Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Chelsea Flower Show Highlights / Lowlights 2015

I had so much expectation for the Chelsea Flower Show that I had bought tickets back in January - especially as the surrounds of the neighborhood of Chelsea was getting into the spirit and displaying their homage to this institution of an event.

Sloane Square had installed a fake wisteria tree with a bar and even organized rickshaw tours that would take tourists around the best of the shop windows in the area.

The best strip was this section where two shops next to each other created a great visual that stopped traffic.
The gown of flowers and the golden coach belied the hailstones and got me into the spirit.

It is the 150 year anniversary of Alice in Wonderland and there were homages inside and outside the show.  This was the most amusing and fun bit of the whole show.

I am going to be that bore that finally will have to say that this year was not very good.
I don't want to compare it to previous years because the Chelsea show isn't crop farming for goodness sake but I left not feeling very inspired.

Something outside the official show should not have been one of the more memorable things of the day.

Sorry to not be glowing with positive declarations but as you know I am not a blogger with a vested interest and can only be honest.
I don't know latin names of any plant without having to google it and I only have a window box and a few pot plants so I go by different barometers than say a person who lives in the shires who owns a full set of gardening tools.

I go by inspiration and if it taught me something and made me remember an element of garden design that I will pin for my future imaginary dream garden.

This didn't happen like it did the previous years.

But this is my own opinion so please click here on this link to have a browse if you didn't get tickets or you live overseas.

But I have uploaded the best bits of the show for you.

This is the Japanese artisan garden ( click for link ) which won gold for the designer who has won the medal the past decade!

It was a garden that I would love to have in my back yard.
But as some regular readers of my blog may remember I went to Kyoto and visited numerous gardens and unfortunately it has skewed my view on it...

The feature that astonished everyone was the use of rounded moss in the planting which of course in the west is seen as a weed and pest.  But some of you will remember that the Moss Gardens in Kyoto is considered one of THE renown gardens in Japan  which I wrote about here.

Also having spoken to a few guides in Japan during that trip, I did wonder if this garden would have picked up a prize over there. So it did make me see that even gardening shows have their own standards and cultural standard in which they judge.

The artisan gardens were a bit melancholic in tone this year.
One garden's brief was for someone with motor neuron disease and another garden was supposed to have been deserted because there were no jobs.
I watch the news every night...I didn't want to be reminded of the woes of the world in what was supposed to be a sanctuary.

This was the Telegraph garden that won gold. (click for better pics!)

This garden below garnered much attention because the garden designer was a civilian who had won the BBC show Great Chelsea Garden Challenge.

The winner was a Northerner complete with flat cap and a honest lilt of an accent who designed the brief for a front garden of a suburban home.  This was to highlight how front gardens get neglected and how it could be used to plant more green to the benefit of the environment.

It was a real crowd pleaser and showed the power of TV because people were queueing to speak with him as many must have watched the show and felt they knew him.
Terrible picture of Monty Don who was one of the main presenters to the daily show that the BBC broadcasts on prime time - plus he is the hunk of gardening no?
The show is very watchable and is the reason why I started going to Chelsea  ( the other is getting older!)

Ok, now it is a personal thing but I don't like it when people just say they don't like something but can't articulate why.
I don't want you to think me a spoil sport and now must qualify why I wasn't inspired by the show gardens.

This is a perfectly lovely garden with the usual smart planting and sculptural elements.
This was the Brewin Dolphin garden that won gold.
It was perfectly lovely but it seemed the main feature of this garden was the hand cut pieces of slate that the flooring and the features were made out of.
That's fine that there was a lot of thought behind the garden but the space shouldn't need explaining and giving me a guilty conscience by making me give more credit because of all that extra work you imposed on yourself.
If the slate wasn't hand cut I wonder if there would have been the same buzz.

The same goes to the garden that won Best in Show!

It didn't move me.
 Although the garden designer did move boulders from Chatsworth.
But once again, that seemed to be the whole point of this garden.
I know this not only through overheard conversations in the crowd but the BBC and every interview in regards to this garden.

"Oh, the work that has gone into it. How heavy! How did they manage." they kept repeating.

If physical strength and engineering is needed to impress the judges and the crowd then there is no hope for any of us without a crane at hand.

Now that we got garden analysis out of the are some fluffy bits.

Peter Beale roses beat David Austin in the stand display.
But the award to best scent in the whole show goes to one of the new flowers for David Austin called Desdemona that had the most exquisite fragrance.

I adore this English style planting.

Rows of three was a very effective planting method.

I have noticed that peonies aren't particularly photogenic.
This does no justice whatsoever to these blooms.

This Roselette peony variety from Binny Plants was one to remember for me and am considering buying a pot.

Avon bulbs always delivers the best tulips with an astonishing variety of shapes and colors.

Do you like auriculas?

I didn't think I did but this stand made me like them and see them differently.
I did think myself ridiculous for not liking a flower - how dare I!

These foxgloves and begonias only got silver gilt - how on earth do they judge this!

Another crowd pleaser are hyacinths.

You might incorporate some empty space filled with mirrors and cacti in your water feature?

The one thing I will do if I ever have hedges is to clip them to different levels because it added so much visual interest with just that little touch.

Hope you enjoyed the tour and remember that for better pics to click on the official website and you might even want to catch a few BBC daily shows about Chelsea.


  1. Thanks for the tour, but how disappointing! A garden for the unemployed?? What are they thinking? Gardens are about sanctuary, rest and contemplation. They are not needed to make political statements. All this theming is just dreadful. I enjoyed reading your take on the Japanese garden. I think gardens are fairly place specific really - they evolve from climate, historical influences and cultural references and when you try to transplant this to another country it always seems somehow false. This is proven time and again by Bali in the backyard (common in Australia - doesn't work outside the tropics).
    Loved the rabbit though, and heres hoping that the show gets its essence back from the hype that seems to have overtaken it the past few years.
    ps - you need to make all your photos bigger, possibly I'm just blind but I'm having trouble seeing them!

    1. When my friend read the description of briefs for some gardens I couldn't believe it! It was so depressing and a garden is like you said a sanctuary and a special place to get away from the world. Prince Charles was very interested apart from Prince Harry's garden which I will post on my month round up post next week bc it really wasn't that intereseting in the one about the front garden. They were saying that just a bit of planting in the front garden would help the soil and prevent flooding in certain areas of the UK.

      Interestingly there is a real heated debate from this show where some are saying the judges are influencing and dimming creativity and designers are pandering to a check list instead of letting loose and taking risks. I think this was a show where they went by the book and while it may have pleased experts for the RHS for the general public it didn't really inspire us!

      PS I enlarged the pics - sorry! It's just there were so many pics x

    2. Interesting about the flooding - sadly the whole car factor has caused a lot of problems. So many gardens in the uk in cities etc are for car parking rather than gardens now.
      I was reading something interesting about lawns in Australia the other day - everyone's been pulling them out as they're so water guzzling, but apparently if you test the temperature of soil under the surface on extreme heat days they're cooler by up to 10C than garden beds, which means houses don't heat up so quickly. Would be interesting if they tested the soil under the plastic grass, which has become all the rage. Unfortunately not able to be walked upon with bare feet on hot days as you burn your feet.
      Sad about the checklist for the judges. Our version of that is all the myriad of renovation programs on tv - all about what "the market" wants. A checklist and very trend driven interior is the result. Not necessarily good design though.

    3. There was a stall with air plants but unfortunately they weren't that pretty. But I think we are still learning about the effects of gardens and the environment. The drought issues in California also seems a bit simplistic and I wonder if the water issues are more than private use but industry avoids editorial blame. Almonds are now the new scourge bc they use so much water so should there be a limit on planting certain crops? It's interesting times.

  2. I have only seen a little of the Chelsea Show on BBC, mostly to do with Prince Harry's charity garden. I enjoy your take on the Show. I actually came looking to see if you had posted about it. I knew I would get some straightforward opinions if you had been. :)

    1. The charity garden was lovely and bits of it are being sent back to Africa but without the royal connection it was a bit flat. I still got a few things out of it but I can only be honest ;)

  3. Yes, you're right Naomi, it is a shame that the most memorable part of the experience were the shop front displays.

    The Desdemona rose might have to find its way into my garden! Syon Park always has an extremely extensive selection of David Austin roses.

    Loved the moss garden from your travels in Japan, and so nice to see it being translated into an English environment. Though I'm sure that the studious Japanese gardeners would find fault with much of what was presented here at the CFS.

    The last day is always fun with the plants being sold and merrily carried off to new gardens.

    1. The Desdemona doesn't really have a striking color as it is the palest of blushes but the scent just blew us away like nothing else. I think it's one of the best fragrances of a rose ever. I found it interesting the reaction from the crowds looking at the moss because I haven't gardened so much and as I am not English I don't have set rules but the moss freaked out a lot of people! But I am sure the Japanese would have their own interpretation of an English garden which I would love to see myself!

  4. I've been once to Chelsea and that was thirty-odd years ago. Loved it.

    Living as we do on the 11th floor space is limited to two largish terraces but given the summer heat … nothing beyond California pines and plumbago seem to do well, so hostile is the micro-climate. Astro-turf does brilliantly, though, and fake moss is starting to look an attractive option for the winter months when it can rain.

    Your Atlanta correspondent, also "a Northerner complete with flat cap and a honest lilt of an accent." Yes, after all these years, I still have both.

    1. You, your cap and accent must get away with murder! ;)

    2. Aye, lass, tha's reight. It's grand.

  5. I've never been. My mum tells me every year to take her and by the time it comes round I've completely forgotten - from your photos I know she'd love it. How strange about the briefs they used for that garden. I probably wouldn't have thought anything of it until you put it into perspective - I guess they try and cater for everything/everyone! xx

    1. Just remember to get tickets months ahead bc otherwise they sell out! Even if you are not into gardens - it's just a lovely day out and there are places to sit and have coffee and cake - next year xx

  6. Sounds like this year's Chelsea was a bit of a disappointment. Think we must have been very lucky on our Garden Tour in 2013. I loved Chelsea - and was completely over the top in love with the Aussie gold medal winner (his garden I mean). Have just been tripping around the Luberon, including to a fabulously beautiful garden in a winery, Chateau Val Joanis, near Pertuis where I totally fell for the French rose Mme Isaac Pereire. A beautiful deep pink with a strong heavenly scent. When we get home I'm going to search Oz rose suppliers for it. A real must have! Apparently it likes hot summers and cold winters, so hopefully should do well in Canberra! Agree gardens are about happiness and dreams! Though sometimes the varmints and the bugs and the wilts can be a bit depressing. But gardeners always have to have hope - as I remember from one of your earlier postings! Pammie xxx

    1. It was a little bit. I try not to compare years even though 2013 was a fab year and it was more to my style and liking. But I suppose this year was divisive among the judges too because there was a lot of argument over some golds and some silver gilts! The wierd thing is I think rose tastes great when you are in the south of France but when you bring the same bottle back home it doesn't always taste the same. Odd...But I still enjoy the show and of course will be getting tickets for next year in any case xxx

    2. Mme Isaac Pereire is a rose of the flower kind. Apologies that my writing wasn't clearer. We were at a winery but they also have a stunning garden and I was admiring one of their pink roses growing on a trellis. So beautiful - want to grow it in my garden back home if I can. I'm a bit of a rose fanatic, specially for pretty perfumed ones.

      And yes, we too love the provencal rose (with an acute over the e) when here. it suits the sunshine and warmth at lunchtime and the local food. Aussie roses (wines) tend to be less crisp and a little sweet. They just don't compare with the ones here. Pammie xxx

    3. Sorry Pammie - I did indeed not get it! It wasn't your writing at all :)

      I think that location is indeed a critical ingredient in wine - better tasting with friends than alone too!! xxx

  7. Brilliant post and excellent analysis Naomi. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar. That's it. As you state, if an explanation is needed, well it defeats the point of it really.

    I recall visiting the CFS many moons ago and having a thrilling time of it. It was a very inspirational place for me and I came back with several seed packets (one of which I shamelessly found last summer with its contents intact - the horror!). Obviously, something has changed.

    I'm sorry but I cannot fathom why the Telegraph garden won gold. From the picture you posted, it looks like any old landscaped office space around these parts, and not quite the sanctuary a garden is supposed to provide. Very hard, cold, and clinical. Is it just me, I wonder?

    I adored seeing the auricula - such a fabulous display, and what beautiful little pots.

    1. Yes - don't tell me - show me. Most of us are not judges ( though judgemental hehe) and I want an emotive reaction to looking at something. For me it's art so I dont' care about the technical. I still enjoyed it but interesting that gardens do have an effect on us. The reasons why the Telegraph won gold still confuse me - but apparently you compete against your own brief and a checklist that the RHS go by but there has been some contentious awards this year ( that is them talking and not me!) But aren't those auriculas so cute? I will post some other flowers I know you like later this month for you CD

  8. Fascinating. Love the shop displays. Nothing worse than a disappointing CFS.

    Maybe time for some new judges? I volunteer x

    1. Please apply for judging next year! I'll be your assistant!! xx

  9. one of many reasons i like your blog is how honest you are, never change that! agree, other than the japanese styled garden, how dull. was that the best to choose from or as faux fuchsia said, may the judges need to retire.
    my bucket list includes CGS...someday....

    1. I am not a school gardener but with gardens like art you go with your heart no? If you do decide to go - make sure you get tickets months ahead!

  10. THE SHOP Displays WON HANDS DOWN for me!!!!
    This show is on my bucket list................but I can see why you are not enthralled!IT better get its game together if I am traveling from CALIFORNIA.I would also like to bump into a ROYAL or TWO!Slim chance of that I would gather.............I"m NEW to your BLOG!ANTIQUE GODDESS from INSTAGRAM!!!I have SUBSCRIBED!

    1. Bienvenue Contessa!

      You could look at old posts from the past two shows I have attended. It's interesting because like Xmas decorations on public streets - there is always a collective mood and perhaps this year is one of those years?

  11. I'm with you: how can one judge? All beautiful! Have never been but someday I'll make it. Thanks for taking us along. My favorite is the auricula theatre!!! Now that's presentation!

    1. That man has been the best ambassador for auriculas Loi! I am thinking of getting some now...

  12. Naomi, I agree looks a bit uninspired. I did love those tulips with the ragged edge. Also love those flowers in pot, auricles, but I think we call them Primulas? They are quite cute. Love going along with you!! x Kim

    1. The outside shops did a more inspiring and fun job of it and I think there was an odd mood at Chelsea this year with even the designers being openly upset which is very un British about getting a silver gilt for example!! x

  13. Naomi I loved your tour and observations. Adore the auricula in pots, that kind of order always pleases me. Thanks for taking us along with you xo

  14. and here's me wishing I could have seen the fake wisteria WITH BAR!
    An Englishman's greatest fear - going thirsty?

    1. Ha - i would be lying if I didn't admit that fake wisteria with bar is one of my top 5 fave things about the Chelsea show!

  15. Love the gown of flowers. Thanks for taking me to the Chelsea flowers, have been following you - and my old boss Jeff P - on facebook.
    I cannot believe in 15 years I never went to it! (Or maybe I did but I quenched the thirst beforehand and can't remember it)

    1. I didnt' go for ages but took the beckoning of middle age to entice me;P

  16. Thank you for the tour. From bleak Canada it still looks quite spectacular and I loved the vicarious peek. Those tulips and roses are spectacular.


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