Hastings Battleaxe hits the Chelsea Flower Show.

Well, you have to go once, don’t you?  We’ve never been to the Chelsea Flower Show, and thought we’d give it a try. Who knows, we may have become avid Chelsea addicts. We enjoyed our day, but fortunately for our bank balance, one visit is enough.

Our first view of the Chelsea crowds – not too bad

     Weather-wise, we had the best day of the Chelsea week – warm, sunny but not too hot.
     As usual, we’d been watching Chelsea on the telly – we do so every year. I’d been dreading the crowds. It always looks a seething mass of humanity on TV. Battleaxe doesn’t do long queues or not being able to see things – but it was not too bad at all. You could move round fairly easily and get to see even the most popular show gardens. However, there was no time to stand and stare – no matter what the telly presenters say about being able to ‘lose yourself in the tranquillity’ of such and such, believe me, that was never going to happen.
    We started off with a cup of coffee and a faintly stale Chelsea bun, and then hit the Great Pavilion.  Lots of luverly flowers.  However, for Battleaxe, smell is as important as sight. I presume because the plants are so forced, most smells were absent. Some of the roses did smell, but when you bent down to sniff them, instead you got a pungent whiff of faintly rancid damp bark chippings.  They looked fabulous, though.

Perfect roses

    We went to visit the Birmingham City Council exhibit. They have a noble civic gardening history and always have a big display at Chelsea – once again, a gold medal. They were the only local authority to exhibit this year, and one of the few remaining to train gardening apprentices etc. Let’s hope they can continue to afford these fantastic initiatives…. This year’s stand was designed in association with micro-sculptor Willard Wigan, who makes little things that fit into the eye of a needle.  You could look down microscopes on the display and see them…
     We encountered the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Birmingham. The Lord Mayor is now Carl Rice – good solid Labour. We told them we were lapsed Brummies, and had a long chat – what a nice man, and his missus, too.

Battleaxe with the Lord and Lady Mayoress….

A little bit of the Brum display

     Next, we visited our own Rotherview Nurseries from Hastings, who had won their first-ever gold medal with their lovely display of tufa troughs.  We’ve been down to the nursery often, and it features in Battleaxe’s 2013 post on Best Garden Centres.

Helen from Rotherview, gold medal card in the background

The Rotherview display

    One of the big ‘must-see’s’ in the Pavilion was an old Pullman railway car built into a display of ferns. This has been featured on several of the TV programmes, and was supposed to be incredibly incredible. Like many others, we queued up and went through the car, which was pretty, and out the other side. Quaint? Yes. Interesting? Faintly. Incredible. No. Would it tempt me to buy ferns from that nursery? No. Worth the effort of dragging a hundred ton railway carriage to the showground? No, not in my view.  See also Show Gardens below – using vast publicity-grabbing items for effect.

Nice Pullman car

To promote a few tree ferns…

   Our verdict on the Great Pavilion? Interesting and very colourful, but not mind-shattering. I suppose if you were a dedicated plantsperson, you would have been more into the new varieties of this and that.Most of the stands gave you the opportunity to take a catalogue and even buy some little plants. I bought some seeds. Here are a few pictures…


Spooky pitcher plants. There is a fly on one. We watched him for ages, but he wasn’t going to sacrifice himself..

Beautiful cacti – how do they get them all to flower?
Beautiful bonsai

    Next, we looked for somewhere to have a sit-down and eat something. Found a stage area with a troupe of buxom girls jumping around energetically and doing songs from the musicals.  They must have had excellent support underwear.  We did find a seat among a huge crowd clearly with the same idea as us.

Huge crowd taking advantage of seats….

    I had a plastic glass of Pimms for £6.95. (Battleaxe handy hint for tackling Pimms bars at events like this – ask for one ice-cube. Normally they put about 10 cubes in the glass and there is no room for the alcohol…..)
    Then to the Artisan Gardens – I liked this one with room for the Mini underneath.

    Main Avenue and the Show Gardens.  As I said above, the gardens were easier to view than I expected, but were we blown away by them? No, to be honest. Some of the planting was lovely, but they are so artifical, and dare I say it, in some cases, a bit naff.
    I also felt that some designers were so keen to impress by using massive trees, vast boulders, heavy chunks of iron, huge structures etc that they had lost their plots. Just don’t get me started on those revolving bay trees…. Here’s a selection of photos.

I liked this one…

Nice planting

Looked more washed out in real life than it did on the telly

This was the overall winning Show Garden.

Naff, and you’d kill yourself on that slippy marble

I liked this one – the Apothecary Garden

And I liked this one – for Great Ormond Street

    Then the smaller ‘Fresh’ Gardens, and really, that was it, apart from about a million trade stands.  The goods on offer varied from ridiculously OTT expensive to plain tacky. I heard someone on TV say that perhaps the show organisers should vet the goods on offer more carefully. Some of the stuff was the same as you’d see at the market in Hastings Town Centre on a Thursday, only three times the price.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the market in Hastings, but when you pay a lot of money to go to Chelsea, you want to see goods that are innovative, high quality etc etc.
    Did we enjoy the day? Yes. Were we glad to have had the Chelsea experience? Yes. Would we go again? No.  People have told us that they prefer the Hampton Court RHS Show. We’ll try that.
   Here are a few final pictures:

Obligatory Chelsea Pensioner

One thing I couldn’t see well – carpet of poppies

Well dodgy geezer…..

Nice shapes



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Comments from Google+