- Author: Alison Collin
Chelsea Flower Show is England's premier showcase for horticultural endeavors. It features several show gardens designed by top designers, extraordinary displays by many specialist nurseries, trade stands selling a vast array of tools and gadgets, outstanding sculptures, paintings, exquisite embroidery, garden clothing and, of course, plants. There are hundreds of exhibitors.
The center of the show is the Great Pavilion and to enter it is a truly jaw dropping experience. There are dozens of displays by nurseries from all over Britain and the rest of the world and every one is absolutely stunning. Some depict the traditional cottage garden with a mix of representative flowers, while others are dedicated to one particular specialty such as gladioli, carnivorous plants, hostas, house plants, vegetables, proteas, cacti or bonsai. Each of the thousands of plants and blooms is a perfect specimen! Stands of spring-flowering daffodils shown at their peak and autumn-flowering chrysanthemums are a testament to the skills that growers have in manipulating flowering times. There were educational displays on such topics as creating children's gardens, and one which detailed the results of genetic research on snapdragons growing wild in the European Alps. And then there are the spectacular floristry displays.
Outside of the Pavilion around the edge of the exhibition site are the 26 show gardens, each designed by a top designer and featuring different themes such as female-led, climate-smart agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, a Finnish garden, and one based on a Japanese herbal garden. English gardens also loomed large, such as one designed for a disused quarry site, one based on the canals of northern England, a garden designed for children in hospice care, and just too many others to mention here.
This link takes you on a tour of these gardens: http://rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show/Gardens
Some of the sculptures displayed were very imaginative, especially those made from driftwood, but I was particularly drawn to a huge metal foxglove about 10 feet high, and also some metal kinetic sculptures of maple seeds and ginkgo leaves.
The shopping area had a magnificent array of tempting things to buy, but the constraints of my luggage on the airline kept my spending in check. I did however succumb to a new and very splendid garden trowel with a 75 year guarantee. After all, one can never have too many trowels!
Outside the show grounds many of the local shops had decked out their doorways with ebullient swags of fresh flowers.
As a child I attended Chelsea flower show annually but it is now fifty-five years since I was last there, and it did not let me down. The sheer magnificence, elegance and beauty of the whole experience will never be forgotten.
Now back to reality - the challenges of growing in a California high desert garden!