After all the buzz of setting up, last minute polishing and- for some- the clinking of champagne glasses, Chelsea Flower Show exhibitors can now sit back and rest… well almost! Let’s hope the plants can last another day; the unprecedented hot weather this week has given many exhibitors sleepless nights, as they struggle to keep their displays in dazzling form! So here is The Chelsea Roundup.
Newsfeeds were going crazy earlier this week; which celebs are at the show? What are the trends? Who’s going to win best in show? How expensive are those sandwiches…?? You simply can’t deny that Chelsea Flower Show is the most talked about horticultural event of the year, and I love how non-gardeners get on board with it too by being glued to the daily shows on BBC2.
Who cares if some of the gardens are outlandish, isn’t that what this show is about? It’s a showpiece to show the best skills in garden design and horticulture. I’m convinced you can always take elements of any garden and use them in your own; planting partners, styles of planting, sculptures, create your own mini Chelsea show garden! One of my favourite gardens was the Help for Heroes garden, designed by Matt Keightley. I loved the planting, interspersed by blocks- for me; it was the perfect fusion of tradition al cottage garden and modernist!
Help for Heroes garden, by Matt Keightley
I also liked the artisan garden section, mainly because it was in the shade on such a sweltering day! I loved the Virgin Roof Gardens entry, which featured red Geraniums and dwarf Marigolds from Thompson & Morgan. It was an explosion of colour, yet still cool and relaxing!
Virgin Roof Gardens
Every year at Chelsea, my main focus is the floral marquee, where I do a spot of indoor plant-hunting! Here, specialist nurseries show off their skills and variety range. You can come here to see everything from gladioli to passion flowers, bonsai to sweet peas. I must admit I can’t help but feel some of the stands have looked the same for 50 years, but there were some fresh looks. How about hanging amaryllis for example??
The Plant of the Year stand is in the floral marquee, where any nursery from the UK can enter. Those plants are whittled down to 20 finalists, but there can only be 1 winner. As soon as I walked up to the display, I knew that Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’ had the leading edge, even over plants I had entered! Well, I should have visited a betting shop, as my prediction was right, and this picotee, two-tiered Hydrangea was named Plant of the Year 2014!
Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori’
Then, tomorrow, it’s the BIG SELL OFF! When the stands are dismantled, and the contents auctioned off. This is an absolutely crazy few hours, and it culminates in the London Underground being filled with people hugging delphiniums…! Phew! Another great show!
It’s the day after my visit to Chelsea Flower Show! My feet are still aching, and my mind is still spinning with new plants and fresh garden designs. The whole of the gardening world tends to be at Chelsea too, so it can be difficult to walk a few feet without seeing someone you know! I think I’ll need 2 days next time!
There’s always such a buzz; this is the showcase for the gardening year. When talking to some of the designers, I came to realise just how much work goes into their displays. Paul Hervey-Brookes has a garden on the main avenue, it took him and his team 19 DAYS to put together! From a bare piece of land to a fully grown garden; that’s some wizardry! Thompson & Morgan had a hand in the Virgin Roof Gardens artisan garden too; donating vivid red geraniums and citrus dwarf marigolds! Most of all, I’d say that I enjoyed the ‘Help for Heroes’ garden, but I’ve always got a weak spot for Iris!!
Inside the floral marquee, most types of bloom are well-represented, from gladioli to chrysanthemums, sweet peas to geraniums. These specialist nurseries are vital; the owners have such an in-depth knowledge and enthusiasm, which can be seen in their displays. It takes skill and dedication too; after all, daffodils don’t usually flower during late May! This marquee is a plant hunter’s dream; if you’ve got a new plant, you show it off at Chelsea! This is why they introduced the exciting Plant of the Year contest a few years ago!
Alstroemeria ‘Inca Smile’, Gerbera ‘Sweet Glow’, Petunia ‘Black Night’
Over the last few weeks, Thompson & Morgan had fluffed, pimped and preened our entries ready for the day; our hopefuls were our fragrant cascading begonias, the new hardy Gerbera series, a dwarf, large-flowered alstroemeria and the show-stopping double black petunia. But, when I arrived at the show, a certain plant caught my eye, and I got a hunch this might win. That plant was Hydrangea ‘Miss Saori'; a gorgeous hydrangea with two-tiered, picotee-edged blooms, which looked absolutely fab. And, I was right, and this was crowned Plant of the Year, with Thompson & Morgan’s Gerbera ‘Sweet Glow’ in 3rd place, so that was quite respectable!
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014 runs from 20 – 24 May. You cannot deny that the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the pinnacle of any horticultural calendar. Although it can divide public opinion with some of the garden designs, the event is a fantastic showcase for new plants, undiscovered plants and old favourites!
I have loved the show since I was 18, and have visited pretty much every year. In recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to get in on the Monday (not over the fence, either!) so have had the privilege to walk around with a bit more space, able to get up close to the displays and gardens!
There’s been even more of a buzz about the show since they began the “Best New Plant” contest 5 years ago, and every year Thompson & Morgan have entered their most sparkling new plants. In 2012, we won! Foxglove “Illumination Pink” was crowned “Best New Plant”, thanks to its unique heritage (Isoplexis x Digitalis), 5 month flowering, perennial status and exotic colourings!
Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’
This year, we have a few up our sleeve. But, personally, I think Petunia “Black Night” is in with a chance. The Petunia “Black Night” is the world’s first double-flowered petunia with velvety, BLACK flowers. A lovely, mounded petunia, which is already picking up fans the world over…!!
Petunia ‘Black Night’
So, I’ll be ready, at the gates, at 8am next Monday, eager to get to the main marquee. This is where I’ll spend hours seeking out new plants, snapping with my camera, and yapping on about plants for hours. Bliss!
If you are one of the lucky ones that have a chance to visit this year, make sure you take pictures of you favourites and let us see them!
Daytime – Monday 23 – Friday 27 May 2011 12:30 – 13:00 on BBC One
Evening – Sunday 22 May 18:15 – 19:00 on BBC One
Monday 23 May 19:30 – 20:00 on BBC One and 20:00 – 21:00 on BBC Two
Tuesday 24 May 20:00 – 21:00 on BBC Two
Wednesday 25 May 20:30 – 22:00 on BBC Two
Thursday 26 May 20:00 – 21:00 on BBC Two
Friday 27 May 20:00 – 21:30 on BBC Two
Saturday 28 May 19:30 – 20:00 on BBC Two
Sunday 29 May TBC on BBC One
Here are a few highlights to keep an eye out for;
RHS Chelsea at Twilight – Friday 23 May, 2014
An evening of light opera by Opera Holland Park. Ticket includes entry to the show at 5.30pm and a glass of champagne. The concert will commence at 8.15pm
New for 2014
Discovery (in the Great Pavilion) replaces RHS Environment and showcases the best scientific and educational exhibits from the world of horticulture
In the Great Pavilion include NAFAS’s display celebrating their Emerald anniversary (55 years) titled “A Green Thought in a Green Shade”, a one-off display by Perennial marking their 175 years of support for horticulturists and a stunning display by South West in Bloom highlighting “Fifty Golden Years of Bloom”
There’s a vegetable revolution going on, one which is set to change the face of allotments, and engage a whole new audience. It’s rainbow veg!
Get on board with the rainbow veg movement and you’ll find that carrots are not only orange, but also purple, yellow, even white. You can experience a more gourmet taste, and really show off to your friends. Just think how this could change the look of your Sunday roast!
Carrot ‘Rainbow’ F1 Hybrid
A lot of these vegetables aren’t new, they’re simply being rediscovered. Another great example is with beetroot seeds, look out for our rainbow mixture, with mind-boggling yellow beetroot, and – for the complete wow factor – red and white striped beetroot.
Beetroot ‘Rainbow Beet’
It doesn’t end there though. Think golden courgettes, which will be much easier to pick and harvest at a young, tender stage than the camouflaged green ones. Some rainbow vegetables have additional goodness too, for example pea Shiraz has more antioxidants in its purple pods, so eat them raw or stir fried, to avoid diminishing that goodness!
Pea Shiraz (mangetout)
Every now and then, you might spot a unique vegetable in your local supermarket, but supply is always quite limited, and you could easily miss them. The only way to guarantee trying these tasty novelties is by growing your own!
Courgette ‘Sunstripe’ F1 Hybrid
Geranium ‘T&M’s Choice Mixed’
Young plants – what’s all the fuss about?
The world has changed so much over the last 20 years and we seem to have less and less leisure time. Thankfully, the gardening world has changed as well. And, now, customers looking for a fast-track way of growing can buy a whole range of young plants, delivered to your door, and in a much wider range than you’d find in any garden centre!
Thompson & Morgan takes the difficult bit out of growing… the germination. It’s something that often requires tricky conditions, consistent temperatures, and time and patience.
We do all the germinating for you, raising our young plants in module trays of various sizes, and then pack them so they’re delivered to your door in tip-top condition!
Fuchsia ‘Giants Collection’
We pride ourselves on being able to offer varieties with garden performance, rather than “pack” performance. Varieties that look pristine and are in flower in the garden centre or DIY store often fail when planted into the garden – they simply run of steam. However, our varieties will perform all through the season, and in colours and mixes the shops just don’t bother to sell.
Browse our range of plants and you’ll see what I mean. Any young plants can be grown on the windowsill too – it’s not about having a greenhouse or conservatory. If you really want to get growing, you can always set up a table in a well-lit back bedroom. All the plants need is light and warmth!
Busy Lizzie ‘Divine T&M’s Choice’
So, what you waiting for?!
On November 16th I leave the UK to trek 100km across the Costa Rican jungle for the Alzheimer’s Society.
My Nana, who gave me my crazy thirst for plants, gardening and being outdoors, sadly died a few years ago. Without her getting me hooked on plants, I wouldn’t be where I am today. We used to spend a huge amount of time together, we were almost joined at the hip, especially going to the WI market together to sell our plants, a fact I always kept a secret from my friends!
I’ve been thinking about the best tribute to her, and think a 12-day trek through the rainforest in Costa Rica would be perfect. I’ll hopefully get to see loads of unusual plants, which my Nana and I used to drool over in her gardening books! I never imagined I’d get to see those plants for real.
I’ve chosen to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society, as my Nana sadly contracted this in the years before she died, so I’d like to give something back. I am funding the trip myself, which means that 100% of the money I raise will be going to the charity.
Ready for the off!
We start and end our 12-day trek in San Jose, going to the Pacific and Caribbean coasts and through villages, farming communities and palm oil plantations along the way. According to the itinerary, agile spider monkeys will mock us as we clamber over and under enormous tree roots. We’ll visit Volcan Irazu, Costa Rica’s highest active volcano. If it’s a clear day, we’ll be able to see both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts! There’ll be streams to cross, a day of rafting including white-water rapids followed by a break at a waterfall. Not forgetting, of course, the myriad of flora and fauna to delight in. The trek ends on the white sands of the Caribbean coast.
If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, please visit my JustGiving™ page: www.justgiving.com/gardeninggreek.
You can follow my progress at facebook.com/planthunter.uk and www.twitter.com/gardening_greek