This year we finally made it to the Chelsea Flower Show and turned up like complete noobs in respectful attire as described on their website. Thousands of other people there didn’t read the website and wore what they wanted, and this would have been a lot more comfortable.
With no idea what to expect other than what we have seen on TV, we ambled into the grounds and down the main path lined with stalls as far as the eye could see. In fact, the layout is fairly straight-forward… it’s split into three sections with the pavilion on the right, the stalls straight ahead and music, food and grassy areas on the left. Once you have the layout sorted out its easier to allocate time – ours was limited because we had selected the cheaper evening slot for a pair of tickets at £45 each. I’d say it was worth it, and I’m a fair-weather ‘do I have to’ kind of gardener.
Out of interest, I made a rough estimate of 160000 visitors split equally into the £105, £56 and £45 tickets, the gross income is £11 million.
From the stalls we first encountered, the Penkridge Ceramics still life studies were attention-grabbing. At first, I couldn’t see why they were charging for the conkers, and then it dawned on me that they were replicas so lifelike it was impossible to tell the difference without examining them closely. This does make you wonder if you might just as well collect the real thing in autumn, but this isn’t true of the other organic replicas. They are all edited to be beautiful and the difference from real life tickles and delights your eyes.
The garden exhibits are open plan and somehow different from what I’ve been used to seeing on TV, probably because you view them from the path outside the exhibit whereas the TV crews get inside and have a more immersive view. Likewise, the inside of the huge pavilion has a daunting mass of vegetation to examine, all of which is special in some way or another, and quite a few plants I’ve never seen before.