I spent yesterday down at the Chelsea Flower Show and as usual had a great time, though I was absolutely shattered by the time I got home. Today is a day of recovery.
I learnt many years ago that the best plan is to get there as early as possible, and by judicious timing, caught the right combination of trains and got to the gates at 8.15am, just 15 minutes after they opened. This gave me a couple of hours to get round the gardens before the crowds built up.
As usual I started with the Artisan gardens as they seem to be best in the early morning shade, particularly the wonderful Japanese combination of garage balcony and wall covered in Maples. As expected, it was the best Artisan garden and the designer (who does a garden every year) was happy to pose with the crowds of fans.
The main gardens were the usual mix of conceptual and more traditional styles, but all were planted superbly with clever plant combinations even if the overall design and structure didn't find favour. This was exemplified on the tv coverage with the overall best in show, by Andy Sturgeon, which split opinion, been seen as a very 'masculine' design with a lot of hard angular stone and metal work. I thought it was good, but preferred the Provence garden by L'Occitane, probably because of it's naturalistic appearance and because it had a lot of the sort of plants I like. The other really good gardens for me were the Mathematical garden, Rosy Hardy's chalk stream, and Cleve West's interpretation of Exmoor.
In the smaller gardens, Jekka McVicars apothacary garden stood out, and the Great Ormond Street garden was excellent. I also enjoyed the rather interesting plant choice in the Garden of Potential, using plants from Crug Farm nursery. The one garden I couldn't get to was the one in the stone cube-the queue was very long at I guess you would have to wait maybe half an hour to get to peer through the tiny holes.
Having spent just over two hours looking over the gardens, it took me a further two hours to make my way through the marquee. Hard to pick a favourite as there is very little I am not interested in, but the orchid stands, the carnivorous plants stands (picked up some useful tips for mine from one of them), and those specialising in the woodland perennials stood out (especially the Hepaticas). The team from Pennarth in Cornwall were present-I'm a sucker for some of their plants so stopped for a chat. I also had to stop at Plantbase with their Devil's Tomato and flowering Amorphophallus Konjac (another one whose plants I cannot stop buying). My Amorphphallus has yet to flower-theirs had just started and the smell was still tolerable.
After a bit of lunch I spent a couple of hours just wandering around taking in the sights, and looking at some of the trade stands, looking at the gardens again as the lighting conditions had changed, and revisiting some of my favourites.
Some of my photos have been put up on my Flikr site. They are all pretty much all snapshots, straight out of the camera, with maybe the odd slight tweak.