It’s Chelsea Flower Show Time Again!

The Arthritis Research UK Garden

Though I’ll not be able to visit the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show, my thoughts always swing back to it at this time of year. This is a glimpse into one of my favourite gardens from a few years ago: The Arthritis Research UK Garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw and Keith Chapman Landscapes.

I love mixed, herbaceous borders – especially twin ones like these that echo each other, pulling the eye in all directions until all but the most disciplined visitors start to flit from one plant to another like large bees, unsure which nectar they should sample next. 

The borders were packed to overflowing with colourful plants, that had been lavished with the care needed to force them into bloom, hauled to the show, then tiered up from compact at the front to towering spires at the back. That’s the joy of the most alluring show gardens – they are supranatural and unashamed to be so.

Sculptor Anna Gillespie created the bronze figure titled To The Limit which anchors the design, providing horizontal lines of cool blue that counterbalance all those verticals.

To those who are lucky enough to be exhibiting at this year’s show or excitedly waiting their time to visit, I send my very best wishes. Garden-lovers who, like me, will be watching from afar may enjoy browsing The Daily Telegraph’s coverage which includes a gallery of all the 2017 Chelsea Show Gardens.

28 Replies to “It’s Chelsea Flower Show Time Again!”

  1. Looking forward to the Broadcast this evening . Am a member of the RHS but it always looks so crowded not sure you would see much

    1. It’s always bustling – much busier than a garden, but if you’re a crowd-watcher, that’s part of the fun. On a fine, sunny day, the crowds are evenly spread out, but when it rains, everyone heads for the Grand Pavillion.

  2. It’s gorgeous. While there are definitely some beautiful American gardens to be seen, the English always seem to nail exceptionally beautiful gardens every time.

    1. I’ve seen some lovely American gardens, but I do think the RHS flower shows are better than any I’ve seen in the US. Perhaps I just haven’t had the chance to see enough of the American ones.

  3. I love the way you write about gardens. I’m a reluctant gardener and need to be lured into loving plants. Words, though, I love with abandon. I took a swing around your word “counterbalance”. Most satisfying!

  4. J & D > The nearest we’ve ever got to Chelsea is the 3m – 5m or so between each of us and the TV! So we might be wrong about this, but it does seem to us that as each year passes, the CFS becomes more about fantastical architecture and less about flowers!

    1. Some of Diairmud Gavin’s gardens have been the most memorable for me from an architectural point of view. I always crave flowers, so I know what you mean. Luckily, there’s always the Grand Pavillion for that extra floral fix!

  5. I was able to go to the Chelsea Flower Show a few years ago — it was stupendous! It had long been on my “bucket list” of places to go, and it did not disappoint. The only problem now is that, of course, I am dying to go again!

    1. Of course – it’s not the kind of show that satiates, more the kind that draws you back for more. That’s part of the allure of Chelsea.

  6. “Like large bees”! Oh, yes! That so perfectly describes flower-lovers. There would be no way to approach a setting like this except buzzing and hovering and then buzzing some more. What a wonder.

    1. The tallest plants used here (some form of echium) are particularly attractive to pollinators. It’s easy to imagine those towering spires would be a bee’s dream come true.

  7. I’m not over crazy about the show gardens, as someone else mentioned, they seem to be all about hard landscaping now and less about planting. I do however, love a herbaceous border and that one looks a true delight and yes, I would be hopping from one plant to another, squealing all the way… 🙂 Be interesting to see this year with its cut down show gardens.

    1. I have been bemoaning the lack of flowers for years, not just at Chelsea, but at some of the gardens we visit (not the RHS gardens, I should say – there are always flowers enough in those, even for me). There is so much pressure on designers to be different – cutting edge at Chelsea. Flowering plants and bulbs add significantly to the risk, cost and the complexity. With reputations at stake, the temptations to play it safe must be huge.

      Having said all that, The Daily Telegraph pictures may have been taken on Saturday or even earlier in the week. The flowers are often the last things added, so perhaps we’re not seeing the full picture yet.

  8. Wonderful photo, Susan. Your description of visitors being pulled in multiple directions in a double border made me laugh with recognition. I have been lucky enough to watch the broadcasts of Chelsea that are uploaded to YouTube in past years and look forward to it again. I do enjoy show gardens, always something to be learned about design or plant combinations.

    1. It’s even worse when you have a camera in your hands! You’re right that there is always something to inspire you – my sweetheart has just made a green roof for his wheelie bins, which was an idea from one of the shows.

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