Chelsea Flower Show: The Build-Up

The Chelsea Flower Show is the mother of all flower shows; the highlight of the horticultural season. Now in its 85th year, it is the ultimate showcase for designers; the bigger and showier and more over the top, the better. Medals are awarded in several categories and the competition is fierce. We had the chance to attend a morning of the build-up, the period when all the contractors, designers and worker bees are frantically laying out and planting their creations. There were thousands of pots of plants everywhere, with trucks backing in and cement mixers pouring and general chaos. Since it has been raining or threatening all week, everything was covered with a layer of mud. Nonetheless it was fascinating to watch the bare bones of designs being created, and marvel at the many perfect plant specimens waiting to be put into the ground. This year is the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Linnaeus. He was the Swedish botanist (pictured) who invented the nomenclature of plants, and in celebration of his tercentenary the Swedish government has created a very simple but elegant garden using plants that he used to grow in his garden, particularly his signature flower, Linnaea borealis, commonly known as twinflower. Several of the gardens looked very promising: Cancer Research UK has a dramatic 30 metre long sculpture down the middle which consists of 5 strands of curved oak ribbons that look like a helix and wind through the garden.
The focus of Chetwoods' garden was familiar, a 12 metre high sculpture that opens and closes in response to the sun and moon, first seen lurking in a London square last summer. The Fetzer Sustainable Winery Garden (pictured) is a luxuriant wildlife garden using recycled materials, including a recycled barn wood table and winery shed and a windmill that pumps water into the pond. The vibrantly coloured plants are California wildflowers, grown here by the British Wildflower Society. Can we attribute this success to global warming? The designer said it was the hot April this year, plus a good grower and that global warming was the "frosting on the cake". We look forward to seeing the Marshalls Sustainability Garden which has been designed to appeal to the UK's "conscience consumer" and will be a sustainable domestic garden. The Amnesty International Garden for Human Rights will also be using materials from sustainable sources and show its ethical and social concerns. After the show, it will be transferred to their office rooftop. Monday is the big opening, the Queen will be there .watch this space for more. :: RHS Chelsea Flower Show

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