Defiance against the threat of rain, mixed with cheery, summer-bright hues – and that was just TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp in a striking orange coat! The RHS Chelsea Flower Show officially opens today, but The Luxury Channel was especially invited along yesterday to have a sneak peek around the Centenary show.
Organised by the Royal Horticulture Society, the Chelsea Flower Show has spent a hundred years celebrating all that is great and good about gardens, plants and flowers. From its first year of generating a mere £88 in profit (around £4000 in today’s money), Chelsea has grown to become one of the biggest attractions in the horticultural calendar, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors and exhibitors each year from all across the globe.
Best In Show went to one of the biggest gardens at this year’s show, Fleming’s Nurseries and Trailfinders’ Australian Garden. It not only looked impressive, with large fountains of native plants and a bespoke studio overlooking the entire garden (not to mention a troupe of amphibian gymnastic performers!), but also harboured a serious message about water conservation. The garden’s water feature is powered by solar panels, and the trees themselves hold water in reserve for when it is scarce. This wasn’t the only garden to highlight the issue of water, however, as The Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr was on hand at the Herbert Smith Freehills Garden for Water Aid, reflecting the work the charity does to provide clean water and sanitation in India.
It wasn’t all serious at Chelsea this year though, as a sense of fun and quirkiness pervaded. From Alice In Wonderland ceramics to costumed characters, there was a real sense of myth and make-believe. In a very rare break from tradition, the RHS has fuelled this somewhat by lifting its ban on mythical creatures, by inviting celebrities from stage and screen to paint their own gnomes. On display in the RHS stand opposite the Australia Garden, visitors can view gnomes from everyone from Sir Elton John to Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.
Further down from the RHS stand, one of the more impressive exhibitors at the show was driftwood sculptor James Doran-Webb, whose lion tree was a feature in itself. Also worth mentioning are David Harber’s metallic sculptures, perfect for introducing a piece of art into your garden, and oak garden furniture makers Gaze Burvill, who will soon be collaborating with Jamie Oliver on a new range of kitchens.
With a hundred years under its belt, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show’s legacy is already assured, but this centenary show is certainly a fabulous celebration of why we love getting a bit of dirt under our fingernails. On that note, we’re heading outside!
Winners of The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2013:
Best In Show: Fleming’s Nurseries And Trailfinders’ Australian Garden
Best Artisan Garden: Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory’s Tokonoma Garden
Best Fresh Garden: Scape Design’s After The Fire Garden
RHS Chelsea Plant of The Year 2013: Mahonia eurybrachteata, subspecies ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’ (exhibited by the SeeAbility Garden)