‘Potter’s Garden’ which includes a fabulous brick kiln together with mad, cottage-style planting, supposed to evoke a garden abandoned on the break out of war in 1914. The garden was designed by ‘Nature Redesigned’.
From the Fresh Gardens, the ‘Reachout’ Gold Winning garden, designed by John Everiss, was incredibly powerful, and, of all the gardens, gave the most emphatic message. However, in some ways the success of the message made the garden quite uncomfortable to look at and whilst I admired it enormously, I struggled to like it.
The fresh garden I did like was the Silver Gilt winning ‘Wellchild’ garden designed by Olivia Kirk which was created to ‘highlight the important role gardens and outside spaces play in supporting seriously ill children and young people‘. Happily, after the show, the garden is being re-located to The Brook Special Primary School in Tottenham, London.
Whilst the sculpture in the ‘Reachout’ garden above was almost distressing, the one here, by Caro Sweet, was totally heartwarming.
On to the show gardens. Whilst I’ve been to Chelsea at least twenty times, this year for the first time I’d had time to watch quite a lot of the BBC coverage and what surprised me about all the gardens was how small they were. Clearly they’re no smaller than any other year, but for some reason watching them on TV had given an impression of size that just isn’t justified. Interesting. Is this the same phenomenon which puts ’20 pounds’ on actresses?
Coming from the main entrance, the first garden was Cleve West’s Gold winning M&G Investments garden. I actually liked it less in real life than I had on TV. Whilst I did like the blue and white planting around the sunken central fountain, the planting at the front of the garden although horticulturally more interesting, I found rather bitty. Sorry Cleve!
in real life I preferred the elegance of the Gold winning Telegraph garden by Del Buono Gazerwitz. Tim Richardson wrote in the Saturday Telegraph gardening section before the show ‘some may wonder whether this design, with its low domes of box balls set in a lawn, will be too understated to win outright’. Sadly Tim was right, it didn’t win outright, but its understatement was a significant part of its success. I loved it.
Another garden I admired was the ‘Garden for First Touch at St George’s’ built on the rock bank site. This was a garden ‘inspired by the strength and determination shown by premature babies and their families on their journeys, which can be long and difficult’.
By this stage, however, I was getting a little weary of the blue, purple and white palette that seemed to feature in all of the gardens, so it came as a huge joy to come across the Silver Gilt winning ‘Positively Stoke’ garden. And whilst I wasn’t entirely sure about the design, I adored the superabundant ‘bruised’ palette of the planting. Now here was my proper show garden ‘flower fix.
Time to head to the marquee……