Sunday, 28 May 2017

Tales from a RHS Chelsea Flower Show Virgin

As a first-timer, I told my friend that it felt like dating again after being off the market for a very long time. I have an idea how to navigate but can get overwhelmed by the enormity of the scene. There are so many choices, but I still run to the familiar even though I know it will eventually wilt and die in my hands no matter what watering and pruning I do. Not to further stress myself out by ensuring that I see specific gardens and installations, I purposely did not get a show guide. I decided to let my instincts show me the way, and find out how I'll strategise next time. I was so excited I forgot to take my hayfever meds. A hot day surrounded by grass, flowers, and bees is lethal. My eyes are still bloodshot and itchy as I write this.

My friend has been to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show many times, and she has indeed given me tips on how best to enjoy the show. I've recently taken up an interest in horticulture, partly because I now have enough space to grow and display foliage and flowers, and partly because tending to living things that grow into beautiful blooms without being breastfed is the only maternal duty I'm currently  and probably will ever be capable of.

It was as I expected: overflowing with gardening enthusiasts in general, and social media devotees who were obviously just there for the photo opps. Lots of fresh-from-winter flesh were out so the smell of gradual tanning lotion wafted in the air, mixed with the heady concoction of Pimm's, encouraged by the strong sun.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show is formally known as the Great Spring Show held for five days in May in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea in London.  The first flower and landscape exhibition was held in 1913, and has been an annual event apart from gaps during the two World Wars. My friend describes it as the Paris, NY, and London Fashion Week of gardeners. I've been meaning to come for a while now and finally managed this year just when I'm living farther away from London. 

Royal Hospital Chelsea grounds on a gorgeous day

City living concept by Kate Gould Gardens. A Gold Medal recipient in the Fresh Garden category, this garden highlights the importance of greening inner city spaces not just for residents in urban apartment blocks but to provide nature corridors, too.

Roughly 11,775 square metres or 2.90 acres, the Great Pavilion can house up to 500 London buses. This is home to garden and landscape exhibitors from which you can buy on the last day from 4pm. All the garden inspirations and everything else imaginable for outdoor sprucing up can be found here. Other treasures are available from trade stands.

David Austin roses as recommended by my friend

Probably not the most popular, but I was most attracted to these ones called Giant Purples. Looks very festive. And they're purple, which is my favourite colour.

Windows on Biodiversity: South Africa's National Botanical Gardens

Clematis galore. I'm purchasing this soon.

Harkness roses

from the National Dahlia Collection

The Ronnie Scott's Orchestra plays the very best of world jazz music on a Friday during the show run

Photography competitions and exhibits are of course present in events about nature's  beauty. The above photo is by Simon Booth, which took home the 2nd place award in the Pure Plants category. The photo was taken at Hodge Close Quarry in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria. The magical misty woodland scenery was the effect of the warm autumn woodland temperature and the colder surrounding air temperature as winter approached. 

Below is a Stephen Reed stormy sunset shot of the Glasshouse at Wisley taken during the Christmas Illumination 2015. He won the 'Celebrating RHS Gardens' category.

I don't know what to make of this garden, but it won the Best Artisan Garden award. Perhaps it was too industrial for me, and I can't deal with rust.

The Artisan Gardens crowd

This mirrored artisan garden got the crowd milling around for a shot of their reflection. I politely waited for my turn, instead of shoving the Prime Minister of Montenegro.

Another artisan garden that I wasn't too keen about, but I took a photo anyway just because. It was featured on the BBC's coverage of the show. 

Silk Road Garden by an exhibitor from Chengdu, China. This garden celebrates the cultural, social, and trade links of the historic East-West Silk Road. It represents the rich history, culture, and varied landscape of Chengdu City and Sichuan Province in China.

Decorative fountains

Soft and hard. Bright and grey. Warm and cold. 

The colours of chrysanthemums


These friends from the animal kingdom turned adults into giggly children while posing for photos with them. Made by the artificial grass company called Easigrass. 

Head over to my IG page (@penphotopassport) to see the video of this alternative fountain which can recreate relaxing rainy days.

Sale from £120 to £99. So boho chic!

The bear pulled off this gentleman's hat.

My late grandmother had a sprawling outdoor space where she grew a variety of flowering plants. I used to talk to them, and gave them names other than their official names, well, because I had no idea what their official names were and didn't bother asking. They were my imaginary friends.

While I don't verbally converse with the plants I have now, I mentally communicate with them. It's therapeutic, especially at the end of a very long tedious day. Just looking at them gives me joy--the same kind from my imaginary friends in my grandmother's backyard. 

I aim to not be all over the place on next year's trip to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. More and better photos next time, and perhaps some merchandise to keep.

'Til next year!


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