Like last year, I was lucky to have a sneak peek at the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show on Press Day.
It’s brilliant to be able to avoid the crowds, especially for this year’s 100 year anniversary show – sold out, of course!
I never know which way to walk first since it’s such a huge area to explore, but this year I found myself heading toward a grassy patch with intriguing small huts, which I found out were “artisan retreats” filled with artists like Cath Kidston, the London College of Fashion and more.
Drawn to bright blue colours, I headed inside the first hut, delighted to find myself face to face with paper cutout artist Rob Ryan! We had a little chat, he showed me his new kneeling chair which looks something similar to this and said he’d be happy to do an interview for LLO. Looking forward to that!
The hut next to Rob’s was Pippa Small’s artistic home for the weekend. What a bright and happy place! I felt uplifted as soon as I walked inside.
Pippa had run off, but I spent quite a while sitting on the floor chatting with her beautiful sister decorative artist Alexandra Small Simondetti about art and travel and life. She was absolutely lovely and happened to be the one in charge of much of the interior design I was so drawn to.
Our chat was my favourite part of the whole day. She is one of those people who make you feel comfortable in their presence and has plenty of interesting stories to tell. I would have stayed all day if I could.
She decorates Pippa’s shops and was telling me about the tree at the back wall of this hut. It’s made with real leaves from different trees to represent diversity and how we all grow together, the same. She has a Magnolia tree outside of her window at home and chose to paint those flowers for the tree here.
Anyway, she said she hasn’t been as active with her art lately as she’s been spending time with her twins, but I’m hoping to interview her as well.
I popped in to a few of the other huts. Cath Kidston has a lawnmower with flowers painted across the strip of cut grass.
The London College of Fashion had a display about natural dyeing of clothing with some examples of students’ work. There were a few others as well.
And then I carried on to see some flowers.
It’s fun to go on press day as a blogger with my new little Lumix camera and tiny pancake lens and see some of the folks from the BBC, Guardian and other big media outlets working hard with all of their equipment, lugging around cameras, lights and tripods. They get more polished shots, of course, but it looks like quite a big production!
Outdoors were all the big gardens like the East Village garden by Michael Balston and Marie-Louise Agius who I just interviewed which won a gold medal – woohoo! But there were many others as well.
I have to point out that while the bigger media outlets seem to be making a bit of a fuss over the fact that Chelsea lifted the ban on gnomes this year I only saw one or two. They were barely noticeable, unless they were hiding from me. Here’s some gnome cane tops…better than a poke in the eye – as I guess most things are.
Some of the gardens had little treehouse buildings or small sheds.
Love these right red trees!
I took over 800 photos yesterday so it was hard to narrow it down to the ones in this entry!
One of the most fascinating things about going to Chelsea Flower Show is the people. I spotted a few like Joanna Lumley, who turned heads for obvious reasons, but it’s a great place to people watch generally.
I thought it might be fun to compile a little list of things I overhead while walking around. I will quote them between photos. Read with a posh accent. (Note, they are random and don’t correlate with the people in the images!)
“Lydia dear, my what a lovely dress! Simply gorgeous.”
A flower hat and dress made with seeds, Lucy Ellis’ outfit is inspired by Van Gogh
“Darling, we must find one of these for Charlotte’s birthday dinner.”
“I was going to wear my orchid earrings but they didn’t quite go with these shoes.”
“You like white flowers, don’t you dear?” “Oh yes, but I’ve worked in hospitals too many year to know never to put red and white together. That means death.”
“I do hope we win a blasted gold medal this year.”
“Yes, yes, everything here is gorgeous and interesting and wonderful. That goes without saying.”
“Oh no, no. This combination is simply dreadful, don’t you agree?”
“Hyacinths smell a bit like, well, sick, don’t they dear?” “I disagree. I find them pleasant. I quite enjoy their scent.”
“Look out Dad! I’m having a photo taken of my shoes!”
“It was appalling the way they judged her last year. She clearly deserved gold.”
“Excuse me. Would you mind taking your dirty boots off of this grass, Sir?”
“The successful people in banking often attend our afternoon gala.”
“If it’s bad news, you let your agent do the dirty work, right?”
Okay, back to the flower displays!
At some point, I wandered into the main tent which hits you with its sweet smell mixed with various types of potting soil and fertiliser.
Many of the displays had themes. Like tea.
And apparently teapots used to be given as prizes for major flower shows! The sign in the display below says, “A hundred years ago, a copper kettle would have traditionally been awarded to the winning auriculas at all major shows. These antique kettles are the type that would have been won by a happy exhibitor.”
The whole place was a mass of bright colour.
I found some more pretty red trees.
Some interestingly phallic carnivorous plants.
Beautiful bright orange tulips.
Some dreamy colour combinations.
An exhibition booth showing the more scientific side of garden design.
Lots of bright, exotic tropical plants.
Others that we have in our kitchen window at home.
Even some hanging from the ceiling.
Wandering around, I started to daydream about those adult things like houses with gardens that I’ll probably never have while I’m still in London.
But it’s nice to pretend.
Even the simple green leafy plants were looking beautiful and lush.
And there were strawberries growing from boots while reminded me of childhood Summers in New York when we picked them from our garden.
Can’t you just taste these? How tempting was it to snitch one from the plate… but I behaved.
The strawberries definitely made me wish for sun and picnics and garden parties and sundresses.
There was a book garden.
A pretty English rose garden with arched stone windows.
One with 50,000 (!) imported orchids from Thailand.
There was a garden that focused on recycling, planting in old oil containers and using whiskey crates to carry veggies.
There was a bike parked outside.
Here’s that blue again, like Rob Ryan’s hut!
And the contrast of simple while flowers.
More of that vibrant orange hue.
A popular colour, much like Spring/Summer fashion this year.
Spotted a bunch of bright orange bags being carried around as well, with mysterious contents. Mysterious only because I didn’t have one…
There were lovely bright pinks too.
The size of some of the flowers alone was incredible.
Alongside all of this colour, there was a big focus on green space too.
There were sculptures and garden art galore.
Some of the art was made with nature itself.
Wouldn’t it be nice to lounge on a nice slice of perfect grass under a bright sun with a good book?
Or sit in a green haven with a cup of steaming tea?
Of course, along with all of this garden design and nod to nature, there is shopping. The essentials. Seeds.
Carousel rocking horses? (I like these as I come from North Tonawanda – the “Home of the Carousel“!”
And, last but certainly not least, what is all this British gardening without the Hunter wellies!?
I have about 750 more photos but I figured your scrolling finger would be tired by now.
So who’s going to Chelsea? Who’s been already? What did you think? Did you see any of those pesky gnomes wandering about?