The Creative Craziness of Chelsea

It’s been a week since my RHS Chelsea Flower Show visit. I’ve been reflecting  on this bonkers British gardening extravaganza and concluded  that it’s probably more creative, and certainly more eccentrically British than most, nay all, of the other fixtures on the UK summer festival circuit, only the average age of the visitors is about 40 years older.

Overhearing the conversations going on with the garden designers around me, it’s clear that the intensity, stress and pressure in the run up to the show is not for the fainthearted… Nothing like press day as an immovable deadline. Up to 100-strong teams work on each of the 17 show gardens, costing up to £250,000 each to build (that’s a whopping £4.25 million, before we’ve even got to the construction and displays in the immense 3 acre floral marquee, the Artisan Gardens or Fresh Gardens). Then, once the doors are opened, the celebs, press and 165,000 hoi- polloi  flood in. The spotlight shines on not just the intricacies of the gardens, but the designers (and to a lesser extent the exhibitors) themselves. A never ending stream of interviews, introductions and champers follow over the next week, mixed with  the emotional highs and lows of whether your garden is deemed to strike gold in the controversial medal grading system.

Even if one had the skill, would one have the stamina or the courage?  These Chelsea designers are a rare breed indeed.

What follows are a few highlights of a memorable day, with huge thanks to the incomparable Ann- Marie Powell,  Charlotte Martin of Area Landscape Architects and Stephanie Hensley. Even more memorable had I managed to shown some restraint on the champagne that was flowing… but where’s the fun in that?



Ming Veevers Carter’s incredible floral art installation for New Covent Garden Market celebrating the Queen’s 90th. A worthy winner of Gold




The Young Chelsea Florist of the Year competitors designed fantastic Brazilian Carnival Headdresses. This creation by April Bennett wasn’t the winner! There is no justice in this world…

grayson headress

Grayson Perry considers upping the accessorising ante, Chelsea style.

Maths Garden chelsea

Maths x gardens equals a silver guilt for Nick Bailey’s “The Winton Beauty of Mathematics” garden.


Detail Anne Marie Powell

Detail from Ann- Marie Powell’s “Greening Grey Britain” for Health, Happiness and Horticulture.

Crowds at Chelsea

What you lookin’ at? The view from inside Andy Sturgeon’s Best in Show Telegraph Garden.

Anne Marie Powell

Could they be discussing a future Chelsea collaboration? Grayson’s confirmed his interest in making a garden…  Ann- Marie’s a partner who would equal his panache.

Andy Sturgeon Chelsea 2016

Andy being interviewed… again.

andy S detail

Detail from Andy Sturgeon’s “Captured Landscape”.



The jaw- droppingly colourful beauty of the Akzonobel Honeysuckle Blue(s) Garden designed by Stefan Jaspers featuring planting used traditionally to dye fabric. The backdrop is a hand felted installation by Claudy Jongstra. If I ever win the lottery, I think this wall hanging is #1 on my wishlist. (Along with the garden, too, of course).


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