Chelsea's Great Pavilion
Come with me for a wander around the Great Pavilion at Chelsea in just 34 slides. Such wonders and colours are there to behold and people to meet, but sadly I can't waft the scent at you which was wonderful. Except for the roses, surprisingly - did anyone else find the vast stands of them were curiously lacking in scent?
I'm a useless pap though. Whilst I managed to capture Jekka McVicar, Chris Beardshaw (especially for Arabella) and Christine Walkden, I totally failed to with the very orange Alan Titchmarsh, plus James, Lila das Gupta, Bunny Guinness, James Wong and Wayne Hemingway :( James as usual was a delight though I did tease him rather about his new role as TV's royal commentator. My friend H now calls me a garden tart because I was forever going off and chatting to people, but that's the best bit of the show! I was expecting to be disappointed at not being able to buy plants, but in reality I found the stands were much calmer places than usual with plenty of time to have a natter with the exhibitors.
I needed to visit Raymond Evison not only because I'd buy his whole stand if I won the lottery, but also because I wanted to thank him for my Clematis 'Crystal Fountain'. He's such a gentleman. I had a very long chat with Jekka McVicar and found out she reads this blog! How chuffed am I? :D We discussed her final Chelsea, the gnome controversy and the future of the RHS. There's 957 plants on her largest exhibit ever and her first water feature - designed by her husband. A passer-by asked 957, why didn't you go for 1,000? Jekka simply smiled graciously and said - Because it only needed 957.
A call at Writhlington School's Orchid Project exhibit was a must because I met one of the exhibitors on the train to London. It's a fascinating project and they're now seeking to reintroduce an extremely rare orchid back into the wild in Sikkim, India. They're having problems in getting a permit to do so - do you know of anything that could help them? I was also told that gnomes aren't the only banned article from RHS shows: flags are too, so they had to 're-brand' the prayer flags sent from the school they're twinned with in India as 'prayer banners' ;)
Other highlights were the exhibits from the Caribbean, the native flora of Kirstenbosch and the amazing vegetable creations from Jersey Growers. The spirit of Medwyn Williams at Chelsea is alive and well as he advised them on the staging of the latter exhibition. I resisted ordering everything off Solva's Heuchera stand, though a friendly chat with them yielded my very own Heucheraholics pen and fridge magnet - something reserved for very special bloggers :) I thought the floral art would leave me cold, but the demonstration of how to put elegant posies and bouquets together was fascinating. My absolute favourite though was Winchester Growers' Dahlias. It was an incredible stand cram packed with what must have been 1000s of blooms which don't usually flower until at least July. Have a look here for more information on how they did it - it was touch and go on whether they'd actually make it to Chelsea.
What a fun and inspirational place. Tomorrow, I'll reveal my favourite show garden.