Thursday, 27 May 2010


To neutralise such a excessive overblow of glorious Chelsea flarze and gaahdens, I thought this shabby little nest of cobwebby lovelies might be more fun to look at. The PG, as usual, landed me with a million wonderful shots to edit and catalogue. More than all the others, even the exquisite garden views, I thought this was the charmingest, but at the same time, easily the most Chelsealy, cheezily bogus of the lot. Not sure who designed the garden where these were, but I'm sure if you care that much, you'll probably know already.

(The PG has just informed me, slightly crossly, that it was the Pine and Conifer Enthusiasts Garden. Hmmm. I'm even less enthusiastic about conifers than I am about Chelsea. Nice wash tub, though!)

Tell you what. I wouldn't bother much with this post, if I were you. It is being scratched out in spiteful haste, before we depart the wind-slapped, wilting, arid dump formerly known as My Garden, for warmer, wetter, friendlier climes.

The best thing about it all is that bloody Chelsea is over - or it is for me. Oh, it was lots of fun, and the standard utterly superb - especially in the Floral Pavilion – but I have been increasingly convinced, over the past forty or so years, that Chelsea really isn't me.

I try desperately hard to enthuse over the gardens, and really want to care about who wins what, but this year, having been deeply embroiled with the rigours of the new judging system, and with a process called Moderation, I really fell down badly on the enthusiaz front. I didn't even get to see any of the gardens until Tuesday morning, and by then, was limited to the odd glimpse whenever a tiny space cleared, among the backs of a million middle class heads. And I'd been at the show ground since Saturday!

The Daily Telegraph Garden

My favourite floral stand was Avon Bulbs - wonderful selection of fascinating and exquisitely coloured bulby things. I think it's their ephemeral nature that make them so irresistible and I fell deeply in love with a pink Camassia. I must have a bulb of it, and soon. My mini-meadow has camassias and, more to the point, they seem happy in it and are seeding.

And I thought Andy Sturgeon's garden was an absolute belter - if you like that sort of thing. I loved the planting - gloriously dreamy colours - but wasn't sure about the giant, upright DVD racks or the stone recesses at the back. This is not in the slightest way, a criticism of Andy.

The man is a genius and his gardens are fabulous. But, like jeans that reveal the buttocks on fat, slutty girls, expensive loafers worn ostentatiously - by males - without socks or for that matter, Tiramisu, this type of garden just doesn't float my boat. Perhaps it's Chelsea gardens in general that fill me with fear and loathing. It's all such a lot of flummery.

More DT Garden

We had our first Plantsmanship Conference and between the hundred or so experts in the room, came up with our Chelsea New Plant of the Year - or CNPOTY. It's an superb streptocarpus bred by Dibleys. You can see details and the runners up here.

Other things about Chelsea:
I lunched next to the High Commissioner for South Africa, drank Champers with Her Majesty, who looked suitably floral and seemed to be in an extraordinarily good mood; wore a new neck-tie - made, I believe, by one Duchamp, but much prettier than his urinal, though less useful. I was rather chastened to learn that the PG has ordered an expensive obelisk. If this goes much further, we'll be going all Daily Telegraph.

This week's film was really spectacularly awful. It was Disney's new Alice in Wonderland. I know it was stupid to pay money to see it but there were three good reasons: we haven't yet seen the new 3D; it starred Johnny Depp and it was filmed at Anthony, in Cornwall.

What an absolute bummer! The film was not merely poor, but a shocking insult to anyone's intelligence and downright shabby in its treatment of poor old Lewis Carrol and the original Alice books. There were pointless inventions of a pitiful new plot, excessive use of computerage, a lousy story, tedious pacing and . . . well, there's no point in saying any more. Even Depp's brilliance failed to provide much relief. The 3D was OK, but I wouldn't need to see it again, I don't think.

This time last year It was Day Two of a diet.

I'm listening to Bach's Cantata number 67 'Hold in Affection Jesus Christ' - a nod to Ascensiontide which, I believe, has just past. This ancient recording features the immortal Kathleen Ferrier. That voice still makes me cry.

And finally - we've harvested our first 'lunch box' cucumbers. Now I know why they're called 'lunch box' varieties. How very rude! Tasty little chaps, though!

Off to Singapore - speak soon!


  1. Bless your heart. I am so DEEPLY relieved to hear that I am not the only gardener in the world who does not worship at the Shrine of Chelsea.

    Yes it is "fabulous" (daarhling) but does it really have that much relevance to the hundreds of thousands of ordinary little folk trying to create an ordinary little garden on their little bits of England?

  2. I am so glad to find someone else who wasnt keen on And Sturgeon's rusty boxes. I felt like a complete ignoramous when I said I didnt like them to JAS! Liked the planting in many of the gardens but not some of the more over the top hard landscaping

    However having never been to Chelsea before it was an experience which I may repeat just for the sheer fun of meeting up with people

  3. Oh woe, we were there (that's the other PG, the one who's commented) on Tuesday and we missed you :(

    We're in disagreement over the CD racks, I want them. I like the way they frame bits of the planting and provide different vistas of the garden. I also liked the way they contrasted with the cream of that sublime drystone wall and the bowls of rust coloured irises were superb. I wasn't sure about the water feature, though to be fair I couldn't get up close and personal to it and thus see how it related to the rest of the garden.

    In answer to Beth, yes Chelsea does have relevance - I overheard lots of ordinary people like me discussing an idea they saw in a garden and how it could be adapted for their own. You can get much more of a sense of this kind of practicality by being there rather than the fleeting glimpses shown on the telly because you can do it at your own pace and according to your taste, not the TV's.

    Oh dear, my comment's almost as long as your post. Have a spiffing holiday :)

  4. PS another answer for Beth - have a look at what The Eden project garden achieves...

  5. You.don' But, why? They rule! Oh, all right. You can have your own opinions if that's how you want to be about it. I do agree about the old washtub being cool, though. Have fun in Singapore.

  6. Gosh, on re-reading this post, I'm quite shocked at the negative tone.
    Beth - I agree, there's very little relevance to personal gardens at home.
    Patient G. - yes, it's the meeting of friends that makes the whole show bearable.

    VP - I totally agree, and also overhear people enthusing over ideas. BTW, it's not holiday - I'm going to assist the Singapore National Parks with community gardening - though we are nipping up to Melaka for three days in the middle.

    Monica - I love conifers, but prefer to see them in their natural state, or at least planted naturally. The PG and I went through a 'conifer phase' in the 1980s and developed a collection at our last garden but sort of grew away from them.

    I've rummaged among the PG's rushes and put up a couple of her pics of Andy's garden, for those that didn't see it.

    And if you read this, Andy - please remember that I'm a HUGE admirer and hope we'll still be friends, big CD racks, not withstanding.

  7. Community gardening - even better. Have a splendiferously spiffing time :)

  8. I hope I am commenting in time to wish you a great non-holiday in Singapore. I loved Andy's garden with the CD racks although it would have been mightily improved with some nice bronzy heucheras scattered around.

    I always vow to have a 'Chelsea break' for a few years and invariably the excitement draws me back in to see what flummery is offered each year. I think it is nice to see it all not being taken too seriously and more a flight of fantasy and fun.

  9. I like the first picture best!
    Did you go to the Malvern Spring Show?
    I like the garden in the Wisteria and Cow Parsley blog.