Half way down the motorway I discover my ticket is still pinned to the kitchen notice board. That scuppers my pre-Chelsea supper plans and means a very early morning on Tuesday, 1st day for RHS devotees.
There is always a buzz and even though I know RHS Chelsea Flower show is a humongous marketing, self-promotion and selling event not to mention gross waste of money and other resources in the name of, well I am not sure in the name of what, possibly not good design(!) but that said I am still excited about attending.
It's busy even at 7.35am when I arrive and I begin snapping (photos here) as I wait for my Chelsea companion to battle her way through rush hour after a late arrival at Paddington. I hate being jostled and having only a few minutes to see the gardens so arriving early seems like a good plan. Gardens take time to get to know, to inspect, to touch to smell to engage with. 5 mins jostling with the crowd is not my idea of 'seeing' the gardens, but it has to do as there is no other choice. Being greeted by Roger Platts traditional garden is pleasant if not challenging, beautifully executed and perfectly planted (he gets gold unsurprisingly). Apparently his last garden some 8 years ago was much the same, though I cannot comment as I didn't actually see it.
Tom Stuart Smith wow's the crowd, well he wow's me that's for sure, I want to climb the barrier and wander into the woodland and discover what plants are in there, then dangle feet in the york stone clad pond.
Andy Sturgeon wins best in show which surprises me. Not because I don't like the garden, bits of it are great but having heard much about it pre-Chelsea it feels like a bit of a let down in the flesh (or maybe that should be 'in the cambium'). It is also the first sighting of the ghastly brown/purple bearded Iris.
side note: I feel strongly about it for some reason, possibly because it is SOOOOO tasteless and the fact that there are near 2000 TB's to choose from makes it's appearance almost unforgivable - if anyone gets the impression that I hate this variety, they would be right. It appears several more times in show gardens and stands, though never in quite such an offensive way.
Robert Myers' immense cloistering structures are pleasing except that they turn out to be an almost direct copy of the Australian pergolas, which were put on hold from the year before due to financial restraints in 2009....this makes it somewhat passe not to mention a direct crib.
James Wongand David Cubero's Malaysian Tourism garden also wow's in an understated perfection kind of way. Taking less is more to a perfect execution and filled with really useful plants, if only I knew what they were at the time, I would have been even more impressed. It is fun to watch the BBC filming him on the terraces all of there feet clad only in socks.
We tramped through the entire exhibition missing only the floristry marquee. Loving the Eden projects 'Places of Change' for shear size and statement factor not to mention that the grower and planters were groups of homeless people thus making it less of a money pit and more of a learning and 'growing' experience for those involved. More of this at Chelsea please. We bump into Elspeth, one of last years students doing the showground the other way and pause for a 15 minute comparison of what we have seen so far.
Was I inspired by the designs? frankly? not really. Did anyone break boundaries? well, no not really, was some of it inspiring, well yes of course. Would I like much more information on the day? yes please. Will I try to do it differently when I do a Chelsea garden....well lets see when that happens!
I very much enjoyed Ann Marie Powell's comment that what she wanted to do next year was 'a big garden', it seems to me that most of the successful, visible garden designers are men where as most of the students are women. Glass ceiling anyone?
And of course my real reason for attending is that the plethora of nursery men and women from all corners of the country who bring their finest for our delectation, not to mention endless seeds and big glossy plant catalogues. I could spend a great deal more time wandering the floral pavilion picking their brains