RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016

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By Aline Dobbie

By the time you read this the 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show will be a wonderful memory but I watched the BBC nightly programmes presented by Monty Don and Joe Swift about this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.   We were there at the Press Day on the Monday and it brought back to us both all the beauty and pleasure we experienced on that day.   The sun shone, the sky was blue, the birds sang, London was looking beautiful and as was said centuries ago…. ‘If one is tired of London one is tired of Life!’   Well we most definitely are not tired of London and felt it a privilege and pleasure to be back once again on Press Day when there are few people and the great and the good visit followed by HM The Queen and the Royal Family.

This was a particularly good Chelsea Flower Show and the emphasis on plants was strong which pleases me. I of course like garden statuary, sculpture, ornaments and furniture but most of all I love plants…. that is what it is, a celebration, the greatest celebration on the planet of flowers, trees, shrubs, grasses, vegetables, fruits from all over our beautiful Wonderful World.   Old Luis Armstrong sang that song nearly 50 years ago ‘What a Wonderful World’ and do you know when you are at Chelsea with the sun out, chestnut trees in flower, light bouncing off ponds, people strutting their stuff, champagne, strawberries, the band playing, Chelsea Pensioners walking about in their scarlet red uniforms…. then you know that Great Britain is a pretty special place in which to be. We must all be grateful and preserve our traditions and heritage.

Royal Hospital Poppies UK

Royal Hospital Poppies

The great carpet of over 300,000 red woollen poppies handmade laid out in carpets reminded us that this great freedom was hard won in two awful wars and this year we remember the awful Battle of the Somme. When you meet young Johnson Beharry VC and realise what good values and commitment he has, and then observe him speaking to a Chelsea Pensioner you know we all owe our HM Forces a great debt of gratitude. Those of us with India in the background never forget that the Indian Army gave so much in steadfast courage and valour to those dreadful conflicts and I as a child of an Indian Army regiment…. The Jats honour that memory.

There was an organisation called Lifeworks Global that helps the village women of Tamil Nadu to sow seeds and provide for their families from the vegetables and pulses which was showing its works on a stand designed by Thomas Hoblyn in the Great Pavilion. I spoke to Mr Hoblyn. A worthwhile project but he admitted he has as yet not visited Tamil Nadu…. only West Bengal. So I said that they were as alike as chalk and cheese and urged him to seek my help to pay a visit to Tamil Nadu which will impress him deeply…… heritage, temples, crafts, silks and ancient dynasties!

York Gardens UK

York Gardens

There are six Gold Medal Award designers this year and they are well deserved. Chris Beardshaw my friend is one for his very beautiful garden sponsored by Morgan Stanley designed to be relocated to a second floor roof at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London. It had to be a shade garden to accommodate that location amongst the rooftops of central London where troubled parents facing the challenges of their children’s illness can seek a moment or two of solace and tranquillity.

Andy Sturgeon won a Gold Medal for The Telegraph Garden and Best in Show….it is a fine garden and appeals greatly to men, probably a bit too angular for me! The Garden that was showing us the awful continuing situation of Modern Slavery here in the UK also won an award for its lady designer Juliet Sargeant who is also a doctor…. well done to highlight this bad situation that continues in our modern age of forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual abuse. This is a profoundly important subject brought to our attention in a garden. The doors which were all black on the inside were depicting that we actually don’t know what is going on behind closed doors…. poignant indeed.

HM The Queen’s 90th birthday was marked by a beautiful natural arch of entry under which HM walked to visit the show on Monday evening and some of the stands reflected her great age…. she looked wonderful and good to see the young royals also there taking an interest in various Gardens depicting their special Charities.

Chris Bearshaw Garden

Chris Bearshaw Garden

The Meningitis Now Futures Garden has been inspired by the spirit and energy of families whose lives have been irrevocably changed by meningitis. A centrepiece of the charity’s 30th anniversary, the garden celebrates the courage, determination and positive outlook of young people who have faced up to, and overcome, the consequences of this devastating disease.   A major outbreak of the disease led to the first patient group and then the charity being formed in Stroud, Gloucestershire, so the setting is a Cotswold country garden. A Greek-themed folly forms the centrepiece and represents the charity. It includes a seat inscribed with the charity’s motto. A carved stone tableau depicts the Greek god of medicine, Asclepius and his five daughters. To each side of this folly are two walls, one representing the disease and the second the recovery. Five dramatic sculptures travel across the garden, hitting the first wall and climbing over the next, depicting lives changed, lost and a life different to the one expected. These include sculptures of young people who are training for the 2016 and 2020 Paralympics. This I found very moving and thought I was urged to take photographs of the various young people who have been victims of meningitis because they want to promote the work of the charity I felt that I was intruding but I have some fine photos of the garden and them standing there proudly.

A garden that we both particularly loved was the one designed by Matthew Wilson called God’s Own Country A Garden for Yorkshire – and to our special delight it was given the Peoples’ Choice Annual Award as the favourite garden voted for by the avid gardening public who voted through the BBC website. Well-deserved indeed.

For those of us who are competent gardeners with large gardens there is always inspiration from a visit to the Chelsea Flower Show. My pocket is a modest one but always there is something that gives me an idea which I can take away and try and replicate at home at Rosewood. I hope you will enjoy my gallery of the event and maybe think of visiting yourself next year.

https://goo.gl/photos/aC96bMRa5nGgr5kx7 My Gallery

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