This is what you want, I think – a real reflection of Chelsea without the hype. Thanks for an amazing effort Katherine, getting it to me so fast and with so many pictures and so much messing around for my benefit. (I’m a monster editor)
Anne Wareham, editor
A review by Katherine Crouch
It’s no good moaning about the shortcomings of Chelsea. For a hundred years, it has been too crowded and with nowhere to sit unless you buy expensive food.
Just get on with it, wear flat shoes, bring a bottle of water and immerse yourself in the delights.
Press day this year was chilly and rainy, and the photographs consequently flat and dull. Sorry.
Big show gardens
Twenty years ago, I could amuse myself with spotting pot rims and dodgy construction details – no longer much of a sport as the current standard of ‘finish’ has reached very high levels.
Overall, this year’s gardens are of a very high standard, with more variation than last year. As much of the show garden planting was sombre and the paving dark, the hard landscaping forms in solid repose, gloominess was narrowly avoided by the use of flowering perennials.
The cow parsley count was still pretty high, but apricot geums warmed up several gardens, complimented with pale blue irises, circium rivulare, alliums, verbascums, Lysimachia Beaujolais, aquilegias etc. Considering the rains last Thursday, the perennials were generally of extremely good quality. Box buns remain as popular as ever.
The Beauty of Islam garden bucked the trend of dark paving with large areas of meticulously laid white marble which dominated the design to the point that I can’t remember much else about it. I could hear the ghost of my grandmother whispering ‘that’ll be hellish to keep clean’ which distracted me from absorbing the culture of Islam. Bring your sunglasses.
The Daily Telegraph’s garden is Anne’s fancy for best in show. (no – it was my Best in Show. ed.) Possibly. It’s awfully like many previous gardens. Well planned on a large budget – check. Hornbeam hedge down one side, big rectangular stone feature part way down – check. Building blocks of shrub cubes – check. No variegated leaves (possible exception for cornus controversa variegata) – check. Carefully judged changes of planting height with good proportions – check. Pings of perennial colour – check. Big chunks of stone – check. Very big multi-stemmed tree – check. Lovely. Yawn. (different ain’t everything. ed)
I think Dan Pearson’s Chatsworth rockery might pip the Daily Telegraph to the post. Dominated by large ‘Lion King’ rock stacks (I am assured they are like this at Chatsworth) this is a fine lesson in scale and proportion, delicate naturalism amongst huge blocks of millstone grit (I think) and massive wooden benches. It will look better in full sunlight. Remove the sunglasses.
It has been many years since Douglas Knight’s rock and water gardens of plundered Westmorland limestone graced the bank where the Press Building is now located. It remains to be seen if this garden sparks a revival of rock gardening. It will certainly get Gold, but is it too subtle to get Best in Show? (It got best in Show. ed.)
On to the Sentebale garden, and a vast improvement on the mud ashtray of 2013. I tip Harry to get Gold.
The rain poured down, so into the marquee to see my BBC Gardener of the Decade buddy Sue Beesley of Bluebell Nursery, a first time exhibitor. She has had the good sense to produce cards with space for plant notes and free pencils. Fingers crossed Sue!
Back out into the drizzle, to hunt for the daftest artefact at the maddest prices. The ‘who the hell would buy that?’ prize goes to a shell encrusted Medusa, your for £42,500. Good taste abounds at Chelsea, but naff and kitsch gets in if it is well crafted and very, very expensive.
Round to the Artisan gardens, ‘to engage visitors with their artistic and naturalistic approach’. So, like the Chatsworth garden, but smaller and cheaper to build.
I tip the Trugmaker’s Garden and the Breast Cancer gardens for Gold. Well worth standing and staring at, both had a simple layout with much detail to admire.
However, the more I looked at the Runnymede garden, the more I was irritated. In the design rationale, the ingredients of willow, water, parchment, banners and ‘planting reminiscent of a medieval garden’ were justified, but somehow did not add up to something I cared to look at for long. The small shields were painted with bright modern paints and the pennants looked unfeasibly pure white and possibly made of polyester.
So much more to see….here is a picture of one of my favourite gardens at Chelsea this year.
Actually it’s not a show garden at all, just a bank in the Ranelagh gardens on the way to the Exhibitor’s restaurant. I shall sneak back in September, plant some more bluebells, some red campion, polygonatum verticillatum, ferns and one apricot geum and enter it for next year.
Katherine on Twitter
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