The thing about the Chelsea Flower Show is that it’s just about small enough to be seen in one day IF you get there early and hotfoot it about. It was my first time this year and I was somewhat daunted by the size of the map when we got there. We arrived last Saturday early at 9am and, because it was raining, we ducked straight into the grand pavilion. Mr Garlic immediately assumed the slightly wary look of someone unable to leave a tent full of (hurrah!) beautiful plants and flowers for sale with a spendthrift wife too pregnant to be the one saddled with carrying them out. We spent several hours admiring the displays, and falling in love with various peonies (one of which we reserved to take home). With my natural inclination to look for edible displays, I was extremely impressed by the award-winning South West in Bloom allotment which boasted incredibly neatly displayed cabbages the size of large dogs and a new black tomato “Indigo rose” using Sutton Seeds which I decided to spend the remainder of my pocket money upon.
Once the rain tailed off for a bit, we toured the main gardens. My favourite show garden had to be the Telegraph’s entry, simply because every inch of my garden is so packed and the laid back Italian elegance of the entry really made me want to stretch out on their lawn with a G&T. However, I do think that Alan Titchmarsh made a good point about people wanting their gardens to be too manicured and that there is little interest left in lots of plants. There were an awful lot of show gardens planting clumps of wildflowers, which nicely balanced that trend.
My favourite non-garden display however, was the “Trees of tranquillity” by Quist. These waterfall trees would look beautiful in amongst real trees on an island in a large pond. One of the best things about Chelsea has to be the wide variety of unusual displays and sculpture available next to the show gardens themselves.
The infamous annual Chelsea sell-off which starts at 4pm had me a little nervous. At eight months pregnant, I’m nowhere near as agile as I’d like to be. However, in keeping with the general civility of the attendants, most people appeared to have done like us and to have reserved their plants earlier in the day. There was a slightly hungry air as people rushed to and fro from some stalls that hadn’t allowed advance purchasing, but by and large, as long as you’d positioned yourself by the stall you liked most by 3.50pm, had your cash in hand and were ready to wait to be served, the queueing instinct of the British still appeared strong and most people we saw leaving were staggering under the weight of multiple bags. So don’t despair, it’s possible to bring Chelsea home! I’m in love with my Peony, which is a completely incongruous decision given the edible focus of my garden. But everyone needs a bit of luxury now and then. And I’ll report back on the black tomato!