You are first hit by the vastness of it, I've done trade fairs in my past for various things and I probably won't be very popular for comparing parts of Chelsea to a glorified trade fair (but with Champagne and Pimms). Don't get me wrong I love a trade fair but they are tiring and the numbers of people never fail to amaze me. It was very, very busy, though a lady we talked to who had been many times said it wasn't at all! Someone should have told that to the woman who took exception to my friends rucksack, hitting it with her cane and getting very irate. I being very British didn't say a word to her, but really you're in a beautiful place surrounded by (at the time) vast swathes of heavily scented roses, if you can't be relaxed and happy there then where? Don't bother going to Chelsea Flower show if people and rucksacks annoy you!
Everything you could ever want for your garden was there...and lets be honest a few things you really wouldn't/shouldn't want as well;) Spinning summer houses in lovely subtle shades, the greenhouses dreams are made of...oh what I could sow and grow in some of those! Massive sculptures of driftwood animals...they took your breath away with the amount of work and talent involved but realistically not something someone like me in a typical terrace would ever consider...life-size driftwood horse madam?...er no thank you, do you have anything smaller...a sparrow perhaps? I'm much more a simple and practical kind of girl, I wish I had bought the wire hoops for a plant tunnel from Plant Belles (thank goodness for the internet!) and I loved Lois Anderson's stone carving...ok, she's a friend but her work is truly lovely and i'm not just saying that;)
The gardens were all beautiful of course, some more so than others. White foxtail lilies were everywhere which I was quite pleased about as I planted some in my garden at home last year and if they end up looking anything like the ones we saw I'll be ecstatic! (and slightly surprised) Lupins, iris and foxgloves all seemed to be very popular too. I'm not a plant expert so I'm not even going to try to sound like I know what I'm talking about, other people do that so much better than I...and they were all at Chelsea. Another fun game we played, spot the celebrity gardener, designer, chef...the huge cameras usually gave the game away;)
The Chatsworth garden that has won the Chelsea Best in Show award is quite spectacular and as Chatsworth house is just up the road from me and I'm very familiar with it, it felt like a little piece of home. I overheard someone say, 'but it's not a garden is it?' Well no I'd have to agree, unless you are the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire who do have something similar in their garden:) I'm pretty sure not many of us have gardens on a scale to take the huge stones that formed the backbone of the design...or for that matter the quarry from which to source them:) It doesn't have anywhere that you could image your patio could go but it's spectacular and it makes you happy to see it there in it's enormity...and if I learnt anything from my first trip to Chelsea...it's all about the show!
The gardens that made me really smile and could potentially take ideas home from were in the Artisan Gardens. A Trugmaker's garden designed by Serena Fremantle and Tina Vallis, was like seeing a real life photo from the past in full glorious colour, gentle and dare I say it...sweet. I think I might be a girl who loves a cottage garden but with a bit of formal and Piet Oudolf thrown in for good measure. If you take ideas for planting from all the gardens at Chelsea you would have something quite special. It's made me re think my negative view of lupins anyway, they look great with climbing beans:)
In the end we couldn't wait to leave...not because we didn't enjoy it (I couldn't stop smiling the whole time I was there!) but because we were itching to get home to our own gardens and to my allotment and use the inspiration that the day at Chelsea had given us.
Even on the way home the flower and plant assault continued as many of the shops in the area had elaborate displays spilling out onto the pavements, and just look at that building I took a very quick photo of as we went passed on the bus! I so wish more designers would try to use vertical planting on their new buildings, it just makes everything look...better? Perhaps I'm just a little biased...