Chelsea 2013 – The Pavilion

The pavilion is a great showcase for good nurseries all displaying their plants growing to perfection; the winners of the medals are always the nurseries where the owners are passionate about what they do.  A chance for the ‘big names’ to strut their stuff, Hilliers again presented us with so much to look at and it rivalled some of the show gardens for the class of its design and planting.

Vibrant colour and well-grown plants on the Hilliers stand

Vibrant colour and well-grown plants on the Hilliers stand

The cooler weather may have made it difficult for the growers to get plants ready for the show but at least it meant that they remained in tip-top condition during the week.

I noticed a new trend this year; many were selling ‘something’ not just taking orders or selling catalogues.  Seeds were an obvious choice even from nurseries whose main business is actually selling plants; others were selling small packs containing sample plants (I think they were rooted cuttings and so sidestepped the rule about NOT selling plants.  I sympathise with them, the cost of being at Chelsea must be enormous, a large percentage of their trade for a smaller nursery.  Of course they want to be present to establish themselves in the eyes of the visitors but perhaps they need the opportunity of some instant payback.  Selling something there and then is necessary for them.  Perhaps the RHS needs to address this.  I am not suggesting that the Pavilion becomes a giant market place, but with all the technology available today perhaps one could order and pay for plants at the stand and collect the plants from a collection area.  Some of the bulb companies take orders at the show and you give credit card details, payment being taken when the bulbs are dispatched; this could also work for plants by mail order which would surely encourage everyone to buy from committed nurserymen rather than buy later from unhelpful garden centres that are mostly just bringing plants from Holland, and we all know the problems that this causes in the long run.

I always head for the Tulips displays, there is nothing like seeing the colours ‘in life’ to encourage me to begin thinking about my autumn bulb order now.  All the tulips were in excellent condition, and why wouldn’t they be, they are still flowering in many UK gardens.  The following caught my eye, but I am very happy with my selections this year that came from seeing other bloggers tulips actually growing.  So what tulips worked well for you this year?

Tulip Curley Sue

Tulip Curley Sue

T. Pink Diamond, Queen of Night, Ciy of Vancouver

T. Pink Diamond, Queen of Night, City of Vancouver

Tulip Marilyn

Tulip Marilyn

Tulip Avignon

Tulip Avignon

Does anyone know the name of this? my system failed

Does anyone know the name of this? my system failed

My most interesting conversation was with the knowledgeable staff on the East Malling Reseach stand.  They are doing research into the problems that could be caused by warmer winters.  I have a similar problem; the winters here aren’t reliably cold enough for me to grow apples and pears so I will be very interested when their site is updated to included chill factor requirements for different varieties.  Also I hadn’t realised that ALL dwarfing rootstock trees don’t have a tap root, which for trees planted in drought prone area can make a huge difference to its survival.

Dwarfing root stock

Dwarfing root stock

A couple of other plants attracted my attention, maybe they’ll find their way into the garden next year.

Ixia Mabel

Ixia Mabel

Dahlia Magenta Star

Dahlia Magenta Star

Chelsea 2013 – Small Gardens

While Kazuyuki Ishihara for his garden Satoyama Life won the best in show of the Artisan gardens I have to admit to being less enthusiastic.  Don’t misunderstand me, it was beautiful.  Perfectly designed and impeccably planted but this like the Roger Platt garden I discussed yesterday was almost identical to other gardens he has created in former years.

Perhaps I am being unrealistic and certainly I’m not someone who likes change for change’s sake, but surely if the RHS can’t persuade designers to be more original then they need to change the brief and be more critical of the designs when they are submitted and not just accept them because the designer is well respected.

My favourite in the Artisan category was UN GARREG – one stone by Welsh designers Harry and David Rich.  The planting was beautifully understated and their use of stone was exemplary.  Laying the stones vertically in parts of the traditional dry stone wall showed real ingenuity.

David and Harry Rich (I think)

David and Harry Rich (I think)

The Box ball seemed a little out of place

The Box ball seemed a little out of place, the wall behind was stunning.

The planting was nicely understated

The planting was nicely understated

Iris Sultan's Palace took my eye, but not really emblamatic of a Welsh hillside

Iris Sultan’s Palace took my eye, but not really emblamatic of a Welsh hillside

There were several gardens based on recreating a natural environment this year including the above Artisan garden, The Australian Garden winner of best in show and a garden in the Fresh category that illustrates a garden in the south of France after a fire by James Basson.

Living in a more or less Mediterranean climate myself (we have colder winters than ‘true’ Mediterranean climates) I was particularly interested in how the plants looked in this garden.

New growth emerges after the fire

New growth emerges after the fire

At least here ALL the plants were suitable for the climate.  I think they had been grown in the UK though because they were ‘soft’.  I’m not sure how else I would describe them. Plants grown in Italy (or France in this case) grow tough because they don’t receive copious amounts of water, the wind is strong and the sun is really hot, the lavender in particular hardly looked like the same plant.  But this is an observation not a criticism.  I felt the contrast between the dead trees (from the fire) and the new vibrant life growing underneath was evocative of ‘place’ in a way few of the other gardens achieved.