I have to put a big sorry firstly for the lack of blog posting this spring! It’s been all go over the past few months with us experiencing the driest spring for years, the garden at the factory being bigger than ever before (needing more attention) and also the fact that I’ve been helping Sarah Raven with her Chelsea flower show garden. I’ve also been finishing my first book – but more about that in a future blog post!
Chelsea is the plant and garden world's version of the Oscars and highlights the pedigree of gardening skill and talent of the UK, so when Sarah asked me to help her with her Chelsea show garden, I jumped at the offer! Sarah’s garden is part of several feel good radio 2 gardens. Each has been given a sense in its title, the other gardens include sound, taste and touch.
Ours luckily is colour! All of the gardens have been paired up with a radio 2 presenter, we have Anneka Rice who loves blue flowers, especially delphiniums. Tricia Guild is also part of the gardens team whose eye for using flowers in her designs has seen her style gain pride of place in the garden, with her cushions echoing the beauty of the dahlia flowers form and clout.
The gardens soul actually began at Perch Hill back in March, where we laid out the flower beds with bamboo canes and decided the basic formula of the gardens structure.
Rosie (Sarah’s daughter) designed the gardens layout, brick paths and the beautiful flower arranging shed at the back of the garden. With its rusty tin roof and mighty wooden sleeper uprights, it looks as if it has been in the garden for years. Its shelves and hooks have been festooned with coloured glass vases, raffia and florist tissue paper.
Normally Chelsea gardens take years to plan, we had just a few months! Weeks before the building began Sarah, Josie (Sarah’s head gardener) and I visited the nurseries who were growing the plants to try and get our heads around what would be reliably in bloom for the show and how we were going to combine the plant selected together for the best visual affect.
The garden is a cutting colour garden echoing our love of gardens that not only look beautiful but are also productive to supply home grown flowers for the vase inside. Its planting is a mix of perennials, shrubs (for foliage) and cut and come and again annuals such as cosmos.
To get the annuals in flower earlier than normal, they have been grown under special grow lights in poly tunnels ready for their début. We even have sweet peas grown up birch tee pees in huge plastic pots, that have been buried in the ground looking totally natural and at home now. A lot of the flowers in the garden, I grow at the factory, including some of my favourites such as Cirsium rivulare but also lots of new ones too like the lupin ‘Beefeater’.
Within moments of the plants arriving on their trolleys at the show ground, London bees of all varieties homed in on the nectar mecca that we had suddenly created. The garden is a constant buzz of bees busily feasting away and proves gardens can be beautiful and still offer a sanctuary to insects. It has been a huge honour in helping to create this garden, it's a garden of great charm where the plants speak for themselves and I'm sure that it will inspire lots of people.
Meanwhile, at Stoke, the garden is becoming full of glitter ball alliums, the first summer bedding is being planted, and broody hens are busy with their eggs and chicks. It’s a good job that Stoke on Trent has a fast train service to London so that I can try to keep on top of the work load here too! Pauline in the gift shop has been keeping an eye on things when I have been away for longer than two days and is truly the gardens saving grace!
The Chelsea flower show is broadcasted on BBC one and BBC two from the 21st of May, don’t miss out on also buying the Emma Bridgewater 2017 Chelsea flower show mug! For more information about Sarah’s Chelsea flower show garden visit her dedicated website page here.
Seeds, Bulbs, Plants - All Your Gardening Needs | Sarah Raven www.sarahraven.com.
Sarah Raven| Chelsea Flower Show 2017 ... For orders: Mon-Sat 8am-10pm, Sun 9am-10pm For customer services: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
Thanks for reading, Arthur Parkinson