[caption id="attachment_619" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="in aid of Over active bladders"]
It could be considered the second best. Chelsea Flower Show is Cinderella's slipper. Everyone wants to try it on. Hampton Court seems to have lurked in the shadow of the sister's rhinestone bedecked footwear. A plea must be made to let Hampton topple the haughty dominance of its slender sibling.
Hampton has space, skies, vast canals, a palace and Tijou gates. That's for starters. In addition some interesting themes that are not, cannot be developed at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, largely to do with the small site. Hampton, still London but practically country as the roar of the M25 is not so far away and green fields beckon.
The first mission here is to children. About time too. Stuffy gardening is reaching out to the next generation. It has to, the nation's lack of skilled gardeners is an absolute shocker. The second is about growing food, we dozy lilliputians have been too long at the mercy of supermarket presentation and packaging.
The Grow your Own Movement is taking off exponentially. Check out the Seeds of Italy stand for a list of tasty eating - italian heirloom seeds preserved from every region. The Show has various stands that celebrate monoculture. The Garlic Farm from Isle of Wight has a stand groaning under garlic cloves. Enviable as I've only ever managed to grow the most runty ones. And the Cookoo Box Nursery (where do they get these names from?) has an
[caption id="attachment_620" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="chillies from Cuckoo Box"]
encylopediac collection of chillies. Rows of vegetables and allotments aplenty and a display of plants with healing properties. I'd no idea that the narcissus bulb is used in treating the onset of Alzheimers or that Ammi majus is used for skin disorders.
There were some interesting gardens here. The one pictured above with the giant tap hovering so surreal in mid-air was clever. Pity the designer who gets landed with the brief of publicising over-active bladders? Undaunted, Jill Foxley has picked up the brief and run with it in a way that has the passers by crossing their legs. That hearty sound of running water just has that effect and "A Matter of Urgency", her garden, sponsored by Astellas Pharma Ltd is brought to our attention.
A very great plus about this Flower Show is that it has a few (not
[caption id="attachment_622" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Harfleet brothers and Pansy Project garden"]
enough) Conceptual gardens. This is exciting. Bafflement, awe, fear and the barefooted enjoyment of burying toes in sand fleeted across my mind as the 6 paraded their wares. The most thought provoking by a long chalk was the Pansy Project Garden. It has been designed by Paul Harfleet and brings attention to the horror of homophobic crime. His personal mission is to visit the scenes of such crimes and remember the victims with the planting of a pansy. The garden has been built by his landscaper brother, Tom. The large cracked pieces of concrete shock and disturb. The pansies planted are off the least attractive colour. A traumatic and moving installation.
One criticism though, the conceptual and conventional 'pretty' gardens badly need to get away from each other - perhaps an instant pleached hedge could act as a curtain next year.
There was a rather baffling tribute to Shakespeare coursing through the Show - the people from the Bards birthplace, who had their own plot complete with some 15th century veggies - could think of no good reason for honouring the man. Well Shakespeare is Shakespeare and behind a crop of themed comedy gardens. Hardly dare ask why "The Merchant of Venice" is a comedy - all that pound of flesh stuff is just creepy.
[caption id="attachment_623" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Titania and Bottom "]
All over the site there were great out breaks of creations by children. 2010 seems to be the year of the scarecrow and the rich flock that had turned up here were a pageant in their own right. Not seen in the picture, Titania's shapely PET bottle legs, ankles and feet. Making it all a little light-hearted for children was a constant theme, and a good one. It did over-topple at one instance in the Small gardens area. What oh what is a life size sleeping Snow White doing lying on top of a catafalque that doubles up as a water feature? Snow White's Slumber was sharing space with some very high calibre designs both for hard and soft landscape.
Today was a quiet day for trade and a good moment to catch chat from a few of the designers and landscapers who over the last 3 weeks have been building their gardens. Some had come from far flung bits of Britain and have been living the tented life on site. It was interesting to
[caption id="attachment_638" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Snow White"]
learn that the RHS pays close attention to designs submitted and is not slow to ask for improvements. Artistic integrity assaulted perhaps but the Piper plays the tune. I wonder then how on earth Snow White slipped in under the radar.
One word to the RHS from us amateur gardeners. It would be great if show gardens stuck to companion-plantings that actually work in nature. Delphiniums and hostas together is a bit misleading.