Chelsea foray

May 23, 2013

1bulbs

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 . . . .

2 bulbs

. . 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.

3 crug

4 west malling

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 . . .

5 eastern

. .  stonking lupins and touches of ethereal beauty  – geum, verbascum and ladybird poppies – created by Rosy Hardy

6 lupins

7 hardys1

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.

8 amaryllis

9 amaryllis

11 amaryllis

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.

12 lady

13 nordfell

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.

14 nordfell

15 nordfell

Unfortunately for Ulf, he was partnered alongside this great spectacle seen below . . .

16 CB-H

. .  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.

16.1 CB-H

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 . . .

17 CB-H

. .  the profiles of green oak and charred oak that wrap 2 sides of the garden have caused a stir.

18 CB-H

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.

19 trailfinders

20 trailfinders

21 nasties

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.

22 digital capabilities

23 after the fire

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

24 after the fire

25 recycled

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.

26 recycled

But I did understand this stand of Sneeboer garden tools. Best thing to finish off with and good to see you again James  Aldridge!

27 tools

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

7 Responses to “Chelsea foray”


  1. Enjoyed this. Made me smile and also wonder how, when I was there for a whole day, that I missed so much. Must follow you round within earshot next time

  2. julia fogg Says:

    Good to hear from you Valerie – i make it all up really!

  3. Tom Says:

    Surely Lupins are but Martians lying in wait…. What is the Bradley-Hole tree please?
    Love the green and charred oak. Is that allowed? Long to run my hand down them and to take long pulls with eyes shut, trying to block out all sound.

  4. julia fogg Says:

    Lupins very jolly. The trees are multi stemmed hornbeams and the oak treatment exciting. All very crowded yesterday – caught up with some folk from the past but couldn’t wait to get back to coutryside.

  5. Elizabeth Says:

    Lots of amazing things to see.
    I have only been to Chelsea once and was greatly impressed….but such a crush of people.
    Almost as bad as the orchid show at the Bronx Botanical Garden.

  6. Deb Nagan Says:

    Hi Julia
    Thanks for ‘doing Chelsea’ for me – as usual the one (onl;y one?) I really wanted to see was the Christopher Bradley Hole garden. Hoping that you and Anny can come & see us soon – for an Open Garden evening?
    CHeers
    Deb

  7. daseger Says:

    Thanks for bringing us to the show, Julia! Clearly this year’s theme was MULLEINS! Love to see this rather common plant so artfully used.


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