Tuesday, 21 May 2013

the greatest flower show on earth

The Chelsea flower show was wonderful.  We've been recording the TV programmes about it, and will sit down to watch them in a minute.  Really the media coverage nowadays is so comprehensive that there isn't a lot of point my adding to it on the blog.  Without photos.

Initial impressions.  The bag checks on the way in were perfunctory.  I could have had a small pearl handled revolver in my handbag and the security guard who glanced inside it would never have noticed.  And the RHS has doubled the price of show programmes to ten pounds.

Apart from that it was all jolly nice.  Recession seems to be biting slightly, either that, or the disinclination of large corporations to be seen to be associated with conspicuous consumption and elitist activities, since trade stands and catering occupied some spaces which I'm sure used to contain show gardens, in the sunny upland years before the global banking crisis.  This year's standard was very high, and the Gold Medal quota was higher than ever, but almost everyone played it safe in design terms.  Plenty of soft-edge modernist, interlocking rectangles softened with abundant but harmonious planting, some nods to the Arts and Crafts movement, nothing that represented a decisive break from gardens I've seen before at Chelsea, many times.

My favourite bit is the pavilion, and when the Systems Administrator and I divide forces for a while, as we always do, I spend my time looking at the plant stands rather than the show gardens.  I have no idea how you stage exhibits like those with clematis and why they don't break in transit or while you are trying to put the stand up.  Broadleigh Bulbs have ceased exhibiting, as they said they would, but Kevock are exciting new kids on the block, there for the second year.  This year I must buy some of their fritillaries.  Other favourites were still represented, thank goodness.  Auriculas, them reckless plants, as Margery Fish's old gardener used to call them.

I checked my phone mid morning, as I'd felt it buzz.  Bloms had sent me an e-mail to say they had won their 63rd Gold at Chelsea.  I already knew that, since I'd seen it.  Peter Beales and David Austin roses both got Golds as well.  Phew.  Poor Peter Beales is dead now.  He was too ill to attend for the past couple of years and used to be represented by his straw hat.  The hat was there again this year, with a nice photograph of him, presumably taken during the set up for a show, since he is wearing a high-vis vest.

We bumped into one of my friends from work, with her friend, who is a committed galanthophile and stalwart of the Suffolk branch of Plant Heritage.  I didn't meet the boss and the owner, but given the crowds it is fairly unlikely you'll run across anyone you know.  We sometimes meet former City colleagues, contacts and competitors, but not today.

It was quite cold.  It wasn't forecast to be warm, and we'd gone dressed accordingly, but I kept my wind proof coat zipped up for most of the day, over my heavyweight Icelandic sweater, and at times I wished I'd had a hat and scarf.  And gloves.  My hands got astonishingly cold at one point.  They tend to be chilly, which probably accounts for my relative success at making pastry.

I didn't buy or order any plants, though I did get a catalogue from Lockyers, purveyors of reckless plants.  They don't have a website.  Or accept credit cards or PayPal.  The Systems Administrator bought me a present, a Dutch stainless steel sharp thing with a cherry wood handle for scraping weeds out from between paving stones.  For the full Kiplingesque effect I ought to use a broken dinner knife, but a Sneeboer stone scratcher will be more effective.

Having arrived at nine, by half past four I had to admit that I'd seen most of it (though I managed to miss the iconoclastic gnomes) and that it was getting too crowded.  I left on a high, but after sitting on the tube all the way back to Liverpool Street, when I had to get up again I realised that my clockwork had run down.

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