If I was to be allowed only one day’s holiday a year I would probably take it in the third week of May so it coincides with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. For years it has been my special treat: those gorgeous show gardens, large and small; the sight of the plants and the smell of damp soil in the Great Pavilion; plus all the stands selling garden accessories and equipment. Fabulous.
It is an inspirational show, and every year I have returned home filled with enthusiasm for new plants and ideas for new plantings in my own garden.
I take a camera with me, but gradually I have begun to notice that my pictures are less of daffodils and delphiniums and the magnificent large show gardens, but more of the cleverly constructed and designed more intimate gardens and also the unusual themed displays inside the Great Pavilion.
The sound of a steel band seduces me, and if I hear one playing other stands are ignored until I have found it. Last year I tracked one down to the Spice Island of Grenada , one of the romantically named Windward Islands of the Caribbean. There was my steel band, and beside it Johnson Beharry VC , one of Grenada’s most famous sons, looking resplendent in his immaculate, medalled adorned uniform.
It was a colourful display too with its mix of exotic flowers and whole spices complete with a beach scene and rainforest plants. My last visit to the island had been a year before the terrible hurricane which caused so much devastation. But that was years ago and the island has long been back to its true beauty, as I stood looking at the scene it made me think it was time I returned.
Kirstenbosch and Cape Cod
Similarly with Kirstenbosch, South Africa’s vast, magnificent, botanical garden which exhibits regularly at Chelsea. Its 2014 theme was ‘In Harmony with Nature’, and included a tribute to the late Nelson Mandela along with dioramas of four different South African habitats. An earlier show visit had inspired me to visit Kirstenbosch for myself; a truly memorable experience.
I found the Cape Cod sand-dune garden of the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism inspiring me too, not that I want to replicate it in my garden, but it served as a reminder that I have not been to Massachusetts for years.
A World War One tribute garden
Seeing orchids ‘growing’ on the Thailand and Sri Lankan stands has encouraged me to see them growing in their own natural island habitats one day.
Similarly the charming and popular Artisan Garden representation of fabled Togenkyu has made me determined to visit Japan.
Closer to home last year I lingered to admire the Stoke-on-Trent council’s garden. It certainly put the city on the map for those of us who stopped to admire the lovely planting.
And truly inspirational in another way was Birmingham City Council’s moving WW1 tribute. Made entirely from flowers and sustainable materials it brilliantly told the story from trench warfare to battles in the skies.
What, I wonder, will the Chelsea Flower Show inspire and wow us with this year? A.H.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place 19 -23 May 2015. For tickets and full information visit www.rhs.org.uk