Sarah Coles



Yes, it’s over. I’m critical but I love it, the vibes, the brief excitement in this tiny area of plants, gardens, pop up shops, food vans, stalls selling Pimms, uplifting mottoes all over the place, furniture, gazebos, and sculpture, naff and ok. I went on the final day, and hardly bothered with the show gardens, because they’ve been on TV and they’re about spectacle not reality – they look stunning for a week before being slung into refuse vans. What has a Yorkshire canal lock to do with gardening? It’s about getting the tourists to Yorkshire. And it was People’s Choice for best show garden! As for Kate Middleton’s garden for kids, with swing and tree house and tepee, all good fun, and to be reinstalled at the RHS Wisley, except the start of the queue announced ‘30 minutes to entry’. You can forget that!

No, what’s good as ever are the plants in the Great Pavilion. Lilies, wow their scent, just entering the place. Raymond Evison’s clematis was two rivers of purply colours, reds and creams. He breeds clematis that don’t grow high, only about eight feet, and he even breeds clematis that don’t climb and look good pots and I dare say a border.

One stand was just dried flowers, stalks and seedheads, a medley of browns and tans, fawns and creams, which looked odd among all the blossoms, and I wasn’t tempted, but there was a sweet grass with sprays of little tawny fans. This stand won a gold medal – I was surprised.  Good, but there’s something draining about dead flowers. 

Also, of course, beautiful herbaceous stuff. Roses. Tropical flowers to hit you in the eye. Bonsai, I look at them and pause in a magical copse of trees. Fuchsias, unfashionable these days and I’ve never seen an exhibit which does them justice. Iris, surely fed on steroids.  A splendid rainbow of chrysanthemums, very trendy, very LGTBQ which also won a gold medal.

Chelsea is good for impulse buys.  Fiskars had a long telescopic tree pruner, about eight feet high, at the special show price of £85, to include delivery.  It’s made in a village called Fiskar in Finland, and I’ve had their cutters before, all excellent and so, out came the credit card.  I liked being given a rose and fern button hole.

Best in show, always chosen by the RHS committee, was not hugely glamorous – just a low sedum with variegated leaves and yellow flowers.  I took note, though, because I knew it would do well here, and sedums are so easy to reproduce: just put a stalk in water and it sprouts roots.  Sedum takesimense Atlantis, from Japan.  (March 2020 – I bought two, and they have overwintered nicely, one in a pot and one in the ground).

I never look at the flower arrangements, because I like to see plants growing, not with their heads chopped off and stuck in water, but there was one stand of  suspended test tubes each containing one or two wild flowers, like cow parsley or campion.  Simple and perfect.  I stooped to examine their detail, finer than jewellery.

On the last day you can book plants to take away at the end of the show, and eventually I came away with two aquilegia, deep violet – stupid really because they weren’t that special.  Next year: something more glamorous.  Bong bong bong bong at 4pm went the bell rang, and cheery chaos as everyone dashed to collect their plants and came away, sated, happy and loaded.

I finally exited going through a tunnel of psychedelic blues, violets and mauves.  Lavenders and bell flowers.   Girls took turns to have their pic taken by a pal.  Flowers, lovely, and spookily mysterious. 


One Response to “ “CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW 2019”

  1. Mark says:

    Thanks for your blog, nice to read. Do not stop.

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