More Chelsea

June 15, 2014

in Articles, Events, General Interest, Shows

I’m risking boring everyone with more Chelsea stuff – in this case, some thoughts about the actual 2014 show: mine and those of Katherine Crouch. I promise that normal service will be resumed shortly. (ie not quite so often ..)

Anne Wareham, editor

I couldn’t design a Chelsea garden. I’m not a trained designer and simply haven’t got whatever it takes. So this is not an attempt to show I can do better, but a query about the prevailing style at Chelsea, illustrated with pictures from Veddw.

And the question is, why do we never see anything like this?

Veddw Front Garden copyright Anne Wareham

What’s particular about this? (here’s another view..)

Front Garden, Veddw, Euphorbia Fireglow and Lyschimachia Firecracker Veddw copyright Anne Wareham

Close up


You might say the colour – Chelsea is very pretty and a little pastel-y at the moment, but that’s not principally what I’m thinking of. I’m thinking of the limited number of plants involved here.


Chelsea 2014 Copyright Anne Wareham on thinkingardens

That is from Chelsea this year and nicely illustrates the number of plants that get put into relatively small spaces.

Chelsea designers have a great advantage over the rest of us poor amateurs, as well – they don’t need to make something which looks good all year. So, you’d think they might be able to simplify much more easily than we can. And they don’t have all the foliage of up-coming plants to dilute their scene either, as we do..

And, they say their clients want easy maintenance gardens. Well, I go for that – and the picture  of Veddw you see illustrates to me how you get that: you… errr.. simplify. Fewer different plants to fret over and easy to tell someone what is weed and what is not if you are lucky enough to have a gardener or other help. (what else are children for?)

This is one of the reasons I find Chelsea gardens hard to look at, hard to ‘take in’ and hard to enjoy. I realise that makes me highly unusual, but you’d think there might be one dramatic, simple planting one year? Or is there actually a rule against it? Would you get disqualified for not enough different plants?

Cornfield garden, Veddw

What about really radical: no flowers either?!

Anne Wareham


Chelsea Rant – Katherine Crouch

Back from press day and I am filled with a great sense of deja vu. Will fuchsia growers ever stage their plants in any way other than on tiers of black cloth? (no) Will the irises and delphiniums bloom in time this year? (yes). Will anyone ever order a life size sculpture of a gorilla for their garden? (I’d love to know)

I wish I could have flown over or walked through the Night Sky garden in order to appreciate the details better. Lots of textural detail looked better on the overhead televised shots than on the site.

I found much of varied interest in the Fresh category of gardens and the hovel count in the Artisan gardens was agreeably lower than in previous years.

Fresh Garden by Copyright Charles Hawes

Fresh Garden by Sophie Walker for Crug Farm

However, when I walked past the large show gardens I thought the pages of the catalogue had been duplicated, the pictures looked so similar. Four gardens had many common ingredients. All were beautifully executed and proportioned (no clay ashtrays this year). All had exquisite natural stone rectilinear features, both as paving, pond surrounds and at least two had stone vertical rectangular panels in the middle of the long sides of evergreen tall hedges.

All had buns and domes of clipped evergreen shrubs (heaven forbid any variegated or yella), the largest specimen deciduous trees that could be delivered through the Bull Ring gate and a soft colour palette of white, cream, lemon yellow and blue of very good quality diaphanous and vertical perennials.

Cleve West garden, Chelsea 2014 Copyright Charles Hawes

Cleve West’s garden

At least three harkened back to the past, whether the First World War, Persian or Italian gardens and all was exquisitely tasteful and well done but somehow rather samey.

I really missed seeing a loudly coloured futuristic conceptual garden to turn my nose up at and growl ‘whatever were they thinking?’ No levitating pyramids, no plasticine flowers, no dodgy construction, no angry spectator muttering ‘Ghastly, simple ghastly’.

Now just watched the BBC Tuesday coverage. Gnashing my teeth at Carol Klein gushing with first time medal winners trying not to sound gutted that they got Silver, Gilt or otherwise. Didn’t want to speak to us last year, us first timers getting Gold and all. I am bitter and twisted. Even more gnashing when accompanying music for Southern exhibitors is relentlessly modern, but it’s got to be brass band music for Robinson’s Seeds because it must be all cloth caps and whippets Oop North.


Alan Titchmarsh’s Garden

Mr Titchmarsh’s journey from the Yorkshire moors to the shores of the Isle of Wight was an autobiography which missed out great chunks of Kew, Hampshire and 50 years in between. It was very much a garden of two parts, birches and moss covered drystone walls to agaves and echiums in a blink of an eye. The transition was too abrupt, and the space too small for a longer journey. I dare say everyone thought it ‘lovely’. (no, I didn’t, Katherine. I agree. editor)

Katherine Crouch. Website

And here is a really interesting suggestion by Michael King.

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