It is the end of Chelsea Week 2015 and Barbara Segall is still thinking what her top ‘take-away’ combo is going to be. She may be some while yet…
I arrived at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show 2015 show ground on Sunday May 17. Chelsea, on that Sunday, the last day of the build-up, is an amazing experience. There are so many vehicles delivering plants, pavers, compost, turf and every last minute item that you can think of. The show gardens are getting to their final stages of preparedness and there is a frenzied atmosphere, that, later on Chelsea Sunday will give way to a resigned calm before the judging begins on Press Day.
The daily television coverage and the BBC Red Button Service make it possible for us all to see the show from our own living rooms. For me and my garden writer and garden photographer colleagues, the show is our workplace. I ‘wear’ several hats while at flower shows, such as Chelsea. I look at what professional horticulturists, and particularly young people in horticulture achieve; at herbs and their place in our lives, and then, at what might interest readers of thegardenpost.com
Horticulture: the plants and the people in the hort industry are the stars of the show. What they achieve year-on-year is breathtaking. Hillier Nurseries (www.hillier.co.uk), for example, with its long history of superb plant introductions, achieved its 70th consecutive gold medal. Two of its show team also celebrated big anniversaries: its Ricky Dorlay’s 50th Gold Medal (he brought the 4,000 plants on the exhibit to perfection on the day, and it is 25 Gold Medals for Andy McIndoe, Hillier MD and Chelsea designer. This exhibit, called ‘Crossing Continents’ shows how plants from around the world become the classic plants in our gardens. The Hillier show shirts are almost as sought-after as their plants!
I crossed to another Continent to check on the planting from the country I grew up in: South Africa. The Kirstenbosch team, with designers Ray Hudson and David Davidson (both have designed and led the team for 22 years) and their crew of volunteers, put together a formidable exhibit, despite many of their star flowers being held up in the UK customs. They were awarded a Silver-Gilt, a tribute to their hard work and style. The exhibit, their 40th at Chelsea, was a retrospective of memorable exhibits and a display of ‘Plants that South Africa gave the World’. For further information about the floral diversity of southern Africa visit the website: www.sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch
When I first moved to Suffolk in the 1970s and became acquainted with gardens and gardeners in the county, I noticed that when I asked about particular plants in a garden, the response often came: “Oh that was a plant from Cedric Morris’s garden.” Sarah Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org), the National Collection Holder of Iris (Sir Cedric Morris Introductions) and Howard Nurseries Ltd (www.howardnurseries.co.uk), brought the art and the plants together in an Gold Medal winning display. All of Sir Cedric Morris’s irises had the prefix Benton referencing the name of his home near Hadleigh. He named his irises for friends, pets and places with which he was connected.
Special irises were prominent at Chelsea and another of my favourite growers, Claire Austin, back after four years away from Chelsea, won a Gold for her display of her Modern Iris Garden. Claire grows hardy plants as well as her irises at her Shropshire nursery (www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk).
The Somerset edible plant nursery, Pennard Plants (www.pennardplants.com), teamed up with the charity Roots and Shoots (www.rootsandshoots.org.uk) to produce an exhibit of beautiful edible and ornamental plants, called The Glory of the Garden, based on Kipling’s poem and celebrating the 150th anniversary of his birth. Herbs featured prominently in the potager garden, with rows of onions, lettuce, beans, cabbages and potatoes, making a perfect kitchen garden. High on my list to plant out at home or on the allotment as a slip or a cutting of Daubenton’s kale. I heard Alys Fowler get lyrical about this a few months ago, and when I saw it in the Pennards’ planting I made a note to self to obtain it. This exhibit in the Grand Pavilion achieved a Gold Medal.
Next up on my take-away list is the a-mazing potato display produced by Morrice and Ann Innes, sponsored by Thompson & Morgan (www.thompson-morgan.com). The exhibit showcases over 140 varieties, and traces the history and origins of the potato. You cannot fail to see how important diversity is when you see the array of tubers. Morrice of Old Town, Aberdeen, claim to have the largest private collection of potato varieties, built up over 20 years, and has long championed his favourite vegetable. The exhibit was supplemented by T&M’s own collection, especially of modern, blight-resistant varieties and one of the the newest tubers on the block, Jazzy.
There is always more: should I have chosen something else to tell you… but wait and see, I am sure there is going to be more to say as the days go on…Oh! and did I saw, there were also show gardens, small gardens, first-time entrants to Chelsea, Fresh Gardens, Artisan Gardens…. oh yes, there was a lot to see… and show and tell I will in due course.
But I leave you with two details from two special gardens at this RHS Chelsea 2015. The first is Dan Pearson’s Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden (www.laurent-perrier.co.uk), which won a Gold and was pronounced Best in Show. It reigned supreme over the show filling the notoriously difficult Triangle Site on the showground with mood, shape, delicate detail and huge sweeps of hard landscaping. It represented two areas on the Chatsworth Estate, the rockery and the trout stream, both monumental in scale and created in the 18th century by Joseph Paxton.
The second garden is Matt Keightley’s design for Prince Harry’s charity, Sentebale – Hope in Vulnerability. This zingy and optimistic garden was voted the People’s Choice. I loved the bright spots of colour from perennial wallflowers and poppies, the ‘footprint’ paths and the fencing hurdles (further information from www.sentebale.org).