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?