RHS Chelsea Flower Show… there really is nothing quite like it… what an experience!
It’s definitely not for the faint hearted, the build-up is intense and it takes immense team effort to bring the designers’ ideas to life. The hustle bustle of the build is all part of the experience though. As you flop into bed late at night and set the alarm for 5.30am for the umpteenth consecutive time, the feeling is elated exhaustion - if there can be such a thing.
You can’t wait to get back on site and perfect this work of art. This garden that means so much to so many people. That beams from the TV screens; that welcomes thousands of visitors; That speaks a poignant message. Well, the New Blue Peter Garden: Discover Soil, certainly did. I’ve never seen so many people getting involved in discussions on the importance of healthy soil and how we can look after it. People were really engaging with the subject and ideas were abound.
And that’s what it is about, for so many of us. The power that comes with conveying a message in such poignant terms. Gardens that are not only beautiful and environmentally beneficial in their own right, but that also have something to say. I call these ‘Gardens with a Purpose’; Such as the Hands Off Mangrove Garden, which also featured at Chelsea. This is a garden that celebrates diversity and how gardening can be a form of healing and positive social change. At its’ core is the dedication to drive awareness and confront the impact that racial and environmental injustice has on our planet. These are big topics with a complexity of strands. But gardens like this open our eyes and stimulate us into conversations that need to be had, however complex or hard these might be.
If you ever get the chance to work at Chelsea then grab it with both hands… the experience will stay with you for a lifetime. You really get to experience what goes on beneath the surface of the show - and you can also find yourself privy to the smoke and mirrors that so cleverly make a garden which has popped into existence, look like it has been there forever. Indeed, how did we get a tree planted on our green roof!? - see if you can spot it in the images above.
You even get to wander around when it’s quiet, which is quite awe inspiring. Soaking up the atmosphere as finishing touches are applied, bees settle into their new found treasure troves, you can even hear the birds singing in the trees. Then the masses descend, and it’s a hive of activity once more. This time with excited eager faces, wanting to see the delights that have been created for them, that they have previewed on the TV.
Of course, this is about the gardens, but what also stays with you is the people. Every time I’m there I meet the most amazing people from all walks of life. There’s the gods of Monty Don and Jo Swift, who are indeed just real folk when you meet them. Equally are the contractors and gardeners who all play a part in bringing the gardens to life. It may be the intensity of the experience, but you go away feeling like you have known these people an eternity, and they now hold a special place in your heart. No more so than Juliet Sargeant, the brilliant soul who brought me into all this in the first place - Thank you for an amazing adventure Juliet!