The Chelsea Flower Show

This May I went to the most English of events (part of the English "Season", which includes Wimbledon, Henley, Ascot, the Boat Race, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition). The Chelsea Flower Show was held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea (the centuries-old homes for retired soldiers, who can sometimes be seen around the streets of London in their scarlet uniforms). Apart from the tents full of flowers, there are the specially designed gardens such as the Real Japanese Garden, which includes a traditional Japanese teahouse (Gold Medal winner). There is also a garden created by the prisoners of Leyhill Open Prison. I also saw the Prince Charles Carpet Garden, which was actually created by Clifton Nurseries. The garden was based on the Prince's Middle Eastern carpet garden at Highgrove, which contained tons of imported mosaics. The garden was to be replanted in Highgrove.

The Chelsea Flower Show is really the place to be!Even though you have to follow the crowd around the various exhibits, queue for refreshments and the toilet, pay astronomical prices for a few strawberries and cream or a glass of champagne, I assure you that it is worth it. Plus, it is a wonderful excuse to by a smart new hat and to dress up!!!

Of course, the "Royals" have a special preview day before it is open to the Members and the Members of the Royal Horticultural Society also have a preview day before the general public.

Other lovely gardens open to the public by special arrangement, were the Charleston Farmhouse and the Garden in East Sussex. It was formerly the garden of the Bloomsbury Set as they were called when Virginia Woolf, her sister Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and the rest of their unconventional household moved to the remote South Downs Farmhouse in 1916. They set about giving the place their own special charm - a photograph of Virginia is pinned to the potting-shed wall and the "Hank of Spink" sculpture was worked into a terracotta wall by Quentin Bell (one of Vanessa's two young sons by her husband Clive Bell). Duncan Grant had a small studio in the grounds and next to this he created Duncan's Folly, a courtyard garden.

After the death of Vanessa (1961) and Duncan (1978) their daughter Angelica Garnett maintained the garden until the early 1980's when the Charleston Trust was set up and the garden was restored to look as much as it would have in its heyday in the '50s. Head Gardner Andrew Caverly, who lives in a flat in the Charleston Farmhouse, has lovingly recreated the original atmosphere. Love from a girl from the flower-power days.


Verinha Ottoni.


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