This year's Chelsea Flower Show has seen the first signs of Summer emerging in the south east of England. With temperatures nudging 28°C (82°F) today it will certainly be a day for drinking lots of water, for humans and plants alike.
The plants at the 2012 show must be quite confused, with a warm, dry March and early April followed by a cold, wet late April and early May – they now find themselves basking in Mediterranean conditions at the end of the month! These varied weather conditions make it incredibly difficult for Chelsea’s garden designers to ‘get it right’ and I understand that the judges gave special dispensation for plants not yet in flower, or even replaced after design plans had been accepted by the RHS. Of course, most of the show’s visitors do not know about or notice these small details and the show gardens are none the worse for them.
Cleve West who is a great guy (and a friend of Quality Garden Tools) consolidated his position at the summit of contemporary garden design with another ‘Best in Show’ award and gold medal for his Brewin Dolphin garden. The garden played with conventional Chelsea style by using a wrought iron gate and honey-coloured stone built piers as a barrier at the front of the garden, making the viewer look through, over, around and behind this obstacle to see the garden within. The garden was delightfully planted – Cleve’s planting is as good as anyone I’ve ever seen and featured large, very slightly irregular (in a good way!) formal Yew topiary Daleks.
Of the other gardens at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, Arne Maynard’s was my favourite. I have long been a fan of Arne’s planting and although this garden felt slightly conservative, it was nonetheless beautiful and well worth its gold medal. Andy Sturgeon has long been ‘bankable’ for his gold medal and did not disappoint his fans with the M&G garden. The planting was generous, the colour constrained and undemanding on the senses. ‘Undemanding on the senses’ is not a description that could be employed with Diarmuid Gavin’s towering Westland Magical Garden, which was unlucky not to win a gold medal just for the bravado of the idea! BBC’s Gardeners’ World presenter Joe Swift won a deserved gold medal with his Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust Garden which included my favourite tree of the entire show, a golden brown, paper barked, multi-stemmed Prunus Maackii 'Amber Beauty'. Finally, a mention for Kazuyuki Ishihara’s Satoyama Life garden which won a gold medal, ‘Best Artisan Garden’ and was breath-taking in both its beauty and detail – let’s hope Mr Ishihara is commissioned to build another Chelsea garden soon!
On Tuesday morning I managed to find time to meet up with my friends Piers and Louise from Garden & Wood. They specialise in antique and vintage garden items and had found me a pair of old Rolcut secateurs in the original box for my collection. Piers lovingly restores garden tools, bringing them back to life while Louise finds old gardening posters and other ephemera, displaying them with the care of a museum curator.
Many garden tools manufacturers were also attending this year’s show and I managed to visit the stands of Bosch power tools, Bulldog Tools, Felco Secateurs, Hozelock, Spear & Jackson and Ethel Gloves; where Quality Garden Tools were busy selling lots of beautifully designed gardening gloves to a receptive public. Awards were not just confined to the gardens and I was delighted that the Ethel Gloves stand won a 3rd consecutive certificate of commendation from the RHS.
So, if you didn't manage to get to tickets to this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, why not try and visit in 2013?
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