Chelsea Flower Show is often hailed as the highlight of the gardening calendar, although some years I have felt more than a little let down by the hype and expense without offering anything for ‘real gardeners’.
This year, however, the show seems far more down-to-earth. OK we accept that the large show gardens cost more to stage than most of us earn in a lifetime, but they did not scream ‘money is no object’ as so many have done in previous years.
Many of the gardens and show stands had ideas that could be scaled down, or adapted in some way for our own gardens – it finally seems that the fact that gardens need to be useable spaces, by real people, is important!
Of course we accept that the gardens at Chelsea, and any of the flower shows, are not ‘real’. They are showpieces for the designers and the plants, and not intended for year-long interest. For this they need modifying, which is what those destined to be re-located to permanent locations will be.
The ideas – the design and the framework – are what makes a garden really work. The flowers are the icing on the cake. Important, and very noticeable, but no good if the cake beneath lacked ingredients!
Chelsea is over for another year, but there are many other shows and gardens where you can get inspiration.
Gardeners World Live at Birmingham is a favourite of mine. Easier to get to by car (important if you wish to purchase anything) and far less crowded. The Show gardens may not quite boast the flamboyance of those at Chelsea but at least you can get close to them! There are many smaller gardens, window box displays, allotment gardens, talks and demonstrations – and the floral marquee has never failed to impress. Many of the ‘new introductions’ launched at Chelsea are available to buy from the nursery stands. Running from the 11th to the 14th June, more information can be found on www.bbcgardenersworldlive.com
Even closer to home, there are many wonderful gardeners who open up their gardens for charity, often combined with plant sales and home-made teas. These are a great way to find out what will happily grow in our area, and gardeners are always willing to give advice.
June and July are mega months for these, including the gardens of Somersham on the 6th & 7th June, Wereham on 20th & 21st June, and Wisbech St Mary on 21st June. Check out www.opengardens.co.uk for more details – and do let me know if you are opening your garden for charity and I will mention it in this column.
If you are more interested in the food on your plate than the flowers in your garden, then Open Farm Sunday (7th June) may be more up your street. Since the first Open Farm Sunday in 2006, over 1,000 farms, and commercial horticultural production units, across the UK have opened their gates and welcomed people in to discover how their food is produced, and how they are acting as custodians of the countryside. Each event is unique with its own activities – farm walks, nature trails, tractor and trailer rides, pond dipping, often with farm produce to sample or buy.
We are involved in this, not directly as producers but in an educational capacity, as food production – fruit, vegetable and greenhouse crops – are as much part of the horticultural industry as is garden design and maintenance of gardens and ornamental plants.