Then one day, when you least expect it, the great adventure finds you.

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100 Years of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

When I was younger the idea of being taken around a garden centre or a DIY store mortified me.  Dragging my heels and stomping my feet I reluctantly would go cursing the fact I was there, glaring at my parents and vowing I’d never want to do this, regardless of however much they told me that one day I’d want to voluntarily take myself.  Alas as much I’d hate to admit it… they were right. 

I’ve been living in a flat for the past three years, before that a student house so gardening wasn’t even a thought.  As I’ve got older and began to detest flat living I’ve constantly craved some outside space, even if it was merely to hang my washing out or take a few breaths of fresh air, I was ready for that space. 

My partner and I have just bought our first house and my mind has been constantly focused upon interiors and exteriors.  I feel like after 7 years together we’re now making stable steps to our future.  Even though we’re quite sorted with what is indoors my mind has been plagued by what I should do outside.  As a virgin in the gardening world I really am fascinated by what I can do, how hard it is and how long it will take, so when I was invited to attend this years Chelsea Flower Show I truly couldn’t wait. 
My mum loves the Chelsea Flower Show and for years would attend then come back and gush about the amazing sights she had seen.  Being that I’d felt I’d grown up and was ready to take that leap into maturity, I literally was overwhelmed with excitement to go.  

Off to Sloane Square station where I was greeted by some of my all time favourite shops, but this time I trotted straight past them heading for Royal Hospital, Chelsea.  As I walked in and picked up my pass I wasn’t 100% sure where to start but taking advice from my Mum, I headed for the gardens.  
The gardens are various designed pieces that boast creativity and innovative thinking in the outside space, many have key themes that really are very thought provoking.  I tend to like things very traditional when it comes to gardens, but the main love is always lots of colours but I don’t really like oranges, reds and yellows, instead I go for pinks, purples and pastels. 
Heading past the staged area it was wonderful to be in so early to appreciate the way the show was set up before the main crowds poured in.  The day was completely sold out so I knew it would get hectic later on and so I pressed on as quickly as possible.  

I was very fortunate because the weather was looking to be perfect.  I started over in the Artisan Garden and came across the Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory who were showcasing their Gold awarded, Tokonoma Garden.

“We wish the world filled with smiles by greens and flowers”

 It clearly took a oriental inspiration but was laid out in a way which hinted on tranquil living. The design was simply effortless with plenty of greens and bright shades. I loved the rustic tones of the acers but especially teamed with the tropic night iris scattered in ones and twos around the scene. All the plants and trees bud at the same time in Satoyama which apparently reminds the designer, Kazyuki Ishihara of his birth place. 
I carried along with Artisan Garden which was tucked away amongst the green gardens of the hospital.  The next two were the most adorable I’d seen; NSPCC and Motor Neurone Disease Association.

 I loved how adorable this garden design was.  It sort of reminded me of something from lord of the rings with the rustic well loved stone work.  This designer Jackie Setchfield first design at this years Chelsea Flower Show and this garden was influenced by the traditional blackhouse on Lewis in the Outer Herbrides. The additional spinning wheel and dying pit are there to emphasise the tools in which they would use to create their crafted Harris Tweed.   The plants seen here were those which you would find that grace the hills during the summer, so there were foxgloves, honey suckle, dandelions, nettles, lady fern and nettles. 

 The other images you’re seeing are those of The NSPCC Garden of Magical Childhood.  This was clearly a design to trigger memories of when you were a child, hidden behind the gorgeous colours were two vintage teddy bears amongst a bundle of pebbles and building blocks.  The pebbles had messages of support from the NSPCC, these were all sat in front of their ‘wishing pond’. All things scattered about hinted on a teddy bears picnic and that of childhood innocence and it was really sweet to see.

When I was younger my Dad built me a house on stilts and I remember loving every second spent in there, so I could understand fully why this one was added into this design. 
Like the previous garden, the NSPCC one had a lot of foxgloves, cow parsley, stinging nettles but also childhood favourites being oxeye daisies and meadow buttercups. 

Colours of Thailand inside the main pavilion

I strolled along taking in the other Artisan Gardens but wasn’t impressed as much as the ones I’ve written about. The core things that put me off were the marigolds in the gold award winners Herbert Smith Freehills LLP.  I can see why it achieved that award but I tend to find marigolds representing age, plus the vibrant tone teamed with oranges and reds are polar opposite from my personal taste. 
I pushed on to some of the others where I really was spoilt for choice and the great fact I was getting so many ideas about plants and trees I wanted to put in my garden.  The next one I saw was the Royal Bank of Canada with Nigel Dunnett; The Landscape Agency.  I particularly liked because of the fantastic water features and the building with the living roof tucked in amongst the plants.  This garden had specific sections; shade zone, wetland edges, water plants, sun zone, green roof, living wall and trees and shrubs. Some lightly coloured plants such as the globe flower, iceplant, canadian columbine, spotted cranesbill all add to this very peaceful ambiance I felt.  The flower of the blue-flowered Himalayan poppy was my favourite and really stood out. 

The next garden on my travels was the Laurent-Perrier Garden designed by Ulf Nordfjell.  I was quite excited to see this one as I anticipated sheer style. Even though the design is somewhat simplistic it has a contemporary elegance, which is mainly due to the layout and sculpture.  Lots of soft colours in the plants used in this garden and some of my favourites such as violas and iris’. 

The next garden was possibly my favourite of the entire show,  ‘Sowing the seeds of change’ Homebase in association with Alzhiemer’s Society.  This was the garden that has really inspired me for how I want to create mine, only later did I read that it was designed with a small family in mind. Garden designer Adam Frost believes garden design is about understanding people and developing a passion for nature,  that is projected in this particular design.  I loved that the garden focal point was a handcrafted oak beehive and a arbour area with seating which is there to bring family together.  The core theme I got from this design was a place to create memories.

I really liked the BrandAlley garden as it looks very stylish. It appears very relaxing with the cushioned chairs tucked away behind the plants and the best part is it looks very private making it all the more tranquil.

Initially the next garden didn’t really impact me until I saw it on my second lap around the show.  ‘After the fire’ which is in association with Cancer Research UK, from a far looks like devastation but as I got closer I could understand the concept much more.  It is a natural landscape that shows the regeneration process nature has after forest fires and how nature manages to rebuild itself on its own. This particular image is of the thin trees that represent what was lost but the growth beneath showing life is building again.

After taking in the numerous garden designs I went into the main pavilion to seek the flowers.  I knew I was looking for roses to put in my garden, some iris, peonies but discovered much more.

The main ones that drew me in were of course pinks and purples, these two tones really make me personally feel alive and warm.  I noticed David Austin Roses were there which pleased me, I’ve bought a few rose plants for my Mum and they never fail to be good quality.

I managed to visit all the places I wanted to before the main crowd poured in, but as they did I took the opportunity to go and sit where the main stage was and indulge in the live opera whilst drinking some Pimms! 

I couldn’t of had a better Saturday… especially as I missed the bad weather and my day was sunny all round! From this experience I have got a lot of creative ideas for my very first garden. Over the next few months I’ll be doing some posts on getting your garden started for first time gardeners.  Watch this space! 




  1. May 30, 2013 / 10:07 am

    I'm very jealous that you got to go to the Chelsea Flower Show! One day I'll get there. The gardens look stunning.
    And I can also relate regarding having a garden for the first time! We've just bought our first house together (we've been renting previously) and now we have have a backyard to worry about.
    I have no idea where to start!

  2. May 30, 2013 / 1:03 pm

    Hey Jane, Thanks for stopping by. Tell me about it! However, the Chelsea Flower Show really inspired me… obviously my garden wont be anything like those I saw but I know what I'm aiming for!

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