May 23, 2013
Rather shocked to see that I haven’t been to Chelsea for 3 years. Years ago, it was an event to look forward to – the development of show gardens, sound second hand book stalls where work by Sylvia Crowe and Nan Fairbrother could be found, the design tent (my home for many years) and mostly the delight of Beth Chatto’s stand in the Grand Marquee. Now, Twitter, Facebook et al tells us exactly what we’ll find so the sense of discovery doesn’t exist. The sun used to shine too, on the odd occasion. Yesterday, the place was packed. We shuffled around trying to poke a nose over shoulders of crowds that appeared to be looking at exhibits but of course were gawping at the TV celebs busy filming. Due to the heavy cloud and the bitter cold, I made straight for the flowers . . . inside . . . .
. . classy stand created by Avon Bulbs. Deep maroon Tulipa ‘Paul Scherer’, white fringed Tulipa ‘Daytona’, Allium ‘White Empress’ and Anthericum liliago major stood serene. Hard to miss is Sue from Crug Farm Plants – colourful gear and great jewellery – manning the display of foliage rich specimens. Many are grown from seed collected from annual plant hunting expeditions. Show stopper here is Disporum longistyllum with black and green stems standing proud.
As sculptural, but to be pitied, a large excavated tree on the East Malling Research Stand with all roots exposed. Folks edged around it nervously and were supposed to wonder at how ‘scientific knowledge can be focused on rootstocks and growing techniques, through to the modern application of genetic studies to advance fruit culture’. Boffins can be brutal! To the other extreme, opulence and pure decoration from the Far East but quite hideous . . .
. . stonking lupins and touches of ethereal beauty – geum, verbascum and ladybird poppies – created by Rosy Hardy
The light’s quite strange inside the Grand Marquee and I’m nowhere in terms of photography which is a frustrating combination. Below is the evidence, oh dear. Beautiful and imaginative display of cascading amaryllis badly captured. This stand by the Dutch firm of Warmenhoven showing their fabulous bulbs upwards and downwards ticked all the boxes for me and, amazingly enough, for the RHS, and we hardly ever agree.
Well, outside I shivered but this lady carried off her outing with great aplomb and I did see a few hats and remembered Jane accordingly.
A few of the show gardens warrant some exposure here. Ulf Nordfell designed this for Laurent-Perrier. Simple, clean and classical. Sleek, calm and contemporary. Exquisite use of crafted materials – soft and sublime planting – all excellent. However, I much preferred his Linnaeus Garden of 2007. And someone has just asked Why? Well, the narrative in that garden was strong, clear and compelling – that’s my answer.
Unfortunately for Ulf, he was partnered alongside this great spectacle seen below . . .
. . Christopher Bradley – Hole designed this . . . he can do the narrative so well. And he courageously filled the space with plants and let us rest our elbows on green oak balustrade so we could breath it all in and, of course, admire his skill and that of the contractor.
The inspiration cane from the English countryside – field patterns and native plants with some Japanese overtones and a little Mien Ruys too perhaps? But I didn’t mention that to him – next time perhaps . . .
. . the profiles of green oak and charred oak that wrap 2 sides of the garden have caused a stir.
And something that caused another stir is The Trailfinders Australian Garden. On the rock bank and filled with glorious plants like Brachtrichon rupestris sourced from a nursery in Sicily. The chaps on the stand were thrilled with their Best in Show – such enthusiasm rubbed off all around.
The product stands at the show have their share of hideous rubbish . . . a strange dichotomy . . . well designed ( mostly!!) show gardens and quite lovely plants on the nursery stands and pure crap on the product stalls. This ghastliness above loomed over the small ‘Fresh’ gardens where designers are asked to be brave and challenge preconceptions. Some achieved this and some didn’t quite. I liked this – Digital Capabilities – where the concept of engagement of technology and physical space was explored by Harfleet and Harfleet. The degree of Twitter activity manipulated the movement of screens.
And this garden ‘After the Fire’ was also popular especially with me. After last summer’s spell in Languedoc and Provence enjoying the garrigue landscape, this little landscape connected completely. Regeneration of plant life following forest fires . . . seed collected by Kelways and nurtured to provide some of the planting. Huddled amongst the burnt stems are members of the Mediterranean Garden Society from Greece and France
Always interesting to see and learn how recycled materials can be used effectively as on The Wasteland but I didn’t understand the planting especially the siting of 3 blowsy pink rhodos! Echoes of the past.
But I did understand this stand of Sneeboer garden tools. Best thing to finish off with and good to see you again James Aldridge!
The following were not allowed in the house:
A lone glove, dropped.
The new moon’s crescent glimpsed in the mirror.
The sky-spars of an open umbrella.
There was also the rubic of May
and its blossoms. Granny barred the door
against hawthorn and the sloe,
even the rowan with its friendly acrid smell of underwear,
so that Bride the white goddess
could not dance herself in from the moor,
or too much beauty break and enter
her winter store of darkness. Alison Fell 5 May