It's been a thought provoking week looking at the coverage of Chelsea. Having a blog and an easier access to the thoughts of other gardeners has added a new and fresh dimension to the extensive 'official' coverage by the RHS and the BBC. I confess that Chelsea always leaves me in a bit of a whirl and with a feeling of inadequecy. So many choices, so much excellence and my own small space always seems so dull in comparison. I always have to give myself a shake and a good talking to post Chelsea. After all, my space has to work for 365 days, not just a few. However, I'm resisting the urge to rip everything out and start anew more so than ever. I think that's the influence of my gardening course and a lack of a major gardening project this year beginning to kick in as well as the usual effect the show has on me. However, I've just about managed to hold myself in check - extensive notes on what is and isn't working in the garden, plus a project to improve my soil with lots of grit and compost are my overall tasks for this year, prior to any major changes.
So what of Chelsea itself? I thought Alan Titchmarsh summed it up pretty well in 3 words - Aspirational, Inspirational and Sensational. Many of you agreed with the inspirational and sensational - Emma, R Pete Free, Victoria and Zoe all summed these aspects well when describing their own visits. I also enjoyed JAS' take on the show, particularly with his judges hat on. (Note - most of these did more than 1 post) However, some of you disagreed with the aspirational aspect when commenting on my posts earlier this week - Sylvia (sorry I can't link to you, but thanks for the comments) loves the perfection, but doesn't want it in her garden and Yolanda doesn't feel pressurised into buying or changing anything. I'm glad there are people out there comfortable with what they have achieved. Deborah and Flighty think the smaller shows are better as there's more time to talk to the stallholders - I suspect this is also true of the designers if my experience at Malvern and Cardiff is anything to go by.
Chelsea is often criticised as being too snobby, expensive and of no value to real gardeners. If this were true, I don't think its success would continue. Yes, obscene amounts can be spent on the gardens, but I'm pleased that over 20 of these are going to be created elsewehere after the show. Also without Chelsea, I don't think we'd ever have gardening talked about as a mainstream topic like it has been for the whole of this week. For example, Cleve West's BUPA Garden has not only been a real crowd pleaser (as evidenced by his People's Award), it has done so much to raise issues around Alzheimer's and the needs of all people in care homes, many of whom do not have access to the kind of sanctuary this garden will provide for the lucky care home in London.
So where does my problem fence above fit into all of this? Well, another Chelsea criticism is it has no relevance to real gardens. I disagree - there are simply oodles of nickable ideas. It's very easy to go into idea overload if you're not careful! This year I'm restricting myself to just 3:
- Mark Gregory's Children's Society Garden had lots of 'Vertical Borders' - a great idea to try to brighten up my fence
- A multi-stemmed Prunus serrula - taken from Adam Frost's A Welcome Sight. I've been wanting to replace the supplied ash tree that came with the side garden when we bought the house. It'll be too close when it's mature - the Prunus will be the perfect replacement and provide so much more interest
- Cleve West used Geum 'Lemon Drops' in his BUPA Garden - more dramatic and less problematic than the self-sown wild geum around my Clematis obelisks
How about you - did you find any ideas to use from Chelsea this year? If you need further help before you decide, the BBC has some downloadable plans from 10 of this year's gardens. Also the Crocus website has plans for the 4 gardens it supplied plants for this year - thanks Zoe for letting me know about these.
Finally, this year's Chelsea has engineered a real gardening breakthrough for the VP household. NAH usually sets me up to watch the coverage and goes off to fiddle with a lathe or something. The mention of the George Harrison garden on the news led to the following conversation:
NAH (suddenly alert at the mention of one of his boyhood heroes): So who goes to Chelsea then?
Me: Today it's royalty, celebs and the press, but tomorrow...
NAH: You mean anyone can go?
NAH: Why haven't you gone then?
Me: Well I do want to go. It's easier now I'm an RHS member as I could go on the RHS member days or the public days. I will go one day.
NAH: Perhaps I'll come along too
:o This is from the guy who's interest in gardening is almost as non-existent as his interest in allotments!