Monthly Archives: October 2013

Chelsea Ulf Nordfell

Ulf Nordfell, this year’s king of Chelsea, strolls in with a posse of sleek-looking Swedes. They are staying at the Swedish Embassy which sounds swish until he tells me that it’s full of Ikea furniture. I wonder if our diplomatic outposts are furnished from Homebase.
Tricky moment when sound man tries to clip a mike to Ulf’s new black leather Armani jacket but GP James smoothes ruffled foliage with an even smoother introduction for Ulf’s ‘conversation’ with me as his bit of the afternoon is billed.


Most popular Chelsea designer?

Biggest numbers by far, with some having to watch on the monitors outside the Gardening Matters forum tent, were for Sarah Eberle’s talk. Sarah is the pixie-like star of Hampton Court and Chelsea with the energy of a nuclear reactor. This year, with six week’s notice, she built three gardens on £15,000. Peanuts. Larger Chelsea gardens can cost up to half a million.    

Chelsea at sea with the Cayman Islands

The clear picture shows the Cayman Islands’ gold winning exhibit of an undersea garden. The blob shows my uncategorized underwater photograph of a Cayman Reef.

This is the Cayman Islands’ second ever garden at Chelsea so the gold is not at all bad. In fact it’s a miracle they agreed to come back at all after last year when Dutch customs officials confiscated the Cayman Islands’ rare ghost orchids in transit to the UK. Remember this if you come across a bloke down a dark alley offering you, ‘Genuine ghost orchids. honest gov’.


Julian Dowle, Lila and the missing Ann-Marie

Julian Dowle, Chelsea veteran, judge and winner of countless gold medals with Lila Das Guptas, BBC Chelsea star and I crept into this hut to escape the razzmatazz outside.

I wish Ann-Marie Powell had been able to join us but Gilbert Bundy prevented her appearance at Chelsea and, at a few days old, he would not have been allowed in the showground. Yet another reason that the RHS should reconsider its under-fives ban.


Chelsea RudeBoy

Roy Lancaster, that gentle, adorable plantsman whose passion for trees makes me want to buy a field and get planting, was giving a talk in the Gardening Matters tent. An elderly gentleman in the front row got up to go. Roy made a cheery comment – but the ‘gentleman’ answered with a rude gesture. Bizarre and very un Chelsea. I suppose that, as chair, I should have had him composted. Instead I send dagger thoughts to you Mr RudeBoy.    

James May love gardens but it doesn’t show. Plus Monkey

Clever RHS – taking on the Plastercine garden with all the attendant publicity driven by Top Gear Presenter James May And then justifying the otherwise unjustifiably non-living garden by awarding a Plastercine medal. Just one criticism of the otherwise unimpeachable RHS: why bang on about getting children into gardening and then ban small children from Chelsea? I suppose they leave the under fives to enjoy the hooligan tendencies of the Hampton Court Flower Show.

I feel that this is an issue Garden Monkey … htmlshould address. S/he was in the Gardening Matters tent when James are I were (in theory) in charge. Still don’t know who it is. Guesses in the comment box please. In the meantime I will try to persuade The Monkey, who is too busy to do much of his/her blogging s/he says, to guest blog here.


Hats off to Chelsea

Tom Hoblyn’s Iris and pitcher plants
Prowling round the gardens after hours on Wednesday with Lila Das Gupta, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hayley Monkton (who appears looking blonde and gorgeous on the RHS Chelsea website), Bob Sweet and other luminaries I fell back in love with the show.
What a way to show off or w***** wave as a learned friend put it.
But this year the Big Budget Boys had some worthy shoestring rivals like Sarah Eberle’s four gardens at £15, 000 all in. And Marshalls’ excellent down-to-earth gardens by Ian Dexter – ditto Mark Gregory’s.
Showing off doesn’t have to be expensive although Chelsea still needs the really swanky stuff – like Tom Hoblyn’s Foreign and Colonial Investments garden and Laurent-Perrier’s sublime creation…and Ulf’s. But it’s great to see that lot swirled in with a bit of bite and irony from Sarah Eberle, the Plastercine garden and the Quilted Velvet Garden.

As darkness fell we moved into the pavilion and came across late night voodoo from the floral art people – flower arrangers – who are doing Flamboyant Hats. Some had driven down from the north after spending days weaving pansies, Strelitzia, bamboo, lilies into headpieces worthy of Ladies’ Day at Ascot or the Amazonian rainforest.
The whole thing’s barmy and brilliant and I love it.

Above:Dean Stalham who write the poem for the Eden Project garden.

Below: Yet another luscious garden by Jekka

ThinkinGardens in the Coach and Horses

The Coach and Horses is an innocuous name for the Soho pub where reputations and livelihoods are regularly made and destroyed. Jeffrey Barnard was regularly unwell here along with Francis Bacon, Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan. And then there were the Private Eye lunches.

Which is why Andrew Fisher Tomlin chose the pub for last night’s ThinkinGardens‘s first salon/debate. I was expecting the C&H’s usual informed debate involving F words, flying fists and alcohol-sodden bodies being loaded into taxis. I imagined Ian Hodgson, illustrious editor of The Garden, being removed by the police after outraging Soho with his views on hardy plants.
Chairman Stephen Anderton, whip in hand, kept everyone well disciplined: frisson without the fighting.
The Question:
Is it possible to have a garden without plants?


Plant free

It was Ian, staunch defender of the RHS – that hallowed heaven of all things horticultural – who said that we should broaden our horizons and not reject a garden without plants. Blimey. Post-Chaucerian treble negative apart I enjoyed this radical sentiment from the editor of The Garden.