Monday, May 21, 2012

Back from Chelsea


Cleve West's garden, very traditional, even to the extent of the lean on this topiarised yew. When the show is full of arty over-symbolic hype we long for gardens like this and when there is nothing but we moan about them Garden journalists are hard to please.


Just made my once every few years visit to the Chelsea Flower Show. It does all feel like deja vu and

Pepa's GArden celebrating Karst landscapes of Slovenia - inspiration for dry British gardens?
Part of Sarah Price's garden for The Telegraph, accomplished, but trouble is everyone was doing this this year, mostly natives.
I do basically go for the people, as the Monday press day is like a huge works party for the garden press. Its not easy to get tickets, unless you are actually writing about the show or are an F-list celebrity - so thank you to Joanna Fortnam at the Daily Telegraph for my ticket. Its almost a party atmosphere with a constant hum of networking. Amongst the people I bumped into was Stane Susnik of Slovene TV, and next thing I knew I was in the middle of a little garden - ‘Pepa’s Garden’ designed to show off the wildflowers of Slovenia’s karst (limestone) region, being interviewed for Slovene TV.


I love this kind of touch - Sarah Price again
Thomas Hoblyn design - very good for instant impact, but wouldn't last a year in garden conditions before they'd begin to compete each other out.

What is so odd about Chelsea is the way it illustrated the zeitgeist at work. It is almost as if all the designers sit down and decide what the theme is going to be, as so often gardens are remarkably similar. My first thoughts this year was ‘this is comfort gardening’, in a time of recession and uncertainty, everybody is making gardens which are safe and traditional, an impression reinforced by the muted colouring, the pastels, the lack of strong or vibrant colours. So many gardens featured intermingled naturalistic style planting - which made me feel very vindicated in having been promoting precisely this for so many years. Has the ‘New Perennial Garden’ finally come home? Maybe it has. Trouble is, after a while, it began to look a bit samey - this year’s plant seems to be Cow Parsley and as a grass substitute Carex muskingumensis. The problem is with timing, it’s actually too early to get many later-flowering plants in, so the plant palette feels a bit restricted. A lot of native wildflowers, for which the season is perfect, but since our flora is a limited one, that does not make for much variation. On the whole though planting was very well done, sophisticated and a lot of it would actually have worked in garden conditions.


Probably the tallest thing ever at Chelsea, this piece of nonsense from Darmuid Gavin, saved the show from being too worthy. Completely unfeasible as a garden it gives the show the pizzazz and absurdity without which it would not be Chelsea. The red things are Chelsea Pensioners (i.e. military veterans).

It is of course relatively straightforward to get the intermingled look with plants from nurseries, crammed in far more tightly than they ever would be in the garden. The garden is a greater test, as clumps expand, plants compete, some spread, some don’t. What would really be a trial of design skill would be this: to design a Chelsea Garden which looked like it had been planted three or five years ago.   

6 comments:

Ann, aka Amateur Bot-ann-ist said...

I am a bit surprised about the natives but I do have to admit I like Sarah Price's work a great deal—especially the grasses in the walkway. Seems like it could be the new Western version of minding your step and taking your time while being present in the garden.

westie said...

I have the luck or misfortune depending on your point of view to live round the corner from the Chelsea show ground, and have just come back from there.

Very interesting comments - my group of me, a friend and my sister who go every year was, almost immediately on seeing the main show gardens, was how samey everything looked this year. Nothing seemed to stand out, the current obesssion with tapestry planting in a way that would barely last a season on the basis of plant growth. It is starting to look quite contrived.

We quite independently said we'd like to see how some of these gardens would actually mature. I suspect not well, as they'd have to be culled heavily and of course the simultaneous flowering is a complete Chelsea-approved trick.

If push came to shove I was slightly more in favour of Arnie Maynard's effort as best in show - but the homogeneity really made it a difficult call.

Please could someone ask Diarmid not to come back until he is prepared to engage with the majority of visitors, not a select few able to scale his absurd tower.

westie said...

I have the luck or misfortune depending on your point of view to live round the corner from the Chelsea show ground, and have just come back from there.

Very interesting comments - my group of me, a friend and my sister who go every year was, almost immediately on seeing the main show gardens, was how samey everything looked this year. Nothing seemed to stand out, the current obesssion with tapestry planting in a way that would barely last a season on the basis of plant growth. It is starting to look quite contrived.

We quite independently said we'd like to see how some of these gardens would actually mature. I suspect not well, as they'd have to be culled heavily and of course the simultaneous flowering is a complete Chelsea-approved trick.

If push came to shove I was slightly more in favour of Arnie Maynard's effort as best in show - but the homogeneity really made it a difficult call.

Please could someone ask Diarmid not to come back until he is prepared to engage with the majority of visitors, not a select few able to scale his absurd tower.

gardening sheds said...

I love Darmuid Gavin's piece.. it's just awesome.. how can he made the garden so tall like that?? amazing!

the other designs is beautiful too.. but the piece from Darmuid Gavin catches my eyes first..

Klasse im Garten said...

Love D. Gavins stupa :D. Thx for showing.

Capital Gardens said...

Haha love the Gavin monstrosity! Crazy idea - wouldn't like it in my back garden though...