Wow, the quality of the trade stands at RHS Chelsea Flower Show was high. Garden centres don’t seem to carry all the genuinely classy garden decorations I like – ornaments that look aged but not faux aged, from wall-mounted mirrors to plant supports – yet here they all were, in spades.
I’m starting to grasp why gnomes and other garishly bright ornaments are usually banned from Chelsea: there really wasn’t any tat there. Just more-ish tools, ornaments and household goods that made you want to open your wallet and say, “Take it…just take it all.” (Actually I like gnomes, and the symbolism of them at Chelsea: they’re a metaphor for greater inclusiveness in gardening, which is something you can try even without a garden design degree).
As for the trade stands, here’s what I loved:
Sarah Hayhoe’s freestanding stained glass panels (www.hayhoedesigns.com). Sarah (pictured) explained that you just stick the panels into the ground and they stay there year-around. I know what I’m asking for at my next birthday. Cost £85 for short panels and £105 for the head-height ones you see here.
Chainsaw-weilding sculptor Andy Burgess (www.andy-burgess.com), who hacks his lovely, finessed sculptures from oak, drew a crowd at his stand, possibly in part due to his excellent self-promotion on Facebook and Twitter, where he shares before-and-after images of works in progress. The interlocking loveseat he’s seated on here cost…um…I can’t remember, but it was thousands. Gorgeous stuff. My husband and I walked out of Chelsea and found ourselves behind an older couple carrying one of Andy’s owls between them.
Secret Gardens furniture (www.secretgardensfurniture.com), which always advertises its rusted plant supports in Gardens Illustrated, showed the most tempting gazebos and arches at Chelsea, all festooned with the company’s trademark iron flowers. Seems a shame to cover them with anything but the most filmy annual climbers.
I’ve never seen a group of people so excited about handsoap as the ladies’ room at RHS Chelsea this year. A perpetual fountain, topped with handsoaps donated by Heyland & Whittle of Sussex was at the centre of the room, with hand lotions on counters at the side. All the ladies had their hands cupped over their noses, sniffing the scents they’d just tried. Such a good move to offer some sponsored products to the public; next year I’d like to see free site-wide wifi everywhere at RHS Chelsea, sponsored by someone, to make it easier to share photos (I had to run back to the Press Tent again and again to upload my pics).
So what did I buy? None of it. I resisted it all, even the star-gazing hares I saw on one stand, and went to the Great Pavilion to buy a rose. I chose Mme Isaac Periere (“Pair-ee-aire”) from Peter Beales Roses, below. It’s a Bourbon rose, similar to but fuller than Zephyrine Drouhin, and it smells like paradise.
What do you find irresistible when you’re on a garden shopping spree? Do you go for ornament or just another plant?