The first time I ever went to Chelsea Flower Show was in 1985 when I was on some YTS scheme (don't ask) and got a job selling icecream at the show. Every morning before the grounds opened I would wander around the gardens and the pavilion and wonder at it all. Which is surprising really now I look back, because I wasnt much interested in gardens back then. I did however buy a very tall foxglove on the last day and took it home on the bus. I didnt have a garden, but I didnt care. This might have been the beginning of my fascination with the whole business of Chelsea. An event I find amazing and infuriating all in one go.
Forward 28 years and I found myself at the press day ogling the many celebs and getting a good gander at the gardens. The celebrity count was high, although frankly I cant think of the last time I saw Floella Benjamin in anything, and the gardens were bold and expensive, tall and flashy but in between it all there were small beautiful details, gorgeous planting, inspirational touches and finally, a garden which actually nearly moved me to tears, The Korean DMZ garden. The more I looked at this garden, the more I saw and I felt it showed up the huge erection next door.
It was evident to me that the sponsors hold the key to the way gardens are presented these days. Tons of expensive landscaping, massive great trees, showy and flashy and really out of place considering the current financial situation most of us are living in. I particularly took against one, which for me was vulgar, ill conceived and really much the same as many gardens I've seen in the past. It reminded me of the now defunct Westonbirt Garden Festival which ran for a few years and showcased some very exciting and innovative gardens, it was a stretch to find anything close at Chelsea this year.
The Artisan gardens were as they always are, tiny areas of detail and some really great planting, I stopped and admired two in particular, the Japanese garden Satoyama Life and The Plankbridge Shepherd's Hut garden.They are what they are, and they are not meant to be actual gardens, they are little pieces of theatre and incredibly well done.
Well, that's my opinion and doubtless many will disagree. Gardens do not need to be pretty and pristine. The Korean Garden proved that for me, the beauty was in the feeling and in the detail and although I'm sure it cost a packet to produce, it did at least make people stop and look and think. Many of the rest were too easy to pass by.
Anyway, back to the celebs. Seeing Cliff, Brucie, Nigel, John, Ringo and John Hurt must be a full house surely?