“I have loved flowers that fade, within whose magic tents, rich hues have marriage made, with sweet unmemoried scents”.
Robert Bridges, the early 20th century poet laureate, could have been describing the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, with its marquees and stalls packed with flowers and foliage that provide a feast for the senses.
Every corner turned brings another dazzling display of colour, another waft of floral fragrance. All around are murmurs of appreciation from visitors stunned by the depth of variety, the high quality and pure beauty of what is being presented.
This was my first experience of Chelsea Flower Show. Having recently moved into a new house with a garden in urgent need of some TLC, I was hoping to find some inspiration. I found it in bucketloads.
It was the pyramid-shaped Westland Magical Garden by designer Diarmuid Gavin that had received most of the press attention throughout the week. It boasted seven tiers of terraces packed with planters full of fruit, vegetables and herbaceous plants, along with their very own staircase, elevator and – for the adventurous among the attendees – a stainless steel tubular slide.
However, my personal highlight was the Grand Pavilion. With 120 individual exhibitions from nurseries, florists, schools and science-led institutions, it provided stand after stand of flowers from around the world, all lovingly tendered by their careful owners: clematis, pinks, roses, lilies, orchids, birds of paradise, sweet peas, primroses, lupines, iris, hostas, ferns, cactai, bonsai… This alone provided such a kaleidoscope of colour and aroma that even those who do not like gardening could not fail to enjoy the experience.
Comprising an eclectic range of flowers and plants, grown and displayed by some of the hottest talent around, as well as a multitude of stalls and stands selling tools, furniture and accessories, Chelsea Flower Show offers something for all tastes and all sizes of garden. Sadly, the same doesn’t apply to budgets. It may be the most famous flower show in the world, but it’s possibly also the most expensive. Fuschia lovers, for example, were asked to fork out £18 for three tiny seedlings; a bronze bird bath cost the princely sum of £4,000; while a wooden summer house left little change out of £20,000. It left me wondering if we really are in recession, as austerity measures certainly hadn’t made their way to the grounds of the Royal Hospital.
Luckily I attended on the final day, and at 4pm the end-of-show sale began, making it a little easier for me to recreate my own version of Chelsea at home. I left happy but exhausted, my arms full of plants and bulbs. And if the flowers purchased do eventually fade, the memories of a wonderful day certainly shall not.
Written by Becky Slack