Usually RHS Chelsea occurs in May, but for the very first time in its history, this year it has opened its doors on the autumn equinox. It’s an exciting chance for garden and plant lovers to see this extraordinary show in a completely different season and we weren’t disappointed.
Imagine your favourite late summer flowers, fruits and vegetables all rolled into a fabulous mouthwatering harvest festival of rich colourful flowers, lush green foliage all seasoned with the drama, exuberance and hot spice of a theatrical musical and you come a little closer to what’s in store at this year’s show. As the gates open in darkness on press day, the rising sun illuminated the gardens with its blushing dawn light and it was go go go. Here are five things that caught my eye at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Some of the exciting new installations at this year’s show are the houseplant studios.
Seek it out along Ranelagh Gardens where houseplant aficionadas have styled up some garden studios. Each one has the wow factor, offering ideas, inspirations and some incredibly fascinating plant options, combining subtle shades of green foliage, tactile textures and sculptural forms. It’s hard to pick a favourite and that’s great because you can immerse yourself in the different styles and themes. Prepare to be surprised by the shocking pink creation, The Green Room by Ian Drummond of Indoor Garden Design or immerse yourself in the Green Bathroom Retreat by Conservatory Archives.
Look out for the contemporary art installation along Northern Road at the top of the showground. It’s a Banksyesque transit van that would have been quite at home at Banksy’s Dismaland Installation in Somerset. The van has been expertly and beautifully hand cut with floral themes and repurposed with extraordinary finesse by artist Dan Rawlings. A traffic light with similar treatment flickers from red to red to amber, stopping travellers in its wake. It’s a nod to the reality that our attempts at recycling need to extend far beyond our current levels. Here in a corner of the showground are traffic lights and rubble interrupting the flower show and indeed the road works. Titled ‘Delays Expected (2021)’ it’s presented by the Saatchi Gallery which provides an innovative platform for contemporary art and culture.
The Great Pavilion is a pick and mix spectacular for plantaholics. September offers so many different opportunities to showcase late season flowers and plants, but one stand really stood out. Surreal Succulents staged an outstanding mix of amazing succulents to whet the appetite, exhibiting rare, new and exciting forms of these incredible plants. Succulents are the gateway plants into gardening, bridging the gap between houseplants and balcony, bathroom and patio and beyond. Be prepared to be completely wowed, not just by the variety but also the quality and different forms of these magnificent plants.
Floristry and Floral Design
Many new gardeners strive to grow Cut flowers for the home. But few would use them to create the incredible displays on show within the Great Pavilion. Stop awhile and admire and absorb not just the scenes set with flowers, but also the themes and stories behind the creation. 207 ‘Nature is our medicine’ was charming, entrancing and mesmerizing. Designed to illustrate our relationship with nature’s pharmacy it features medicinal plants, herbals and the accouterments of pharmacy. Its message is a reminder that we must protect the earth and her natural medicine chest, rather apt given the current pandemic.
Tomatoes that changed the world
Burpee Europe and Pennard Plants staged an exhibit in the Great Pavilion called ‘Ten Tomatoes that changed the world!’ It’s a fascinating exhibit with incredible facts and historical notes about a plant that represents the corner stone of many national cuisines. It’s inspired by the book of the same name by Bill Alexander coming out in 2022 that features and explores ten significant moments in the history of this extraordinary fruit. Heinz 1370 is the ketchup and soup tomato, developed by the Heinz tomato breeding tram and used in their products from the 1960’s and tasted by millions in the process. If you love tomatoes you can learn a lot from these experts and the fascinating stand and see some extraordinary tomatoes too.