Monday 27 May 2013

A postcard from Chelsea, with love and cowparsley XXX



Christopher Bradley-Hole’s garden for the Daily Telegraph. I loved this combination of clipped cubes of box and yew, and native plants wafting in the afternoon breeze.

If you were ever in any doubt that Chelsea is the world’s biggest flower show, the ticket touts scattered along the path between Sloane Square tube and Royal Hospital Road are enough to tell you that this is the hot ticket that marks the beginning of summer, even when the skies are leaden, the wind brisk.

Inside the grounds, smooth-skinned young men in striped blazers and panama hats rub shoulders with ladies in pac-a-macs up for the day, their sturdy bags packed at dawn with thermoses, mints, bottles of water, biscuits, hankies, notebooks, a selection of biros. Felix Baumgartener probably jumped from actual space with less preparation. They crowd along the rails, speaking of ‘wow factor’, sighing over favourite plants like you might a sleeping puppy, dodging camera crews and gathering free cotton tote bags with barely-concealed glee.

This year, the show’s hundredth, seemed a little quiet to me. Of course, we all collectively clutched our pearls at Jinny Blom’s B&Q garden for Prince Harry’s charity, Sentebole. We sighed over the elegant, meditative beauty of Christopher Bradley-Hole’s garden for the Daily Telegraph and cooed at the traditional, pretty planting in Chris Beardshaw’s Arthritis Research UK garden. While I could admire the technical skill of the Best-in-Show Australian garden, it left me rather cold. The plants all looked a bit crammed in (I know they all are, they’re just not supposed to look it), like chorus girls vying for the role of headline act.

Hard surfaces, such as concrete and stone, and sculptural clipped shapes combined with the deliciously billowy waft of grasses and native plant species. Cowparsley, sweet cicely and other meadow-y delights were everywhere.

After the high-octane hoopla of the show gardens, the Great Pavilion is always terribly soothing. With its banks of flowers, pyramids of vegetables and bowler-hatted nurserymen, it feeds my terminal plant geekery. In these troubled times, just knowing that The Delphinium Society exists makes me happy.

I come home laden with catalogues and ideas, hastily scribbled plant lists and sore feet, desperate to get out into my own little garden to work out where I can cram in just a few more plants. It seems I really didn’t learn anything from the Australians, did I?


The Brewer Dolphin garden designed by Robert Myers. Clipped cushions of box surrounded by billowy native plants, such as wormwood, angelica, musk mallow and ravenswing cowparsley.


The ‘Sowing the Seeds of Change’ garden by Adam Frost for Homebase shows that the trend for combining the decorative with the edible continues to gain popularity. On the day I was there, visitors seemed to be really enjoying the posh potager look.



Jinny Blom’s planting somewhat overwhelmed by the hard structures in the B&Q Sentebale Garden.

And on into the Great Pavilion…


Robinson’s remarkable vegetable display.


A mountain of pelargoniums at the Fibrex stand.


Quite the bunch of tulips at the Blom’s Bulbs stand.


Delphiniums and begonias arranged like a floral army on the Blackmore and Langdon’s stand.


Amaryllis dangle high over our heads at the Warmenhoven stand.


Splendid tiers of well-behaved alliums at the Warmenhoven stand.


An explosion of allium Christophii at the Warmenhoven stand.


A window of clematis.



There’s something comfortingly old fashioned about these cushions of chrysanths.


W&S Lockyer’s auricula display. Note the bowler hat in front of the stand.


I love these orange geums. So cheering.


Always so very difficult to walk past the Hardy’s stand without ordering something.

2013-05-27 13.17.19

A little light, post-Chelsea reading.


  1. Once I work out how to get the money together I think I'll give building a show garden a go. How hard/expensive can it be?

    I have an idea. Surely the fact that I have never tried to build anything like that before means that my talents, if they exist, will be untainted by experience.

  2. I'm glad it's not just me who found it rather flat this year. Press day had no buzz or excitement at all. Those big show gardens are all a bit too formulaic for my taste, but I loved the artisan gardens - lots of dry stone walling and native, natural planting. Now we just need some sunshine.....

  3. Lovely writing, sharp perspective,beautiful pictures. W


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