Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Chelsea Flower Show 2010

Yes, it’s all over for another year: the expectation, then the event, the prizes and the plants. I shall check that I didn’t say this last year but it was truly so much better this year. Oh, come on, I hear you mumble, that’s what everyone always says. But it was better this year for one very good reason (and not just that more gardens were on show).

On the whole, the emphasis in the show gardens was away from hard surfaces. The gardens were actually living, growing spaces! No more yards of paving and decking. Instead the displays were what gardens should be about: plants. Other aspects quite obviously have to be considered and incorporated - layout, form, colour, texture etc – but this year it was the planting that sang out.

And I can’t help thinking that this mirrors our collective mood at the moment. (Get ready for the psychology) We have had a period of austerity – and are earmarked for more – and a little soft romanticism and escapism is a welcome relief. The public certainly thought so because they voted Roger Platt’s cottage garden their favourite. And plants are so much cheaper than hard landscaping.

Not only that, but we are all more ecologically aware. Driveways and gardens covered in impermeable hard materials contribute enormously to the risk of flooding. Not to mention the fact that plants are good for the environment, not only the air quality but for encouraging birds, bugs and bees.

There were some exceptions to this: the Australian garden had plenty of hard surfaces but it was fun and functional. And the Tourism Malaysia Garden offset the cool paving with plenty of water and abundant green planting, rich in contrasting shapes and textures.

Colours were muted this year. Pastels with the odd zing. In fact so muted were they that those who love riotous colour were forced to rely on the marquee for colour: they were bowled over by the vegetables displays (lots of orange and red) and the exotic, vibrant coloured floral elephants (plus purple, yellow and turquoise).

And the small gardens at the show, both urban and rural, seem to have grown up. No longer are they a pastiche of the large gardens, nor are they trying too hard to be shocking. Instead they are either sophisticated, manage to get a particular message across or incorporate a welcome sense of humour. Yorkshire’s Rhubarb Crumble & Custard Garden was the most popular among the public: it was not only witty but had quality in design and materials.

I had a great day – all the better for getting there before the crowds – and came back to see what I could do with my own back yard. Tidy it for a start, would be a good idea, opined Best Beloved. . Nothing out of place in a show garden. And weed it for sure. No nasties in show gardens. But then again, it is a real garden. Green and growing.

Real gardens should be like real homes, comfortable and welcoming. Somewhere you can relax and have fun. That’s my excuse anyway. So I just kicked off my shoes, poured myself a Pimms, and checked the garden chairs still worked. What a lovely end to a great day


Barb Hill said...

Lucy, I am a gardener and plant lover in the USA in the state of Oregon. Our climate is very like yours. I love your posts; they are a lot like mine, photos included.
If you want to peruse my blog, go to ""
I'd love to hear from you.

Lucy said...

Thank you, Barb. I shall visit your site. Interesting to think that your climate is similar to ours - so your day can start sunny, be cold by lunchtime and soaked to the skin before supper? There are compensations though - the weather may not be relaible but it is seldom extreme. I guess we should be grateful for small mercies!