Not Chelsea…

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So it’s the Chelsea Flower Show again. Yet another year and I still haven’t been. I suspect that my type of gardening is very far removed from the average Chelsea affair, but a part of me would still love to go and see what I’ve been missing.

Evidently for some people, creating a garden must feel the same way that I feel when I design and stitch a tapestry. There must be a thrill in the planning, the drama of sourcing the plants to provide the textures and colours required, the physical effort of placing each element in the allotted spot and the sense of achievement when the whole garden is finished looking as they originally wished – or better.

But although I understand that, and although I suppose I create tapestries in a similar way, I don’t seem to transfer that approach to my own garden.

There is no way I could have created a laburnum, sycamore and plum tree combination.
There is no way I could have created a laburnum, sycamore and plum-tree combination.

For me the garden isn’t something over which I have overall control – despite my vague ideas, I don’t feel that it is all up to me what grows where and when, instead I sense that I am in a gentle partnership with nature, and I know who has the upper hand (and it isn’t me).

In my garden, nature takes the lead. My role is to keep things relatively tidy, give the stragglers a chance to come through, throw in the occasional plant and let nature decide if it’s going to stay or not.

If all that sounds terribly passive, I’d agree, but the fact is, that since I stopped trying to take control, and instead decided to spend more time enjoying what was actually happening, things seem to be coming together in a far more harmonious way than they have before.

I still enjoy visiting beautiful gardens, but I no longer come home feeling inadequate about my own. I get a huge contentment watching the seasons unfold in our tiny space and that for me is exciting and wonderful. And by letting nature make most of the decisions, there’s always the potential for a lovely surprise.

IMAG1430And over the years, I’ve started to take more interest in how plants really look – vast drifts of planting can be magnificent, but there’s no less beauty in single blooms.

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You just have to look for it.

And I am convinced that nature has a wonderful sense of style – how else would she arrange for a self-seeded wallflower to grow against the peeling paint of the garage door – and match the shade of paint peeping through?

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So I’ll look froward to Alan Titchmarsh taking me on a guided tour of Chelsea, but this year it will have to be from the comfort of my sofa – again.

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9 thoughts on “Not Chelsea…

  1. I haven’t been to the CFS for some 11 or 12 years; went for three years before that with a friend, always on the last day. It is an experience, for sure, but crowds of people and it rained two out of the three times we went. Most exciting bit for me was buying plants and cut flowers at bargain prices and waiting for the bell to go and joining the scramble to collect them. Most memorable part of the days for me was the sight of hundreds of people carrying their exotic and colourful treasures away over Chelsea Bridge, getting on to buses and tubes with them or driving off with a standard fuschia growing out of the sunroof…. priceless, and somehow so British!

  2. I really like the idea of going on a hot sunny day, wearing something floaty and having a big floppy hat to waft about – it sounds like sensory overload. Maybe one day…

  3. I use to go many years ago, but it just gets so crowded now, but it is one of those things that you ought to do, just for the experience and as theresagreen says it is wonderful on the last day to buy bargains, if you are lucky, and to watch the hundreds of trees and shrubs bouncing along Chelsea Bridge is amazing. But I should leave the big hat at home it would only get squashed 🙂

    1. Alright, I’m convinced, one day I’ll go if only to have a laugh at the bobbing trees on Chelsea Bridge. Talking of crowded exhibitions – have you ever been to Crufts? I had to work there once for a client and couldn’t get over the number of people crammed into the halls – and the added worry of tripping over small dogs!

      1. No it was bad enough at the village show that we use to go to…..its all taken far to seriously (sorry to any doggy show people) for me….I must admit though on whim I entered, my cross collie puppy at one of these shows and he won the dog the judge would like most to take home….for me that was the pinnacle one could go no further, he got a rosette and £2.00 for some bones 🙂 but Cruft’s is a bit different, I would think with that amount of bodies it stops being fun 🙂

  4. I couldn’t agree more with your approach… I feel like everytime I have tried to plan specific combinations or bloom sequences, one of the chosen plants gets kind of wonky and weird looking or (worse) just dies. On the upside I have often been surprised with combinations of plants when I get some self-seeding.

    1. It worries me that some people end up being stressed by their gardens, when really they should be a great source of peace and relaxation – I’m finding that you can do very little, but still be amazed by what Nature will do.

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