Last week, with our invitations from the Royal Horticulture Society, Martin the Horticulture Tutor and Project Manager from Normanby Hall, and two horticulture trainees, Laura and myself travelled down to London for the trainees first visit to the Chelsea Flower Show.
It was an early start for us on the Friday morning as we were invited to take part in a exciting VIP tour by the RHS followed by the young horticulturist breakfast hosted by The Newt in Somerset. Before telling you all about the delicious breakfast that had come from the working estate, I wanted to tell you a little bit more about the three gardens we visited on our VIP tour including meeting with the designers!
When everyone had arrived, we were split into 12 groups and taken around 3 individual gardens before the grounds were opened to the public.
The first garden we visited (which was one of my favourite gardens of the visit!) is called the Ice Garden by The Plantsman’s, designed by John Warland. The garden design included a 15-tonne block of ice to highlight climate change and the melting ice caps, of which 28 trillion tons have disappeared from the Earth’s surface since 1994.
The Ice Garden for me however had a positive note focusing on innovation. That within the permafrost scientists have and continue to discover and germinate seeds buried over 30,000 years ago and who knows, one of the plants that have been or yet to be discovered could be revolutionary in the fields of medicine, food and even in the battle against climate change.
The ice melts over the course of the flower show to finally reveal beautiful native plants that you would find in Siberia, such as the Iris siberica and the Betula pendula.
We really enjoyed getting up close and personal with the gardens on the tour and it was an amazing opportunity to get to hear from the designers themselves. At the last show garden we saw the BBC camera crew setting up to film so it was a very exciting morning indeed!
We headed back for breakfast hosted by The Newt and really enjoyed hearing from Sue Biggs, the Director General of the RHS, followed by Stephen Herrington, Head Gardener at The Newt, as they shared news, advice and inspiration about the many routes, bursaries and training that is on offer to support a career into horticulture. What made the talks even more enticing was tucking into the freshly baked pastries and strawberries which were handpicked from the estate that morning. Talk about fresh from the fields!
After breakfast we ventured out into a very busy Chelsea Flower show to look round the pavilions and some more show gardens. The garden I most wanted to see was the Grow2Know 'Hands off Mangrove' as it represents a lot of things that I support such as racial, social and environmental justice and these themes are entwined and explored through horticulture.
It was hugely inspiring to see such a wonderfully diverse community project and team win an award at Chelsea as we move away from viewing gardens as perfect and learn that access to green spaces can be huge tools in education and community well-being.
The Hands-off Mangrove was inspired by the events of Notting Hill’s Mangrove Nine in the 70’s and the global deforestation of mangrove which is a keystone species. The garden is a symbol of coexistence, (bio)diversity and resilience. The garden is a reflective of the community of Notting Hill, filled to the brim with plants that are perfect for an urban garden and after the Chelsea Flower Show the garden will be re-located back into the community which for me goes full circle and it is so wonderful to know that this garden and its legacy will live on for future generations to come.
There were many gardens that I would have loved to talk about and could write pages on the beautiful plants, designs, inspirational planting and the varied and vast roles and careers that are clearly abundant across the horticulture sector.
For me the biggest takeaway and positive was the vast number of native flowers, pollinators, re-wilding and biodiversity that ran throughout the show (and how there were garden inspirations for everyone from containers to hydroponics!). It shows just how far we’ve come to wanting to learn to live more in balance with nature and wildlife around us and how there really hasn’t been a more exciting time to consider a future career within horticulture.
I would like to say a huge thankyou to the RHS for inviting us along for an inspirational first visit to the Chelsea Flower Show, The Newt for a delicious breakfast and for making us feel so welcome, and to R-evolution for the opportunity to travel to London for the show and the horticulture course that I am loving with Martin at Normanby Hall. For now I am catching up with the 11 or so episodes on IPlayer of the Chelsea Flower Show and impatiently waiting for the Delphinium seeds I bought to germinate. With special thanks to all my seed sowing practice with Martin, I feel pretty competent it won’t be long until I have native perennials of my own growing in the garden reminding me of such a wonderful first trip to Chelsea!
See picture (left) of a pot and container garden including hydroponics system.
City and Guilds Level 1 Horticulture trainee