Chelsea 2013

Last Wednesday my Mum and I hopped on a train and went to Chelsea for the first time in three years. We alternate between Hampton Court and Chelsea (one big RHS flower show per year is enough) and someone (ahem) didn’t buy tickets early enough last year so we missed the Chelsea deadline. I was surprised to find that I really missed going in 2012 even though I generally prefer HC for several reasons, mostly in that it’s more laid back and less fashionable.

There were, as usual, a few gardens that were a bit ‘meh’ and some that were a bit ‘er…?’ but there were several that I liked.

The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden by Christopher Bradley-Hole took inspiration from the British countryside with blocks of yew, box, and beech representing the fields. Unusually for a show garden it had no real path, with just a narrow walkway behind the oak columns on two sides of the garden and no seating area. It’s got a simple beauty. By omitting the path/seating essentials the designer seems to fully accept that it’s a show garden and abandon all pretence at forming a complete ‘real’ garden which is a standard fiction of show gardens. I like that honesty, it’s got a freshness to it.

The East Village Garden

The East Village Garden

Apparently the East Village Garden takes a lot of its direction from the Olympic Village which completely passed me by when I looked at it from among the straining hordes. The clean sweeping curves of this garden made up for the horrible black water (why? why do they all dye the water black? it looks vile to my eyes) and I liked the green-ness of the planting. The great stand of Zantedeschia was stunning too.

The Mindfulness Garden

The Mindfulness Garden

This was one of the ‘fresh’ gardens in which the designers had to think ‘outside the box’ (will someone please get the RHS a new box of management speak cliches please? these are looking a little tired). I just loved the chaotic mass of cheerful flowers on a meadowy hummock – it hid a cylindrical mirror and rotating quote. A small seating area allowed the garden’s inhabitant and maybe one or two small or very intimate friends to sit in front of the mirror and meditate. Personally I find meditation brings quite alarming sensations of dizziness and physical wierdness so adding a rotating mirrored tunnel to the mix would probably be a very bad thing, but it’s a lovely idea. Ok, I will admit it was mostly the colourful hummock of flowers that got me. Had it been a round door instead of a mirror I’d have probably liked it even more because I’m a bit of a geek.

I said last week that my favorite show garden was the M&G Centenary Garden designed by Roger Platts. Here are a couple of the details which, for me, made the garden such a hit:

The M&G Centenary Garden 'ruin' detail

The M&G Centenary Garden ‘ruin’

Ivy + ruinous stonework = happy Libby. I do love a good ruin, even when it’s a fake ruin. If ever I’m lucky enough to have a substantial patch of ground to call my own you can bet there’ll be a fake ruin somewhere.

M&G Garden seat and Rhodedendron detail

M&G Centenary Garden seat and Rhodedendron

The big white blooms of the Rhodedendron and the rusty seat set each other off nicely. I can imagine sitting here and reading a good book which is an essential attribute of a garden in my opinion.

That’s an interesting question – what do you think does a garden have to have or do to be successful? Must it have a seat? Should it please the eye, the belly, the nose? Does it just have to please its owner?

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9 responses to “Chelsea 2013

  1. I think the average home garden should please the owner/gardener. But, I do admit to applauding those that are eating their lawns. 🙂

  2. Gardens like art are really only measured by how they make you feel in the composite. If they makes you feel good (however you define that on any given day) then it is an amazing garden. If you get that from the physical texture of a ruin, or in your case a fake ruin, or the strong scent from a bloom, or its layout and design, well, then it is a superb garden…it qualifies as art to me. Oh yes, I really hated the black water, what were they thinking.

    • You are quite right about the main point being to please and I’d say in any garden mostly viewed by the owner they get a much bigger say in whether it’s a ‘good’ garden than any passing opinionist (is that a word? it is now!).

      I prefer a real ruin to a fake ruin but a fake ruin is better than no ruin! 🙂 Well, actually, as I’m something of a pedant the fake ruin would have to be in keeping with the surroundings, both immediate and regional because otherwise I would twitch slightly. A ruined stone cottage in Essex would just make me go ‘huh, no.’

      The black water, I think, comes from its use in still pools to enhance the reflections. But in moving water it’s so obvious and nasty.

  3. I couldn’t believe how quickly tickets sold out. Unexpectedly, I liked the Telegraph garden, too.

  4. For me a garden has to be a mix of things. Lots of foodie crops, flowers to please the nostrils, the eyes and the insects…and of course a seat. A comfy seat from which to admire the fruits of one’s work.

    • For me the seat is vital. My own garden has to be mostly about relaxation, an enjoyable space because I do enough of the more active gardening at work I think. At home I mostly want to kick back and read a book in the sun with a good beer in a lovely setting; a setting I made and can therefore feel smug about!

  5. I really want to go some time, I must look into going next year 🙂

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