I never take for granted the privilege afforded me by the Royal Horticulture Society to attend its world-famous flower shows, especially on Press Day when a few selected journalists are allowed to mingle with and interview designers, horticulturists, craftspeople, and vendors. Over the years I have visited behind the scenes numerous shows including Chelsea, Hampton Court, Tatton Court, Harlow Carr, Sissinghurst, Wisley, and others; in their unique ways, all are just…WOW.
This summer kicked off with a new one for me, held for the second year at Chatsworth, a magnificent house and gardens nestled high in the Peak District of Derbyshire, central England. Though last year’s Press Day was closed early due to horrendous downpours – what the British correctly call “chucking it down” – this year the weather was perfect.
Continuing the latest trends, what’s hot at this and other RHS flower shows includes beautiful heirloom flowers, herbs and vegetables mixed in large mixed containers, rustic wooden fences, unique vine-covered arbors, naturalistic designs encircling smaller formal lawns, mowed paths through wildflower meadows loaded with pollinators, small water features, fire bowls, children’s gardens with all sorts of recycled containers (including painted tires) and colorful artwork, and low-maintenance succulents.
A real “back home” display attracted my eye because of its prominent colors which reminded me of my antique pickup truck, which was recently repainted an instantly recognizable bright green. The exhibit, put on by the John Deere company, featured an original 1919 made-in-Iowa Waterloo Boy tractor as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of its introducing one of America’s first successful engine-powered tractors.
I chatted with folks who proudly refurbish wooden handles and metal blades of well-worn garden tools, others who have spent decades carefully cross-breeding various plants to come up with the most amazing succulents, roses, clematis, daylilies, iris, and other fantastic never-before-seen plant cultivars.
Main things at these shows, other than designers trying out their best ideas, are to be inspired with what other gardeners are doing lately, and especially to try some of it out in your own home grounds. The best plants and ideas will take it from there.
Here are just a few more of the dozens of images I took at the show, including a handful of the eclectic, award-winning “show gardens” and closer details of the many dozens of flower, plant society, and product stands, all primed for perfection (and close competitive judging). Scroll over each one for a brief description.
And for a more detailed surprise encounter with a pair of Mississippi-inspired bottle trees found at this year’s show click here.