The Chelsea Flower Show took place on 23rd – 27th May this year and it was absolutely roasting, the humans trapped inside full body tree suits posed a serious safety concern should their perspiration slide them right off their stilts.
They can’t have been the only hired entertainment on the brink of expiration; the sun was relentlessly beating down on two fuzzy pandas, who may have pulled the short straw, at the Silk Road Garden as they roamed between the rhododendrons of their bubblegum pink enclosure.
Shadier oriental fare was to be discovered among the Artisan Gardens with the peaceful Gosho No Niwa (No Wall, No War) garden standing out, leaves and branches above the rest. The tasteful oasis was flanked by yellow and purple-leaved acers and backed by an irrigated, spongy moss wall. A waterfall was cascading into a crystal clear pool, surrounded by pines, which rippled beneath a turquoise and glass teahouse, cue ‘No Wall’. Despite being more restrained than some of his wackier creations, the designer Kazuyuki Ishihara enjoyed yet another well-earned gold medal for his Japanese emperor’s garden.
Another stand out creation in the Artisan Gardens was the romantic Broadland Boatbuilder’s Garden. Nestled amid the marshland flora of Lowestoft was a beautiful replica of the 900-year-old oak boat discovered on the Norfolk Broads in 2013. Adding to the seaside zen were feathery reeds, meadowsweet and loosestrife that swayed above some well-thought-out fenland foliage, including the rare crested buckland fern and early marsh orchid.
Boats appeared to be the order of the day with another tethered to a buoy in the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden. The salty coastal wildflowers and forgeable plants were undeniably lovely, but the bucolic, painted centerpiece looming out from the cutout ruins of a Celtic church may have been a nostalgic step too far.
On a refreshingly different tack, and crowned best in show by the judges, was M&G’s Maltese quarry-inspired garden. While the carefully considered, sparse foliage was tricky to spot on first glimpse, on closer inspection the Mediterranean wildflowers and grasses peeking out from between the limestone blocks were an elegant comment on the triumph of hardy plants over adversity in harsh arid environments.
Inside the enormous Great Pavilion were some truly weird and wonderful offerings including Morrice and Ann Innes’ glorious rainbow cornucopia of potato cultivars, and the Carnivorous Plants society spread. As it turns out, carnivorous plants are not restricted to the clammy tropics, they can in fact be found lurking in the New Forest, waiting for their next unlucky victim.
More enlightenment was to be had at the Discovery Zone. The Kew Gardens exhibit, dedicated to their careful conservation efforts worldwide, displayed some of the 2000 new vascular plant species that had been discovered recently and extolled the modest success that their conservation efforts were enjoying globally.
Holding up impressively in the heat, and arguably the most instragrammable of the displays, were the irresistible Easigrass Animals. Childish delight was to be had at the synthetic, though you’d never know it, grass menagerie complete with fuzzy bear family, buffalo and 12 foot tall giraffe ready and waiting for photogenic cuddles. The Easigrass team also pulled off the tough task of incorporating the organic into the inorganic with their new Easi-Hybrid Living wall to stunning results.
The flower show was a glorious day out in the sunshine, let’s hope for the same next year.