Sarah Coles


Due to the pandemic, poor old Chelsea Flower Show was switched from its usual May to late September.  Dull!  All these show gardens in drab greens, as though sprayed with a wash of grey, plus the usual unrealistic plashing waterfall here and there.  Why not a flaming forest of dahlias?

Better I thought were the balcony gardens, where you would lounge in your eyrie way above the crowds.  Also I liked the container gardens which could travel with your every change of  house – pots, tins, barrels and the like  painted and planted with herbs, bulbs, little shrubs.  The Pop Street garden had red, blue and white Brillo boxes among tins and pots in primary colours against a screen of graffiti plants and figures, very jolly.  Two seats with silvery cushions.  I can’t remember what the containers contained, just leafy things, but I sent off my photo to the Garden Media Guild for their next newsletter – it appeared in due course, so I was pleased.

But the container garden which won my prize for best was A Tranquil Space in the City.  It had the grass Miscanthus growing from a tiny bowl which was like an Ikebana flower arrangement, as though each spike had been purposely placed exactly where it grew.  Nature as ordered art, and all to celebrate the Japanese Autumn Moon Festival on 21st September.  A pine tree, evergreen and representing permanence, plus an acer, deciduous, which like the year is always changing.  There was just one Nerine lily, to confirm our realisation that ‘We are Here Now’ alive this moment, aware.  My pic does not do it justice.

In the sun, metal trees dripping water sparkled, like the squirting tree at Chatsworth.

In the main marquee the dull green plants continued, and the only stand with a thrill was Raymond Evisons’s three dimensional theatre of clematis, all heights, in white, through cream, mauve, violet, blue, and deep maroon.  A Mozart opera could be staged there.

Several stands had succulents – I love these, so simple, the echeverias with their pointed horseshoe leaves, and the fat clustered moonstones.  At home I cut the flowers off because the small spiky things spoil the calm of the leaves.  I bring them indoors in October when they become my mini winter gardens.  Here at Chelsea I saw how best to show them off: in a large bowl on a mound of compost.

Getting weary now.  Crowds building up,  jostling and shoving and I nearly fell over.    Food outlets as nasty as usual (why didn’t I earlier buy an M & S sandwich?), and queues for ladies lavatories, coffee and everything else snaked on for ever.  So I left, bussed to Waterloo and home.  My last Chelsea.  £82 was too much to pay.

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