I honestly didn't have time to stop and say "OMG, OMG, I'm at the Chelsea Flower Show". My mindset was more like, "OK, what's the game plan? Where do I start? Do I just start taking photos??". So I did:
First, I strolled through the outdoor gardens and, boy, talk about diversity in styles and function! There were about 17 show gardens and numerous smaller "urban gardens" that were aimed to demonstrate what could be done in a small amount of space.
There were several highlights and with garden design being so subjective, I'm going to highlight a few personal favorites (or photos that turned out well) and why I liked them. I don't want to be overly critical, these are just my casual observations:
Amazing what great shots you can get without the hoards of people around. This garden drew so much attention as it featured the tallest structure ever built for the Chelsea Flower Show. This was the B&O Garden featuring a modern style that utilizes all edible plants and sustainable building features such as a potting shed that harvests excess water for its own integrated irrigation system, solar panels, a vertical garden of vegetables and herbs also built with its own irrigation system, etc. etc. The only thing that doesn't really come across as sustainable was the perfectly clipped mulberry trees to create this rigid framework that makes the design futuristically chic, but to maintain this look is going to take a lot more work than one might realize.
Chelsea is known for its efforts to draw an international repertoire of designs and designers and this extravagant garden was sponsored by Tourism Malaysia. It might look spectacular from someone who's never been to the tropics and, don't get me wrong; it's truly awesome, but the overall design and palette of plant materials is comparable to that of a trendy shopping mall interiorscape that seems to be installed in every large shopping center in Southeast Asia.
One of my favorite gardens, I will say had to be this highly overplanted and dense design by Bunny Guinness, who I hear a lot about. I guess what I like about it is the plant palette: it's all so familiar and it's so dense that you feel like you're one with the plantings and they're there for you to savor and enjoy. The lighting captures the essence of this garden to make it feel like a morning stroll through an abundance of fruits and vegetables. It is quite overdone from a design standpoint and certain spaces weren't very well defined as the original sketch submitted made it look more formal than it really turned out to be.
I could go on and on about all the other gardens, but that would just be ridiculous! Hahah.
Looking at these gardens, I look at our own Northwest Flower and Garden Show and I feel like our displays are fairly comparable in terms of execution. The biggest difference is the plant palette since our winter show tend to utilize winter blooming plants with very few things forced to grow out of season and the fact that our show takes place indoors makes it really hard to compare as there are strength and weaknesses with having both kinds of shows.
Both shows are certainly both over-the-top with some practical application to home gardeners and take an extraordinary amount of planning and time to put together.
The timing of Chelsea really maximizes on the availability of so many different plants and many traditional plants that people are very familiar with, so instantly, they're able to relate and marvel at the extravagant displays. Compared to the NW Flower and Garden Show, we have to work a little harder to educate the public who may not know what Sarcoccoca and Helleborus are or why twigs of Cornus sericea, the silk tassels of Garrya or the bark of Betula utilis v. jacquemontii are so attractive and interesting.
Another big difference to are SPONSORS!!! Chelsea is such an iconic name and to even get to be an exhibitor at this show is BIG TIME! What really struck me were the sponsorships that gave money to these gardens. Yes, it's totally advertising for them as well, but for big corporations to just even give a damn about gardens was mindblowing!!
Then I ask, "Why can't Microsoft, Starbucks, Macy's, Amazon, etc. take a very small portion of their vast advertisement budgets and provide support for a garden?? Have they even been approached about such an endeavor?"
I think the problem with these American companies is they're so insistent on having their name and image everywhere they put their money into and for garden designers, they refuse to just "sell out" and cater to their sponsors when they need to sell themselves as well.
Chelsea seems to find a good balance of actually sticking to the principles of the show, yet still gaining the sponsorships and support necessary to make it as successful as it has been.
As always there are more photos on my Flickr page, but there are more stories to come from press day. Stay tuned...