I’ve said this to a few non-horti friends and they look blankly at me as if I am peaking another language, which in their world I probably am. Chelsea week is the pinnacle of many many months of hard work from a select number of designers and their wider, very devoted ‘teams’.
The RHS start talking about it all for months, if not a year in advance and this one as the 100th year is a special one. All the detail has been available for a while and every now and then another info vid pops up on the website. They’re jolly interesting really, presumably done in throughout the year in conjunction with the BEEB. I managed to watch most of them before attending as last year I failed to comprehend a number of great gardens because I didn’t understand the backstory, the concept, the WHY of it all. Of course one can simply appreciate the execution of these stunning gardens but as a designer I do like to understand the concept and the thread it gives to the overall solution presented in Chelsea week.
The RHS website is loaded with info but starting here helps:
Of course Monday the press, celebs minor and major, the judges, the royals and apparently anyone with mates in the know rock up to preview the show. Personally I am galled by a) not getting a prized invite for the day and b) all the gloating commentary about how fabulous Monday is from those that do….That said when I did get the chance to ‘man’ a trade stand for the day a few years back, I ran a mile 🙂
Tuesday and Wednesday are for the ever growing throng of RHS members. I am a member as were my parents, I remember begging Mum to take me one year and she looked completely aghast. I think it was stressful enough dragging my Dad (a considerably less keen gardener than herself) around let alone a hayfever suffering child (11 or 12). So Tuesday is my day, I sometimes wish I had the courage to go on a Saturday and fight the masses for views of gardens or trade stands of flowers and then bid for plants at 4pm but no. In my late 20’s I did, on several occasions battling over geraniums and wildly impractical specimen fuchsia (I know I cringe at the idea now but it was a very spectacular plant!). One year I even went twice, once to see the gardens, once to trawl the Pavillion for precious plants….But no longer, with the price of tickets rocketing and travel to and from following in hot pursuit, lets not mention £3.5 for a cup of mediocre coffee and more than £10 for a sandwich lunch more than one day is an extravagance too far.
The BEEB coverage is all encompassing these days, one can see far more angles and dangles than in real life. 90 mins daily on the ins and outs, the characters who design and create , the preparation, growers, celebs spots and on and on. The coverage of the nurseries and hard landscapers who actually build the gardens seem to be unrepresented, one would think the designer was the only person involved. They clearly are not and were it not for the army of amazing professionals who make the ideas come to life Chelsea would be a very dull show indeed.
There should be a Chelsea outtakes and Chelsea Build programmes which in my view would give the public more of an idea of just how incredible these shows are. The immense planning, skill, research and ultimately the build process for the gardens. in 2004 there was a short foray (http://www.tv.com/shows/diarmuids-big-adventure/)focussing on one designer which gave an insight to some of the behind the scene tantrums that can arise. It’s emotional stuff, heavily invested creatives who have worked hard and have 3 weeks to bring it together and 1 to show it to the world. A lot of pressure.
I had planned to blog about this years gardens but clearly waylaid myself…. in the next post I promise!