Updated: Oct 15
Last minute, I took myself to RHS Chelsea Flower show 2022 and as well as the wonderful weather and blooms galore, it brought back memories of the few times I have been before.
It is an astounding show but always busy, busy, busy, and the whole day for me is rather overwhelming. I very much appreciate the fact that I could go and don't underestimate the privilege of getting to see it, but by watching it on tv at least you get to see the gardens without having to stand on tiptoe and peering between shoulders. So, I go not just for a rare glimpse of a garden but to meet the people on the stands, they are really friendly despite having been on their feet for hours and after all the days of setting up. If you get a short window to talk to them they extremely helpful on gardening tips, and are all incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable which is always wonderful to witness.
This years show was for me a chance to find some tips on keeping the plants I have alive and to order some replacements of plants that I left behind at my previous home. I am super slow at choosing and can do 4- 5 rounds of the marquee. Even then I can come away empty handed, with so much choice it can be a tricky decision.
This visit, I also found the planting around the stands to be some of the prettiest I have ever seen. I came home ladened with more ideas than shopping bags.
NB I have added links to all my finds on this post, I am not paid or have any financial links with the companies mentioned. I just thought it was polite to add the links :)
The first time I went to the RHS Chelsea Flower show was with my little mum. She was super excited to go having never been before and was still young enough to enjoy it but old enough to get exhausted by the adventure.
I recall we spent the morning wondering about the big flower Pavillion as it was too busy to get close enough to see the gardens. Poor mum had watched it for years on tv and imagined it would be as serene as it was for the queen, alas, our lack of blue blood, and connections, meant we had to visit on a busy day, along with all the other ladies wishing they could be the Queen for just one day.
We walked up and down the avenue of shops and I showed mum the botanical artists who had stands there, Ann Swan gave us a lovely warm welcome and her art was as beautiful as ever. We also stepped into one other botanical artist stand, (a name I can not/will not mention) as the lady rudely told us, if we were not buying to leave her stand.
'Mum and I left 'tout suite', I was embarrassed and apologised to my mum. I have only met the lady one other time and she was a little unkind to me then as well, not sure what I had done to deserve this, but hey ho.
We eventually left the show in desperation of a nice quiet cup of tea, I took mum to the kings road, Peter Jones department store, where mum took no time in befriending some ladies on the next table (she was excellent at that), to tell them I had just been awarded membership to the SBA, she was so proud, bless her. That must have been around 2001, a long and happy time ago now.
The next time I was at RHS Chelsea, was as a guest on the Alitex stand, Alitex make and sell the most beautiful Aluminium greenhouses.https://www.alitex.co.uk/greenhouses/national-trust-greenhouse-collection/hidcote have a look and see, they are dreamy.
Nelly Hall the creative director had seen my botanical illustrations and cartoons of ladies in large frocks ( I was painting a lot of them at the time) and she invited me to be the artist in the greenhouse/art studio that they were building at the show that year. I was very excited and honoured to be asked. I still dream of owning one of their gorgeous greenhouses, they are terrific but at the moment I don't think I need one anything bigger than my sweet little cupboard greenhouse.
The guest slot all went really well and I was able to see the hard work that goes into building and running a stand. I was given bracelet passes for each day and on the first day I took up my position as artist in residence and painted on and off through the day. I was so busy painting, I had lost track of time, my bracelet pass did not allow me to stay during the Queens visit, but no one had noticed me and I was too busy painting an iris. By the time I realised that I should have left the garden, it was too late and the Queen was walking through and passed by the stand. Luckily she was on the other side and though I caught a glimpse of her, the genteel party and security passed on and I was safe from discovery and removal. I was amazed at how tiny the Queen was and how her hair was so perfectly coiffed. I am pleased to say the week went on without any further breaking of rules.
The show take down was exhausting, trying to get all my bits and paintings packed and out to Simon, who was double parked and waiting in the car, transporting my goods through crowds of folk ladened with plants was challenging. One chap actually stopped me halfway and demanded that I unload my trolley and lend it to him to get his huge plant home (it was my own trolley, the show doesn't rent them) but apparently he only lived a few streets away and he would only be an hour! My hair was stuck to my face with sweat, I must have looked exhausted and vulnerable, even so I did stop and thought about helping him, but to unload my stuff in the middle of a crowd and wait for an hour in the beating sun, and with Simon at threat of a parking ticket, I said that I was sorry but I just couldn't and with that he then shouted to me 'how utterly selfish' I was :(
Honestly, I must have a face that says 'yes, it's ok to shout at this lady, she won't mind'. I think I slept in most of the following day with the curtains drawn.
I didn't go to the flower show again for a few years after that as the boys were young and life was busy, but eventually my next visit was with friends and that was really fun and trauma free, and then of course my following visit was this week, where I took myself, last minute, on my own, just to find inspiration and fill up my floral barometre. I kept my head down.
First, I headed to Alitex to see Nelly and say hi, the Alitex stand, celebrating its 60th year at Chelsea, was as gorgeous as ever. It was also, as always, lovely to see the gorgeous Nelly, such a fantastic stylist. www.alitex.co.uk . Here I am working away, back when I was artist in residence 2010. (my old hair colour...sigh) and my favourite Alitex greenhouse the Hidcote from their national trust collection.
Then just on the stand opposite was an old friend Ali Dempster now the MD of 'The Cashmere Caveman Co', wild, outdoor kitchens.
The kitchen is beneath a glamorous campaign style tent, with a central cooking table and fab throne-like chairs around, the idea being that you sit around the warmth and cook. Lusharama! and the stand won an award for being so fantastic, so my friend Ali was very proud and rightly so. I would add my photo of Ali here but his eyes were shut in both snaps and you can’t post bad shots of a friend :).
I headed to the Pavillion and hunted out some of my favourite plants.
I am a perennial kind of gal', I like to know a plant will stay and come back bigger and better each year, I love leaves, the different colours of leaf are often the main structure to my planting, haha like I know what I am doing? I am still learning lots about gardening and one thing I have learnt is that plants don't have to stay where you first plant them. My plants know that if they look sad, I will move them as many times as it takes to make them happy, well they should know that as I tell them often enough.
I spent a good deal of time at Hogarth Hostas www.hogarth-hostas.co.uk
I was in heaven, I did not know that there was even a thing as miniature hostas.! First documented in Japan in 1911, since then collecting them has been growing in popularity and why wouldn't it? They are so iddy biddy (see the ridictionary for the definition of iddy biddy, part 14). Excuse my horrid gardening hand but it gives you a good idea of scale.
And just look at his name! 'Dancing Mouse'.
'Minihostaman' can be found in Berkshire.
I took home a little hosta called 'Funny Mouse'
Well I would do, wouldn't I? There he is, bottom left in my shady corner.
Spurred on by my mini purchase, I came across the Hoyland plant centre based in south yorkshire www.somethingforthegarden.co.uk They were featuring hardy Nerines and Amarines (Amarines are a hybrid cross between Amaryllis Belladonna and Nerine Bowdenii) for a sunny, well drained area, I was thinking to plant my Nerines in my front garden up against the building where it gets very hot. Of course, I bought the pink as well as the white nerine, they were not expensive and will be a lovely colour in late summer early autumn.
Hopefully they can feature in a tutorial or two.
Next I went to see More & More plants who specialise in shade tolerant and woodland plants
The staff/growers were so knowledgeable and helpful and I will peruse their site for ideas in the future. What was great about their stand was that it moved from dry shade to wet shade and all those in between and was beautifully laid out. See I do like yellow a bit more these days :)
I was very tempted to order more peonies but there is no room at present in my flower beds, I would need to dig some more but Primrose Hall Peonies were gorgeous. www.primrosehallpeonies.co.uk The collection was stunning and I would recommend a visit.
You can even order them as a gift by post!
Their Paeonia Cytherea bares a strong resemblance to the bunch of peonies tutorial that I painted, do you agree?
There are lots of super interesting stands at the show
I stopped to admire A Textile garden for Fashion Revolution designed by Lottie Delamain. This wonderful garden stand was inspired by a trip to Vietnam where they grow hemp and indigo alongside their food so they can make their own clothes as well. With little or no carbon footprint for these clothes it is a far cry from our modern mass production of clothes.The garden was planted with the plants to make cloth and dyes, from ordinary nettle to flax, there were baths or ponds built around with cloth in a natural dye vat. The colours were beautiful, soft and muted. The Fashion revolution are pushing for change in the clothing industry, challenging brands and demanding that fabrics have a less damaging effect on the environment, to reduce the vast quantity of micro fibres reaching the oceans and waste of water and leakage of toxins into our waterways.
Check out #Whatsinmyclothes where you can help them transform the fashion industry.
There was a fab stand run by the www.bumblebeeconservation.org showing all the different bees that service our gardens and agriculture, the organisations core aim is to increase the number and distribution of bumblebees, populations of bees have crashed and two species have become nationally extinct, we should avoid pesticides and encourage them into the garden. A bee will only sting if threatened and every single one is precious to our future.
What I loved about this stand was the clear illustrations showing the different bee bodies, sadly the stand was buzzing with people and I could not get close enough for a nice picture but do have a look at their website.
Lindum Wildflower www.turf.co.uk make 100% plastic free 100% biodegradable wild seed turf so you can lay the turf and watch the flowers and wildlife appear with little or no effort, fantastic for green roofs or small gardens.
There were so many beautiful things on show and if you want to see more of what I saw this year then follow my instagram @billy_showell where I will be posting more over the coming days.
The Harkness Rose Company launched the beautiful Dame Deborah James rose in honour of this wonderful lady who has raised awareness of bowel cancer while suffering from this awful disease, you can donate at @bowelbabe or you can order the rose and £2.50 of every rose sold will go to the bowel babe fund in aid of cancer research www.worldofroses.com
The rose is a beauty and by the looks of the rose on the stand it was well admired, again I could barely get close to see it but here is a shot of it from the Harkness instagram page :)
Flower me flower, save me a flower
Lift me in scent that will love empower
Hold me in posy and dream in my colour
Oh flower, oh flower, forever inspire
I hope you have enjoyed my little report on what I saw at the show
Wishing you Peace, sunshine, health and happiness.