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I first went to Chelsea in 1970 as part of a team creating a stand for Rochfords House Plants.

For me as a young gardener, it was exciting but extremely hard work. 

The next time I went was some 15 years later, as a visitor rather than a worker.....but still thrilling.

Since then, I've only watched the TV a nation, we do seem to "do gardens and gardening " pretty well but I still have the feeling that Chelsea these days is a bit hyped ?.....Could just be me being grumpy but what do others think ?

I agree Philippa, i think if I went I,d feel a bit underwhelmed, as I said on another thread  gardens there are more art installation than proper gardens

Victoria Sponge

I've got tickets for Fri and I'm wondering if I'll find it all a bit sterile...for want of a better word...but that's just an assumption based on the designs I've seen...

I've never been before so it will be an experience and I'm going with my sister and it'll be nice to see her again


I loved most of the coverage but was frustrated that there isn't a whole 20 minute section at the end of every programme which would just show the plants with their names on the screen.  Just so that we weren't reduced to only hearing what a particular presenter specifically like on the day.  It was frustrating watching interviews about one thing when behind them was a magnificent display of stunning plants - but only as a backdrop.

I loved it - but to me it was heavy marketing - business driven with great emphasis on design, design, design for the large gardens.  It's so difficult only having a tv perspective but from what I saw on tv only, most of the judges popular large gardens seemed to have a large expanse of lawn or water, concrete or stone and a pavilion of similar style and shape.  Musn't generalise though.

We often bemoan that gardening programmes seldom cater these days to what in another thread was termed the 'average' (for want of a better descriptive one off word).  My garden is about 20ft long and tapers like a triangle from 20ft wide to 8ft wide at the bottom.  But to me it feels bigger than growing up in the 50's in a row of council houses which had a small square garden at the front and a slightly larger garden for veg and stuff at the back (if you were lucky)   But I felt I was enlightened by the concentration on  modern sell/marketing  on perhaps todays big business target  sector when after they were describing how great an accomplishment the Fresh(?) gardens were at only 3 meters wide and then Sophie Rowarth described her garden as a miniature or small garden at 'only 30 feet'.  So if that's miniature these days, I can see why some programmes and events are a bit overtaken with large and more expensive garden design elements that what we had in earlier threads described as 'average'.  Nothing against big gardens of course (I would love one) - but is it just me or does almost the bulk of the interest and gushing comments tend to go in the direction of the loads of concrete or stone surface with a pavilion?

I loved the bit where people were wandering around with their mothers, in particular Julian Clary as it drew my attention to a stunning pale yellow peony - so for that I'm really glad Julian Clary had an interest in peonies otherwise I would never have seen it.

Good stuff - as far as tv coverage goes.  I liked the format and everyone seemed comfortable and have plenty to say.  More plant viewing needed for tv though.  Much more.  The only thing which made me drift away was the Rachel part about recipes for planting combinations.  Probably all great ideas...but I didn't find it that interesting.

Yarrow just the plants and names would be great, I like rachel but yawn... It is annoying just naming a few plants when you see others in the background that don,t get mentioned


Forgot to say my gardens about same as yours, I bought a ,small garden, book sorry about this punctuation, on hubby,s iPAD, can,t use it... Book, it said small garden about size of tennis court! I,d love that!


It's interesting isn't it.  I suppose back in Victorian times or pre then, the great plant hunters and nobility collectors coined many of the historical descriptions which lasted for years.   But, really interesting always to read how they learned a great deal from the folk with the cottage gardens who depended on what they produced for medicinal, food, drink, etc etc.

A tennis court ay - blimey!  If we're going to aspire to that, I'd better practice my serve...that will be...a tall glass, couple of inches of ice cubes, couple of inches of ginger wine and topped up with ice cold ginger beer.  Fabulous on a sunny day.

 Mike..........did you ever exhibit at Chelsea ?  I only did as part of a team as per my OP................exciting stuff............. You sound of an age to have been involved  more or less when I was.


I've just got home after spending yesterday at Chelsea.  I enjoyed myself - lots of lovely plants, friendly co-visitors and a lovely atmosphere but I did find the designs of the main gardens very repetitive and lacking innovation.   Most even used the same plants and colour palette though in different ways.   Lots of irises, alliums, peonies, astrantias as usual and, this year, bright blue anchusas which I've sown for my own garden this year.   How did they know? 

My favorite main garden was the Help for Heroes because it felt right and was beautifully planted but had space to walk and sit and enjoy it.  The most sumptuous planting was the Stoke-On-Trent garden with cool whites, creams and greens at one end morphing into rich reds and bronzes at the other.   The Cloudy Bay garden had some luscious plant combintaions too but too many ornamental grasses dominating the other pants and masking the colours.  The First Touch garden had wonderful plant combinations and I felt the terracing using metal strips to hold the levels was do-able by ordinary gardeners and could be made curvy and softer and more sinuous if desired for both the terracing and the water pools.

The Laurent Perrier that won best in show had too much hard landscaping and to me felt too cool and hard and uninviting except for the one bed full of creamy lupins.   I like a garden to feel welcoming and fun.   The Daily Telegraph Italiniate garden was so neat and tidy and so refined and controlled it felt sterile.  AT's Britain in Bloom garden was very clever and I really liked the Yorkshire moors leading down to the beach but not so much the beach planting which was all too wussy to survive in my garden.   Beach hut to die for though.

The most ingenious designs this year were in the Artisans gardens - another wonderful Japanese garden but the best for me was the Potters' garden which was full of lovely touches from the use of a row of curved tiles in the kiln to make a pattern in the bricks to the plants growing on the roof tiles, the paths made from broken pots and the water butt plus some good planting. 

Lots of lovely stuff in the floral pavillion from stunning plants, flowers, fruit and veg to the Birmingham city steam train and aircraft  and the fun of the agricultural students' dress designs using plant material.    

I've come away with some great inspiration for plant and colour combos for adapting in my garden and some new lily bulbs, a few packs of seeds and 2 peony supports, 2 hanging baskets and a gekko.    Came home to find we'd had a major hailstorm last night and my prize hostas in pots have been shredded and other plants blown over so lots to check and fix tomorrow.


There are two threads about Chelsea now and I want to post this in both of them!  Sorry your garden was wrecked obelixx, hope the weather allows you to fix things up today.  I'm currently looking at the rain coming down and hoping everything bears up to the battering  

I went to Chelsea in 2006 with my mum and we had a fantastic time.  Yes it was crowded but not too bad, I remember some lovely gardens and so many amazing displays in the pavilion.  I'm planning to go again next year and I'm looking forward to it already.

However - deep breath - I've been watching the coverage on the BBC this week (I'm catching up on the iplayer so I've not seen it all so far) and I have to say it is driving me mad.  All the non-gardening presenters are supremely irritating.  There is far too much talking about stuff like how wonderful it is that all these young designers are coming through (yawn) and how amazing the design of the large gardens is (yawn).  I'm an "average" gardener, I have no training and I've never shown at Chelsea, but I am interested in design because it does influence what I do, in that I take ideas and try and adapt them to my small space.  But no-one is saying anything interesting about it from the point of view of planting, or so it seems to me.

Also - another deep breath - the BBC coverage that I've watched so far is so repetitive.  I'm sure I've seen the same five or six large gardens again and again.  There must be more than that.  And the same two artisans gardens.  And the same two or three fresh gardens.  I'm tired of listening to that designer they seem to have adopted and looking at his garden, although it is nice.  I do like the Hope for Heroes garden but seriously - is this it?  I know it's a matter of taste but I think Cleve West's garden is dull and uninspiring - the plants are lovely but are dwarfed by the ugly hard landscaping which leaches the life and colour from the plants.

The best bit I've seen so far is some woman who I don't know looking at alpines - she had a great personality, obviously loved her subject and had an interesting little chat with an exhibitor discussing - oh my goodness - THE PLANTS.  Sadly it was too brief and then it was back to a load of rubbish.  And Rachel's bit was disappointing - why didn't she just look at a garden and analyse the planting, instead of the BBC dressing it up as a "recipe"?  Those stupid cooking programmes have got a lot to answer for.  The BBC think we all watch them avidly and will be instantly attracted by a reference to cooking like a load of sheep. 

Anyway sorry for the massive rant.  In short, Chelsea coverage is dumbed down rubbish and shows what the BBC think of the "average" gardener, or indeed the "average person".  Thankfully we're not that stupid.


But Daisy - you're talking about it...that's what design - (of any kind)  should  do - get people talking, arguing and debating 

Job done!

The much lauded Lancelot 'Capability' Brown was vilified in his day for removing all the terracing and formal areas and replacing them with grass. 

A garden can mean lots of different things to people. I need a calm, cool garden so, for me, the winning show garden was delightful. It could also easily adapt to a standard suburban garden for a family. 

Horses for courses 

I don't like the 'fripperies' either I must admit. That's the advantage of recording. What a pleasure to have the fast forward button....


Please don't misunderstand me, Fairygirl.  Perhaps I didn't make it clear that I love Chelsea and I am interested in garden design, especially as I'm hopeless at it and just steal ideas!! It's the BBC's coverage that is annoying. Although I've just watched Tuesday night's episode and that was a bit better.  And there were some different gardens on - although I still think that the planting is generally uninspiring this year...apart from some lovely exceptions.


Off to watch Wednesday's episodes now


I was a bit alarmed to hear Monty say that there may be changes afoot at Chelsea - not that I'm averse to change, but he hinted that the idea of 'themed years' for the show gardens might be introduced, rather than the designers and sponsors having total choice!

The farce that is Great British Menu leapt to mind 

My feeling too about a feature dedicated just to the suggested.  For me that's the part I really long to see.  Carol Kleine is the plant commentator, it seems, so its her I look to her  this discussion about the plants. maybe tonight this will happen.!!!

Scott Edwards

I have only ever been to the Malvern Flower show (abiding memory - eating a burger in the pouring rain) and would love to one day go to both Hampton Court and Chelsea.

I get a little frustrated when i'st clear that plants are taking a huge second place to design. Not all by any stretch of the imagination, but some of the designers, seem to have a lot of expertise in design but a very limited knowledge of plants. Some of the gardens seem to have a very limited planting.

I agree entirely with Verdun that I look forward to Carol Kleine introducing specific plants and talking to the experts that grow them. I wish more time was spent in the Pavilion. It's plants and good planting schemes and combinations that excite me.

I would recommend that the coverage of the celebrities (many of whom are clearly not keen gardeners) be entirely removed. I am less interested in the lives and ill informed opinions of the famous than they are in me. I want plants, plants and more plants please. 


And plants, plants and more plants Scott ......ha ha 


..fascinating write up obelixx..thanks for that..really felt I was there too...


Well glad I'm not alone in disliking the coverage.  In the middle of watching Tuesday's show ( I think- I'm getting a bit confused!!) but my bare root rose from David Austin has arrived so I need to plant it out.  The rain has stopped so hopefully all will be well.


When I first went to Chelsea in 1990 it was all rock banks and water courses and totally unrelated plants from several seasons all flowering at once.   Now it's much more about using seasonal plants in the show gardens hence the saminess of some of the planting schèmes with one or two particularly in favour each year.    This year it's anchusa and lysimachia Beaujolais.

Cleve West is a plantsman and combines them beautifully in his designs every year.  I can understand the design of his garden this year and his tribute to the origins of gardens as oases of calm and pleasure in a hostile dessert but I don't want one.   Chris Beardshaw is another all round designer and plantsman and his gardens are always covetable and inspirational.

Other garden deigners, Joe Swift included, are designers first who just use plants as decoration without really being gardeners who love and tend plants and gardens themselves.   I usually find their gardens clever or interesting or sometimes dreadful but they have no soul because it's about show not substance.   Garden rooms, not gardens for people, kids, dogs or the love of plants.

I find the coverage of Chelsea is very repetitive and limits itself to a few gardens and topics.  Given the air time and the number of presenters they could do each of the gardens and each of the nursery stands in the floral marquee and skip the celebs.   Leave them for the glossy mags.   Stick to the essentials of Chelsea - plants and plant combinations and design solutions we can adapt to our own gardens.

obelixx wrote (see)

............. Cleve West is a plantsman and combines them beautifully in his designs every year.  I can understand the design of his garden this year and his tribute to the origins of gardens as oases of calm and pleasure in a hostile dessert but I don't want one.   Chris Beardshaw is another all round designer and plantsman and his gardens are always covetable and inspirational.

Other garden deigners, Joe Swift included, are designers first who just use plants as decoration without really being gardeners who love and tend plants and gardens themselves.   I usually find their gardens clever or interesting or sometimes dreadful but they have no soul because it's about show not substance. ................

Oh how I agree!!!