I’m like a kid in a sweet shop when it comes to plants.. Well, there’s no better sweet shop than the RHS Chelsea Flower Show! Even if you don’t know your tulip from your tropaeolum, it’s hard not to be enthralled by this prestigious show, which will be in its centenary year when it opens on 21st May.
Let me take you back to my very first visit as a 16 year old trainee plant nut… from the very moment I stepped over the threshold, clutching my ticket stub and armed with notepad and pocket camera, I don’t think I had any idea of the sensual journey I was about to start…
From 8am, visitors spill into the show, instantly filling the avenues with enthusiasm, excitement and horticultural camaraderie. It’s fair to say that most make their way straight to the main marquee, for this is where the smorgasbord of plants and flowers awaits. A destination so popular that it now needs directional signs, much like Ikea!
Every sense here is teased, tousled, massaged. Whether its your eyes when you see the towering spikes of the highest quality lupins, or your nose when you experience the fragrance of the sweetest strawberries, arranged in vertical barrels like beacons of fruity colour. It’s an unbelievable fragrance that needs to be experienced for real!
Other iconic sights in the main marquee include the almost steroid-packed, 6 feet, yes SIX feet tall, delphiniums and the gorgeous auricula theatres, where these delicate, brightly coloured little gems are set off perfectly against black wooden backing. There are also the great horticultural achievements of those ‘out of season’ displays. A perfect example is the majestic display of hyacinths, grown with specialist skill in order to flower out of sync with their natural behaviour! It’s these elements that make preparing for Chelsea displays so utterly nerve-wracking!
Visiting gardens and flower shows is an experience like no other; friends, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, gardening rivals, they’re all here, either on their tiptoes to see the latest Laurent-Perrier garden, or playfully fighting it out over which species that meconopsis is. Gardeners can be some of the most competitive people!
Of course, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the plant marquee that you forget there’s a whole host of other stimulation outdoors – the show gardens.
Each year, a wide range of companies sponsor some stimulating gardens. Some are often a little bit ‘Marmite’ (you either love them or hate them!), but do you know what, it’s gets you talking at least!! To see the best of gardens, I recommend getting into the show early. Or being tall!
So how is Thompson & Morgan involved in the show this year? Well, we are still glowing from our Best New Plant win for Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink’ in 2012.
This is an incredible plant, bred by Thompson & Morgan. Its a plant that rights all the wrongs usually associated with foxgloves. Firstly, it flowers for SIX months without pause – usual foxgloves can only spit out a month’s worth of blooms, if that! Secondly, it is a hardy perennial – foxgloves are usually biennial and die out after they flower! Lastly, the colours are some that you have NEVER seen before, like a basket of tropical fruit!
And, this year, we’ll have some more sure shots for this coveted prize, careful growing is taking place as we speak, getting plants all preened for show day. We’ve revolutionised another perennial border plant too. But, I won’t spoil the surprise, you’ll have to visit the show yourself to see them!