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Chelsea Flower Show - 25 May 2001
Visited by NONNI

Click images for enlargements

After much indecision about whether we would be able to go or not, we left home for London at 7 a.m. Armed with Digital Kodak DC3800 and Canon EOS 5000 (for the camera buffs), we travelled by car, plane, train and taxi and arrived at the gates of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea at 11.30a.m. The sun and expected crowds were out in force to greet us and dressed for the part (forewarned by Chris) we bought a programme and joined the throng.
The first sight to greet us was a solid block of people the length of Eastern Avenue and we slowly moved along taking in our first impressions and wondering how we were ever going to find all the things we hoped to see. The map didn't seem to help at this stage, as everything appeared five times larger than we thought it would be. Very quickly the weariness of the journey left us as we watched the band playing to the surrounding picnicking crowds in Ranelagh Gardens.

The Courtyard Gardens were our first port of call as we have a similar area at the front of our cottage style bungalow and our main and lasting impression of Chelsea was formulated at this time. We were much drawn to traditional style displays and didn't 'dilly-dally' over the modern approach to gardening. The one exception to this was the London Borough of Barnet with its golden floating balls and mirrored backdrop (shown left).

From here we headed, with map in hand, to try and find some of the main garden displays and all we could see was A Real Japanese Garden, which to our surprise we found quite attractive although not our cup of tea. We eventually found the Theatrical and The Garden of Tranquility (shown right), which were very symmetrical but nicely planted. Suddenly TV cameras and Celebs surrounded us. Following a quick photo and autograph session (Charlie, Alan T., Chris B., Diarmuid)…nobody asked for ours! We headed on to see some more of the gardens.

The Garden of Eden, Mother Earth (shown left), The Schloer and The McKinley Wise (below left) were all excellent. The only off-putting part being the large plastic dome which again was a bit modern for our taste. Two other impressive gardens were the Help The Aged Lifetime Care Garden (typical of the 1960's and shown below CENTER) and The Laurent-Perrier Harpers & Queen natural wild meadow planting (shown below right) which we felt would have been enhanced by a rustic brick wall rather than concrete). As it was quite a full day for us and I am only a novice, wildlife gardener, I couldn't in any way give a full report on all the things we managed to see.

The McKinley Wise60's GardenMeadow

After quick refreshment, on the move, we headed into the Pavilions and here the spectacular displays took our breath away. In the course of this we came across many colourful characters from multi-coloured punks to a six-foot transvestite dressed in an immaculate fuchsia pink suit! We have never seen anything to compare with the floral arrangements that were on show.
It was hard for us to drag ourselves away from some of them. Beautiful Orchids, Fuchsias, Lilies, Aquilegias, Carnivores, Roses (the display to the right is from Mattocks Roses), Shady Border Plants, etc. Unfortunately, it would have been impossible for me to carry them home on the plane!
Geoff Hamilton
As we were about to leave we realized we hadn't seen many of the Courtyard Gardens in Ranelagh Middle and headed in that direction. Here we found many more traditional style mini-gardens including The Thames Valley Horticultural Society garden (shown left) in Memory of Geoff Hamilton, a gardener I loved watching on T/V.

By now, it was after 4p.m. and we had to think about our journey home. London Transport Bus, Taxi, Fast Train from Paddington, plane and then miserable weather to greet us at Belfast International Airport. Only real glitch of the day was walking round the car park in the rain trying to remember where we parked our Isuzu! We eventually found it hidden behind a large white van. Home about 10p.m.. and straight on to the computer to see how the digital photos worked out.

What a day! I have certainly returned home with many ideas.

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