I have for the first time this year been involved in a tiny way with actually creating something at Chelsea Flower Show.
I haven’t mentioned this before, as I am a very clumsy gardener prone to breaking things at Chelsea (sorry Hillier – again – for that branch incident five years ago…). So I didn’t want to say anything in case it didn’t go too well.
But for some inexplicable reason the lovely Sue Beesley, former Gardener of the Year and owner of Bluebell Cottage Gardens and Nursery in Cheshire, agreed to let me within five yards of her stand. Not only that, but she let me tuck in moss and hold stuff and everything.
The whole thing was a huge step for Sue herself as she’s never done Chelsea, though she’s a veteran of other shows, notably Malvern. She stepped in with three weeks’ notice to cover a late cancellation (this spring has claimed a few casualties) and rose to the occasion with an awe-inspiring efficiency and calm.
I can’t believe quite how much goes into putting these stands together. Every plant position was agonised over, changed and changed back again. Tiny bits of polystyrene tip pots a little forward to show off a plant that bit better: a ten-degree turn to the left and every leaf is just where it should be. The camassias, stubbornly in bud on arrival, were ferried off to a friendly greenhouse display for extra warmth in the hope that they’d come good in time (they didn’t). The Paeonia tenuifolia was feverishly checked every ten minutes to see if that promising flowerbud was going to fully ‘pop’ (it did).
I spent a happy day sipping away brown leaves, getting intimately acquainted with the finer details of moss texture, debating plant combinations and drinking coffee. It is an odd thing to look at a stand in the Pavilion and know every leaf of every plant, where it is in the display and why. And – even stranger – I know what’s underneath.
It was the smallest of small contributions but I did feel a smidgen of entirely unwarranted proprietorial pride in the silver medal Sue took home with her. Well done Sue – and thank you. Same time next year?