Kevin Smith's Blog

Day 634 - The RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Monday didn't get off to a promising start. Ida was tired, irritable and didn't want to get out of bed, the cat was violently sick all over the bedroom floor and I lost a shoe. Add to this a spot of emergency ironing (just why didn't I do it the night before?), a frantic dash to get Ida to nursery and then a run (yes, an actual run) to catch a train and you've just about got the whole picture.

Of course, it was worth all the trauma and effort because I soon found myself at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – the grandest gardening spectacle in the world and an event I've been lucky enough to attend for the last 10 years. My 2012 show experience was different to all others as I was freelance (I was last year too, but it takes a bit of getting used to) and able to look, chat and wander at will. In addition to this I was looking with a real punter's eye – you see, I'm hopefully moving house later this year to a property with an ENORMOUS garden (by my standards anyway)*, and I was hoping to use Chelsea for inspiration. I wanted to see design ideas to recreate in my new plot, I wanted to get excited about plants to try and I wanted to check out greenhouses, sundries and all the other gubbins that make a garden. So, did anything tickle my fancy? Yes, actually, one or two things did...

First off, how about this in The World Vision Garden:

Now it's not the black pool (although it is really cool) or the tree ferns (already got a couple of those) that caught my eye, but the rusty metal. I'm going to need some kind of divide or screen at the new place and I reckon the rusty metal around the pond would be the perfect material to use. In fact, the perimeter fence in this garden was also rusty metal, so I know it would work. I haven't got a clue how to recreate the look - perhaps I'll have to get in touch with the designers (FlemonsWarlandDesign) to find out.

And I also loved this:

I spotted this display in the Great Pavilion, and was probably drawn to it because it includes lots of the plants I already grow and love (clipped box, heucheras, geraniums and grasses). It's the way they're put together that I really like though. I love the formal topiary amongst all the billowing perennials and I particularly like how the lolipop bays give height and echo what's going on at ground level with the box - just lovely. I know it's not a particularly new idea, but it's amazing how differently you see things when you're looking for your own plot. I also reckon the rusty tones of this plant scheme would work really well the fence I mention above. I was hurriedly leaving the show as I snapped this picture on my phone and I'm sorry to say I can't recall who the exhibitor was (shameful, would never have happened pre-freelance).

Paths also caught my eye and I adored the white pebble effort in Arne Maynard's The Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden:

I can imagine the horror or getting down on my hands and knees for hours on end to lay a path like this. Perhaps I'd need to get a man in.

And then of course there were plenty of things I saw and loved, but would never realistically recreate at home. The splendid Chelsea Pensioners took my breath away when they climbed Diarmuid Gavin's pyramid in The Westland Magical Garden. It was a spectacularly impressive site, although I'm not sure entirely what I'm after for my own garden. Besides, just where do you find a Chelsea Pensioner in Essex?

Naturally I saw  the usual cohort of celebrities, although unsurprisingly they didn't give me much inspiration for my new garden. I also talked to lots of lovely writers, bloggers, editors and producers (some I'd only communicated with via twitter before), which was a treat.

So, there we are - Chelsea done for another year. Perhaps by the time the 2013 show is here, I'll have a new garden complete with rusty fences, topiary balls and a pebble path. And possibly a few Chelsea Pensioners.

Until next time...

*I refuse to write any more about the new house until we've moved in! I'm terrified it's all going to go tits up and I think I'm tempting fate if I start whittling on about it on the internet.

Oh, and isn't the weather lovely! Ida and me had a fab time in the garden yesterday afternoon and I finally managed to get my tomato plants outside - more on that exciting event to follow.

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Day 629 - Sabrina

Friday, 18 May 2012

If you follow me on facebook you'll have no doubt noticed  I've struck up a bit of a relationship with the checkout lady in my local Co-op - Sabrina she's called. I say a relationship, although it's really just her talking to me about mindless tittle tattle while I frantically pack my bags and try to stop Ida stealing sweets from the counter.

A couple of weeks ago Sabrina informed me she was going to a 30th birthday party that evening (it was a Saturday) even though she's only 21 herself. I couldn't work out if she was proud or ashamed of the statement. She then asked me if I was going out that night. "Pwah, not with a two year old child at home," I laughed. She quickly responded with,"Ah well, never mind - at least you're not 30 yet." She must have seen the shock (possible delight) on my face and then asked me how old I was. I sheepishly said I was 31. "No way," she screeched. "I'd say you look about 28." She continued with, "What do you reckon Tom? How old do you think this guy is." Tom, the checkout man next to Sabrina, had no doubt heard our conversation and politely agreed that I look in my late twenties. I, although slightly embarrassed by the whole thing, was obviously delighted.

So, I visited the Co-op last night (I needed emergency wine - often do on a Thursday) and the lovely Sabrina was at the checkout once again. "Have you been cooking?" She asked this time. "Er, yes," I replied (as it happened I was actually in the middle of making some lovely caramelised onion gravy - the onions were caramalising while I was making the emergency wine dash). "Yeah, thought so," Sabrina replied. "You smell of onions." On this occassion I was totally lost for words - just what do you say when someone tells you you smell of onions? I just pretended to laugh, grabbed my wine and ran. I thought about the conversation on the way home and decided I could cope with smelling of onions if I still look 28.

Until next time...

P.s. I was going to blog about the garden but I can honestly say I haven't ventured outside for the past two weeks as the weather's been so grotty and everything is so behind. Besides, you'll get a bumper gardening post next week after I've been to the Chelsea Flower Show.

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Kevin Smith | Garden Media Writer and Editor

On 31 August 2010 I quit my full-time job as the Commissioning Editor at Gardeners' World Magazine to be a stay-at-home dad  and to try and scratch a living as a freelance garden journalist. It's often said that a 'life change' is good, but can I cut it with the yummy mummys? Will I manage to get a single shred of work done? Will Ida (she's the gorgeous little girl who's the cause of all this) like gardening as much as me? Who knows, we're going to find out...