Friday had an air of Buy One Get One Free for me last week courtesy of the RHS. Thanks to Jekka McVicar when I visited her last month for VP's VIPs, I was invited to London for a sneak preview of all this year's outdoor shows, plus what's afoot at the RHS gardens.
This was held at the Lawrence Hall, where the second sneak preview was on offer as all the exhibitors were quietly getting ready for the weekend's Orchid and Botanical Art Show. I wish this blog had smello-vision because the scent whacked you smack between the eyes on entering the Hall's reception area. The above picture shows you the scene from our briefing eyrie and later on I was able to get a much closer look with a most civilised glass of wine in my hand :)
What did I learn on Friday? Well, if you're planning on going to Chelsea on either Tuesday or Saturday you'd better get in there quick as tickets for these days have almost sold out. Thankfully all the Japanese crew involved with Kazuyki Ishihara's The Green Poem Garden are safe and still planning to fly the flag for their country at this year's show. Diana at Elephant's Eye will also be pleased that Kirstenbosch have finally secured their funding needed to exhibit this year.
Show Manager Alex Denman announced there'll be a Chelsea App launched in April which will have lots of insider information on the show. The lovely Raymond Evison (who I also bumped into on the way in) will have the first ever walk through Clematis exhibit in the Great Pavilion and I'm thrilled that Crug Farm Plants will also be there.
On the show gardens front, we had a more detailed look at Bunny Guinness' 'sophisticated potager' and B&Q will have the tallest garden ever at Chelsea with their 8 metre high vertical vegetable tower. I must find out how that's going to be watered! I also bumped into Matthew Wilson who's involved with Nigel Dunnett's show garden and hopefully I've persuaded Cleve West to tweet or post a picture a day of his once he's on site.
I also continued in my role of rubbish reporter from these kind of events. On being introduced to Luciano Giubbilei, all I could muster was a feeble Ooh I follow you on Twitter. He fared better than I did despite speaking in a foreign tongue: he's been very busy and has just returned from Cumbria where he's been sourcing stone for his show garden. I also managed to gabble to the RHS President I'd visited her garden in Herefordshire, and the Director General knows I'm an RHS member who's passionate about science. All three of them must have wondered why on earth I was there ;)
I had much more sensible - and fascinating - conversations later with Director of Shows Stephen Bennett about show planning and someone (so sorry I didn't catch your name, I do hope you read this and set me straight) about his role on the advisory side of things. Colin Crosbie also proved to be just as enthusiastic about his Garden Curator role at Wisley as he had been earlier when telling us how wonderful all the RHS gardens are. It was a fantastic opportunity to talk to these people and to hear the friendly banter going on between them all.
That's it for now: I'll be giving you more news about the other shows and gardens another time as this post is long enough for today.