So, press day wouldn't be complete without a few "behind the scenes" images and photos only the public could see on the papers the next day. Like I said, the amount of press and media attention this show garners is quite remarkable.
One of the images I will never forget was entering the press tent to collect some press release, literature, and, most importantly, find an outlet so I could charge my camera battery.
Little chance I had witnessing this as I hid in the corner to snap this photo.
It was such an interesting experience attending this event. Here in Seattle, I'm so used to recognizing people I knew and I immediately feel welcomed, ready to schmooze, and set to take notes, photographs, and run into people left and right and it's all one party of plant folks, garden writers, and prominent names in the field. In Chelsea, I felt like a nobody.I took it as an opportunity to really push myself to speak to growers and just really observe and soak up the whole experience.
Camera crews swarmed the grounds of the Royal Hospital with interviews left and right, evening news reporters, gardening personalities doing demonstrations in the show gardens. It was all quite fascinating to watch behind the cameras. To give me some more insight on all the happenings at Chelsea, I ran into a well-known plantsman by the name of Dr. John Grimshaw. He helped pen a fabulous reference on new trees and a book on Snowdrops, one of his passions. John Grimshaw's Garden Diary and we happened to have crossed paths on Facebook. During press day, he spotted me and introduced himself and I asked if I could tag along as he previewed the displays, scrutinized the plant materials and shared his take on UK Horticulture and gardening in general.
Here we are looking at a stand of Digitalis or Foxgloves. I inquired as to why such a common and weedy plant deserved its own stand. He says that they've always, traditionally, been popular with show goers and they're remarkably easy to have blooming in time for the late May show. So there you go! We're actually standing next to a cool cultivar called 'Pam's Split' with a rare split in the fused corolla, which is white with a red spotted throat.
Hanging with John turned out quite to be a blessing as a colleague of his invited me to stay after the 3PM cut off time for press to vacate the show grounds for the Evening Gala to begin. This meant seeing more of the show, learning which entry won "Chelsea Plant of the Year", and, perhaps, a celebrity citing. While I missed out on seeing Ringo Starr, Gweneth Paltrow, and all these other names listed on the press release of potential celebrity visitors, I did manage to have the honor of seeing her:
Again, I asked myself, "Why don't we have any real celebrities make appearances to our flower shows that could potentially draw a bigger crowd?!"
So, I took this picture not knowing who this lady was until a colleague of mine gasped and asked if it was Vanessa Redgrave. I later learned that it WAS her launching a new rose in honor of her daughter, actress Natasha Richardson, who passed a way tragically. The 'Natasha Richardson' rose will be available to the public with proceeds from its sale going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a charity that Natasha Richardson supported. Looks to be a top notch selection. Read about it here.
Speaking of rose lauches, the infamous David Austin unveiled the brand new "Will and Kate" rose at this year's Chelsea! Meh. It looked to be quite a strong bloomer, but the flowers weren't anything special. It had a light scent. It was white. It was kind of short. It was white. Bleh...I don't need it. Cool to be able to honor people through a plant though, that's pretty damn awesome.
Here are more missed photo opps that I didn't get a chance to shoot, from the Daily Telegraph.
So, the grounds and the main marquee, which I'll cover in the next installment, began to be filled with catering staff, more press and cameramen, and dolled up models in the show gardens and exhibits where not only did they garner the attention, plants and flowers were the focus as they both shared the stage.
After a long day, John introduced me to a English favorite, rum and raisin ice cream!