Saturday, May 16, 2009

Countdown to the Chelsea Flower Show

In just under one week from now, I will be at the Chelsea Flower Show. THE Chelsea Flower Show. I’ll just let that sink in for a little bit.

In the very unlikely case that you are not familiar with the Chelsea Flower show, it is nothing less than the greatest flower show on earth. It’s the gardening world’s equivalent of the Oscars. The thought that I will actually have a chance to witness it firsthand is almost overwhelming. I hope I make it to next week.

Chelsea is where the gardening world assembles every spring to strut their stuff, have a peak at latest and greatest in horticulture, and hand out prestigious awards. It sets the gardening trends for the year, brings new designers and concepts into the spotlight, and previews all new things in gardening. Yes, gardening is that fashionable when it comes to Chelsea.

The show features many things, but probably the most famous are the large show gardens, which have gotten more and more extravagant over the years. They are sponsored by large companies, charities, or even royalty. During the week of the show, the whole Chelsea Hospital grounds are transformed into several fully mature gardens, with extravagant hardscaping, and fully grown perennials, shrubs and trees. Plants are flown in from around the world for this – not very ecologically sound, which is a little ironic given the horticultural theme of the show, but just to give you an idea of the scale of the whole affair.

Another showpiece of the Chelsea Flower Show is the Great Pavilion, where exhibitors from around the globe display the latest and greatest in plants. Chelsea is often the first place where many new plant introductions are previewed. And it’s not just about the individual plants, but also about the displays as a whole, which can get quite elaborate. And in case all this is not enough, there are also many other features at Chelsea, like smaller urban gardens, courtyard gardens, floral design and gardening product stands.

There is only one slight blemish on my first trip to Chelsea. This year, due to the economic recession, there will be fewer large show gardens than normal - 13 instead of 22 in previous years. Less corporate sponsorship means that even famous designers like Diarmuid Gavin were not able to secure sponsorship. Flemings, an Australian landscaping company which has created some buzz over the last few years will also be absent as much of the their stock was lost in the Australian bush fires. Some exhibitors will also be missing from the Great Pavilion. On the bright side, this may give some new designers a chance at fame and glory as well. And also gives me an excuse return next year!

The full report on Chelsea will follow the week after next!

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