What a mad event the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is. We saw Ringo Starr (no picture evidence, you’ll have to trust us) and contracted our first ever case of hay fever, so sound-tracked the entire experience with whooping sneezes. We’re not experts, but the trends this year seem to be wild and loose styles, dusty and burnt shades, foxgloves and cabbage.
Alongside some seriously beautiful gardens with elements ordinary growers could definitely recreate, there are, of course, a few fantastical offerings. A garden floating in the sky – well, an eye-shaped pink garden pod thing attached to a crane courtesy of Diarmuid Gavin – is probably the cream of the over-the-top crop. Next door, B&Q has gone as far as installing a faux tower block, highlighting how window boxes can be tiny gardens too.
It’s fairly odd to see so many mature gardens all lined up, labelled and roped-off in the grounds of the usually out-of-bounds Royal Hospital (where the Chelsea pensioners live). The air is thick with pollen and every garden is alive with furry bumbles, which are happily flying past those ropes and getting giddy on sweet nectar.
This annual event must be utter heaven for west London’s bee communities. It’s also heaven for human eyes. Each garden is the stuff of daydreams, if you can only get close enough to lose yourself in the flora and fauna.
The human wildlife on display is pretty fascinating too – solidly middle class, but punctuated with some fabulous outfits that no doubt confuse the bees. We most loved a tutu made entirely of red flowers. A publicity stunt, but one that brought smiles to many an old boy’s face.
Favourite gardens include the Laurent Perrier sponsored dusty purple and bronze wilderness of long grasses and flowers, and the SKYshades garden, which looks like it has existed for years and features a tangle of nettles and daisies. The Royal Bank of Canada’s New Wild Garden has the prettiest walls we’ve ever seen and we spent a long while staring at the hot pinks, blues and yellows of the Times and Kew Gardens’ Eureka creation. An elegant edible garden designed by Bunny Guinness makes cabbage and kale look anything but humble.
Perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, the flower show is a well-established part of London’s cultural calendar and is worth a look one year if you have a green finger among your eight. Its roots date back to the Great Spring Show, which first took place in Kensington in 1862. It was axed in 1912 and replaced with the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition, and has been taking place at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea since 1913.
The show has now sold out but there is plenty of coverage online and on TV, where you can indulge in the eye-candy without having to negotiate the crowds.