I’m one of the lucky few who get to visit the RHS Chelsea Flower Show the day before it opens to the general public. I attend most years, but took a break in 2015.
The break did me good. When you visit year on year it can start to feel a little samey – exhibitors in the same spot as the year before, doing little different to the year before. This year I had fresh eyes for the show and took plenty of planting ideas away with me.
Chelsea Plant of the Year is always my first point of call. It was great to see T&M’s very own Egg & Chips® plant making it through as a finalist – particularly when there is such focus on a plant’s ornamental value in the garden. Judges praised Egg & Chips® for its unique dual cropping (potatoes and aubergines from the same plant), and its value in small gardens, balconies and patio settings.
With Plant of the Year under my belt its time for my favourite part of the show – the Grand Pavilion. This is where the plants are the stars (not some designer you may or may not have heard of). This is where nurseries and growers show off their skills and their wonderful collections – all brought on to perfection, often flowering outside of their natural cycle to the delight of the thousands of visitors who flock to the show each May. I could spend a whole day and more in the pavilion.
Particular highlights for me were Peter Seabrook’s Sun Flower Square (four front gardens featuring 80 different container plants, plus much more, brought together with the help of school children. It was great to see the Thrive charity sweet pea, ‘Eleanore Udall’ on display alongside pots of Petunia ‘Night Sky’, Bidens ‘Bee Dance Painted Yellow’ and Marigold Strawberry Blonde’.
At home I’m trying my hardest to encourage my children into gardening, so anything that helps nuture their interest is good in my books.
The Miracle-Gro’wers Urban School Garden featured many vegetables from the T&M range including Egg & Chips®, Tomtato®, Fuchsia ‘Berry’ and many more. Miracle Gro aimed to bring the benefits of school gardening to the fore and certainly did that. The exhibit highlights the wide range of fruit and veg that can be grown in an urban school garden and spreads the 5-a-day message.
What little time I don’t spend in the pavilion I then use for a whistle stop tour of the show gardens. It’s taken me many years to get my head around these displays. As a true hands on gardener (as opposed to a flouncy designer) I’ve always viewed these gardens as unachievable – flowers are forced to bloom out of season and the hard landscaping is so high-end that most households would need a second mortgage to get the same look.
I came at things with a different approach this year, viewing each show garden as a living art installation and I appreciated them much more than I ever have in the past.
Working with plants every day, Chelsea can be a bit of a busman’s holiday for me, so one aspect I really take advantage of on the Monday press day is the celeb spotting. I didn’t do as well as I have in previous years, but there were plenty of stars to be seen among the flowers – Dame Judi Dench, Rob Brydon, Ainsley Harriot, Richard E Grant, Jerry Hall, to name a few, plus of course the usual gardening gang; Carol Klein, Toby Buckland, Alys Fowler and the man himself Mr T! I took a few blurry candid snaps of celebs, but I’m not brave enough to run up to them paparazzi style or ask for a selfie!
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.