Chelsea 2012 by Anne Wareham

May 22, 2012

in Articles, Events, General Interest, Shows

I did my usual for Chelsea – asked people I met on Press Day a question I thought would be of interest to thinkingardeners. Less celebrities this time. All pictures by Charles Hawes, but the unnamed person in them, while bearing a passing resemblance to me, is clearly fifteen years older and much heavier…

Anne Wareham editor

The question:

The show gardens are there to so say ‘inspire’ home gardeners, and to promote the designer and the sponsor. But do they have any interest for the non gardening general public?

Benedict Vanheems copyright Charles Hawes

Benedict Vanheems

The gardens are an inspiration, but the planting is fantasy. It is far too packed in. A controversial question. I like it.

If you have any eye for design and arrangement it can translate. So not just for gardeners, no.

Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall copyright Charles Hawes

Jane Fearnely-Whittingstall.

The Korean Garden has (“Quiet Time: Korean DMZ Forbidden Garden”, designed by Jihae Hwang) – it has got a very strong emotional content, which the others haven’t. It has a universal message which is not ‘buy the champagne’. Very effective in giving its message: it nearly had me in tears.

Matthew Appleby copyright Charles Hawes

Matt Appelby

Yes. If you are not interested in gardening Chelsea is the only time you would notice it. Like the Eden Project, it’s a visitor attraction. Or like Ascot – you may still enjoy it if you’re not interested in horses.

Apart from that, horse racing journalists tend to be good at being journalists. And garden journalists don’t. They just reproduce the pr puffs. Apart from me.

Jason Ingram copyright Charles Hawes

Jason Ingram

Probably not. It’s a bit like high fashion. Milan fashion Week, for example, doesn’t offer anything achievable by anybody. People pick up little bits of it. By the time it’s reached the public it’s completely transformed.

It’s spectacle, performance. I think it’s great.

Guy Bennington copyright Charles Hawes

Guy Bennington

I guess not.

David Hurrian copyright Charles Hawes

David Hurrion

Point is it’s like a shop window. It gives a softer, more naturalistic view of the world. If people in cities see how the world can be softened by plating this is worth something.  Plants can make you feel more in scale with your environment.

Joanna Fortnam copyright Charles Hawes

Joanna Fortnam

I think they have the potential to captivate because they are beautiful, uplifting and an extreme example of their kind. They give you that emotional jolt.

Ed Cummings copyright Charles Hawes

Ed Cumming

Yeah, definitely. It’s a big art show in itself. Even to my uneducated eye it has its themes and competitiveness. Anyone can appreciate that. You can enjoy going round an art gallery without being an oil painter.

Marianne Majerus copyright Charles Hawes

Marianne Majerus

Yes, lots of relevance. Particularly the natural with a contemporary twist may draw people’s attention to the relation between the natural world and gardens. Gardens like this Telegraph Garden ( Sarah Price) raise interesting questions..

Nigel Colburn copyright Charles Hawes

Nigel Colburn

Obviously they do – the tv coverage demonstrates that. Though as a gardener they are of limited use to me. Just the odd good idea.

It’s pleasing to see them – the line, form and changes of texture, just as it would be in an art exhibition. A valuable contribution. People love gardens…

John Hurt copyright Charles Hawes

John Hurt

They are beautiful. It’s one of the great forms of design, three dimensional with touch. They are all a touch tasteful..

I do like the very fragile, delicate moving flowers.

Dr. Noel Kingsbury copyright Charles Hawes

Noel Kingsbury

Yes, it’s an insight into the gardening world – and some of the absurd stuff. It might give people a hook into gardening to see what goes on in a world they don’t usually engage with.

Mary Keen copyright Charles Hawes

Mary Keen

Yes, because they are spectacle and they cost an absolute bomb and people are always interested in money. They cost about half a million and then get thrown away, and that is disgusting.

Sophie Raworth copyright Charles Hawes

Sophie Raworth

Yes, totally. You can get all kinds of inspiration. It’s about how to create beautiful spaces and they are very cleverly done. The cleverest are those which look as if they’ve just sprung up. They are artworks.

Darryl Moore copyright Charles Hawes

Darryl Moore

It’s an event – people come to see what it’s about. There is a lot to offer. Top garden design should be there alongside all the other major disciplines. Do people recognise that? It is on prime time television. Maybe it’s seen as part of our culture. ‘A nation of gardeners’. It’s a cross between lifestyle and culture.

Corinne Julius copyright Charles Hawes

Corinne Julius

The Korean garden does. It shows that a garden can be a philosophical statement. It is moving and thoughtful, direct but not rubbing your nose in it.

The finish of the garden is extraordinary – for example, the military buttons are exquisitely arranged. The dog tag bench changes your perception and makes you think about design. I understand the designer finds that plants are her medium because everyone understands plants.

Did you know there are two blackbirds nesting in the garden? – proves her point that nature can reconcile the ravages of war and unify a nation. Quite a lot for a garden to say.


By Anne Wareham with thanks to all contributors. And the photographer.

Charles Hawes

See also

Victoria Summerley on Chelsea judging

Other show pieces

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