Chelsea Flower Show 2009

New plants at Chelsea - the full list!

Geranium sylvaticum 'Hilary'. Image: © OK, I've just posted the full list of all the new plants I found at Chelsea Flower Show this year over on my RHS New Plants blog. Guess how many? One hundred and tenn - that's 110. Roses, perennials,shrubs, clematis, annuals, trees, bulbs, indoor plants plus a cactus and even a new ginkgo.

Some may be familiar to North American gardeners but all were new to British gardeners.Lavender 'Flaming Purple'. Image: ©

So check out the full list of Chelsea's new plants, then work back through the other 34 posts on new plants from the Chelsea Flower Show - or start with the first from 1 May.

Then from early July I'll be blogging about the new plants at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

Chelsea postscript - Spotty Dotty correction

Egg on face time, folks! Podophyllum 'Kaleidoscope' and NOT 'Spotty Dotty'!Well, there's a lesson. It turns out that this is 'Kaleidoscope' and not 'Spotty Dotty'! The info in my piece came from someone putting the exhibit together and the excitement of the occasion scrambled either my note-taking or their explanation. I apologise. I dare say we were both knackered.

And  the superb specimen on display was in fact provided by Piers Bowley of Bowley Plants. Happy to make the correction, thanks to the designer of the exhibit Sue Ward for highlighgting the mistake in her comment to the original post.

I have to say that 'Kaleidoscope' is an appropriate name for the pattern on the foliage; the plant of 'Spotty Dotty' I grew did not thrive and faded away - apparently without developing foliage in its true character.

And what about that patent? The 'Spotty Dotty' patent text could well describe what I saw on the day. But look at the 'Kaleidoscope' patent and the description is more appropriate: "Beautiful large umbrella shaped leaves with a kaleidoscope look of color and pattern."

So mistake corrected. Bit of a blunder though, there are only two of these new hybrids and I got them confused! Sigh...

Yes, the specimen of Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ on the Gold Medal winning Chelsea Flower Show exhibit from the Hardy Plant Society was just superb; VP is right in her recent comment. Grown for the Hardy Plant Society exhibit by Kevin Hughes, ‘Spotty Dotty’ was created by Janet Egger at Terra Nova Nurseries in Portland Oregon. This plant has been patented, it’s interesting to quote some details of the patent.

“This new cultivar originated from a cross between Podophyllum hybrid ‘374’ (an unpatented proprietary plant) as the seed parent and Podophyllum delavayi ‘64’ (an unpatented proprietary plant) as the pollen parent. The seed parent, Podophyllum hybrid ‘374’, is an outstanding selection out of a hybrid swarm from a Japanese nursery, which is believed to have come from P. difforme, P. delavayi , and P. versipelle. The pollen parent, Podophyllum delavayi ‘64’ is a highly colored selection. The new cultivar was chosen for its outstanding foliage and vigor.alt=

“This plant is characterized by the following:
1. Beautiful large umbrella shaped, lobed leaves with an attractive brown spotted spring color followed by green leaves with lighter spots.
2. Two leaves per crown that will increase in size with maturity to 40 cm. or more wide.
3. Numerous large red maroon flowers with maturity.
4. A rhizomatous habit.
5. Excellent vigor.”

I would only quarrel with point 5: my plant did not prove to be at all vigorous.

Smaller, less impressive plants were to be seen on other Chelsea Flower Show displays. The plant in its terracotta pot on the Hardy Plant Society exhibit was by far the most impressive. It just showed whata magnificent plant this can be when grown well.

Thanks VP for the reminder of what a great specimen was on show and what a great garden specimen Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ can be.

Chelsea - the party's over

Graham-Rice-Chelsea-Flower-Show-3753 Well Chelsea’s over, we’re all knackered  - exhibitors, visitors and press alike – and there were some great gardens, some great plants and some great silliness. I posted thirty four pieces for the Royal Horticultural Society's New Plants coverage, nine pieces here starting with this one, did a guest rant over on Garden Rant and was interviewed by BBC radio.

Main awards? The Daily Telegraph Garden won the top award for a show garden, fair enough. The dahlia exhibit (in May!) from Winchester Growers won top floral exhibit although Jekka McVicar’s herbs must have pushed it close. There was another silly manufactured “gnomes at Chelsea” outrage and the designer of the Plasticine garden was rewarded not with a medal (well, he did get a Plasticine one) but a “Special Letter” from the RHS.

The Queen visited, Rod Stewart visited, several bikini-clad models with snorkels were seen as well – Puya chinensis. Image ©GardenPhotos.comunfortunately not at the same place at the same time. The twice daily BBC TV coverage was again condemned as ignoring plants and including far too much irrelevant twaddle. (“twaddle” - an old fashioned English colloquialism meaning nonsense or irrelevance.) Pretty much as usual.

 And in the Great Pavilion the overall standard was superb and although there were fewer large show gardens this year as a number of sponsors had pulled out – well, it didn’t really matter as the quality of smaller show gardens was so good. Top plant? Well, this amazing Puya chinensis on the Burncoose Nurseries display was pretty smart.

Chelsea celebrities

It's not just about plants and gardens (and plasticine).

Rod Sewart and the 'Highgrove' rose at the 2009 Chelsea Flower Show. Rod-Stewart-2989 On Chelsea Flower Show Monday, the official Press day and the day of judging and of the Royal Visit, there are celebrities all over the place.

They’re invited to support charities, to launch new plants that carry their name and, frankly, just to be around so they get snapped or filmed and that’s another story about the Chelsea Flower Show on the TV news or in the paper. Even the Royal Horticultural Society itself gets in on the reporting, their Celeb Spotter in Chief Jean Vernon has been blogging from the Show on the celebs she’s come across.

I usually miss them all as I’m too busy looking at plants though I did stop to shoot the Queen (you know what I mean) who I suppose is always the top celeb at any Show.

But many are pretty much unknown outside Britain – actors on the British soaps are popular. But this year we had Rod Stewart with his wife Penny Lancaster supporting the new rose ‘Highgrove’. It’s named for Prince Charles’s home and a proportion of the sale price goes to his charity, The Prince's Charities Foundation.

Stephen Fry, Helen Mirren and a host of others were supporting the ‘Equity’ rose – again proceeds toStephen Fry and the 'Equity' rose at the 2009 Chelsea Flower Show. Stephen-Fry-2978 charity, this time the benevolent fund of Equity, the actors’ union.

My resident expert on these matters tells me that these celebs vary enormously in their attitude to being there. Some are genuinely into it, for others it’s clearly a chore. You’d think the actors could at least act pleased – isn’t that what actors do?

Helen Mirren and a protea at the 2009 Chelsea Flower Show. Helen-Mirren-2714 Emma Thompson, who was at the Show in 2006 supporting Breast Cancer Care is always sited as the best – genuinely willing and genuinely engaged. Ringo Starr gets high marks and this year Stephen Fry. Helen Mirren and top British TV actress Patricia Routledge… well, not so much.

But it’s all part of the Monday mayhem: promoting the Show, promoting plants and promoting charities – and in some cases, of course, it’s the celebs promoting themselves. Just do it with a bit of enthusiasm.

Show closes tomorrow…


Plasticine garden update!

Here’s the thing. Great outrage from the horticultural elite at the Plasticine garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. No plants, nothing but Plasticine: “shouldn’t be allowed”, “disgraceful” etc plus a finger wagging letter from the RHS.

The thing is, an RHS insider tells me that the RHS approved the proposal for the garden in advance – knowing it would be 100% Plasticine and with not a live plant to be seen!

My guess is that on the committee that gave the approval, and doubtless following appropriate consultation, the demands of extra publicity trumped the demands of horticultural excellence.

Well, I thought it was amazing.

BTW My round up of all the new plants seen at the Chelsea Flower Show continues over on my RHS New Plants blog.

Chelsea - just the one controversy this year

Plasticine garden for James May at the 2009 Chelsea Flower Show Just a little bit frantic on our last day at the Chelsea Flower Show yesterday. Dashing around getting the final details and final pictures for my Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog – and taking a last look at the one genuinely controversial feature of the show – the garden with no plants. The whole garden, yes even the soil - was made of Plasticine, the British more-or-less equivalent of Play Doh.

Created by James May, presenter of the enormously popular  BBC TV motoring show Top Gear, as part of an ongoing project to use toys in new ways, it was a great hit with the public. Mind you, I asked a number of members of the Royal Horticultural Society’s governing Council what they thought of it and the most I could get out of them was a sideways look and raised eyebrows.

James May told the Daily Telegraph, whose elegant garden combining Swedish modernism and English cottage style, won Best in Show that no-one is "too posh for Plasticine". "They [the RHS] had to admit it is a nice idea and people like it but they cannot give me a medal alongside the other proper gardens otherwise that would open the flood gates to all sorts of ideas like gardens made of balsa-wood or something. So, they decided to give me a Plasticine medal for taking part without compromising the judging process.”

Plasticine garden for James May at the 2009 Chelsea Flower Show He was also rewarded by excessive muttering under the breath “disgraceful, “it shouldn’t be allowed”, “how was he allowed to get away with it” – that sort of thing – and he also received a “Special Letter’ – which is usually code for a bollocking scowl and a stern wag of the RHS’s schoolmasterly finger.

There was the usual contrived nonsense about gnomes at Chelsea, set up specifically to generate a headline in the tabloid press, but the Plasticine garden was the only genuine controversy.

I thought it was great and an amazing achievement by the schoolkids, war veterans and animators from the studio that created Wallace and Gromit. Especially in the rainy run up the opening. But not exactly a Chelsea show garden. And I don’t think the RHS guided the Queen that way on her visit.

So who won the Chelsea medals, then?

Daily Telegraph garden at the 2009 Chelsea Flower Show The way it works is that outdoor show gardens, large and small, and the floral exhibits in the three acre Great Pavilion at the Chelsea Flower Show are given a medal according to the standard they’ve achieved. It’s not like the Kentucky or the Epsom Derby when runners are placed First, Second and Third. If you reach a suitably impressive standard, then you get a Gold Medal – simple as that.

Then, from all the Gold Medal winners, the choice is made for the Best Show Garden and, for the floral exhibits in the Great Pavilion, the President’s Award, for the best display.

Three out of the thirteen show gardens gained Gold Medals, and the best of those was judged to be The Daily Telegraph Garden designed by Ulf Nordfjell and built by Crocus. It really is exquisite. Bringing together the Swedish modernity of the designer’s home country and a traditional English feel, clean lines are augmented by rich planting in a creation which brings together the modern and the traditional in a most effective way. It caught my attention when it was half built and that’s usually a good sign

Dahlia display from Winchester Growers. Image © In the Great Pavilion, the first dahlia display seen at Chelsea for many years took the top prize, the President’s Award. Dahlias are enjoying a great resurgence in Britain and Winchester Growers, the holders of the National Collection and creators of this display, are partly responsible.

This ambitious exhibit showed dahlias as cut flowers, as summer annuals and as border plants and also showed the wild species from which modern dahlias were developed. Three new varieties, two bred by John Wheatley who created the display, were also on show.

You can check out the full list of medal winners on the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show mini-site.

Lunching and judging at Chelsea

Dahlia display from Winchester Growers. Image © The Chelsea Flower Show judges get invited to a nice lunch before setting forth to assess the exhibits and only once, as far as I remember in about fifteen years, has the lunch (how shall we say?) impaired a judges wisdom. And that was many years ago… and certainly not this time.

The guest speaker was Professor Steven Jones, the celebrated geneticist and Darwin scholar. He assured as that the whole Show was a celebration of Darwinism and expressed his amazement that anyone could deny the validity of Darwin’s work.

He also explained that one, less celebrated, strand in Darwin’s work, was his survey of the “pulchritude” of the women in various British cities. Apparently he set out with brass meter on which he rated the women in a number of towns across Britain. He found that the least pulchritudinous were to be found in Aberdeen in Scotland while those that came out top in his survey were in – Chelsea.

Herb display from Jekka's Herb Farm. Image © Be that as it may… We set out into the Grand Pavilion… we soberly assessed the exhibits – and the results will be announced in the morning. We found some superb Gold Medal quality exhibits and one or two who will be receiving advice on how to do better next time.

We are severely instructed to betray no hint of our opinions in advance of the results so let me mention two exhibits that we did not judge which especially impressed me: from Winchester Growers there were dahlias from the National Collection, and from Jekka’s Herb Farm there were flowering and foliage herbs. Spectacular.

Chelsea - the final flowers arrive

Daffodils arriving at Walkers Bulbs. Image © It’s six o’clock on Monday morning of Press Day at the Chelsea Flower Show. The only people in Great Pavilion are me, another photographer looking even more bleary than I am, a stern security guard with fierce looking dog - and Johnny Walkers of Walkers Bulbs who’s just arriving with his daffodils.

Yes, daffodils in May – fresh from the cold store. And they arrive on pallets, already arranged in their bowls ready to go on show on the blue coated tiered staging.

Outside, the gardens are besieged by the elite of garden photographers allowed in at 5am to shoot the gardens in the soft morning light. The crews building the outdoor show gardens always try to be finished by Sunday night so they’re ready for the mass attack of the shooters this morning.

But inside the Great Pavilion all is peace… This is great time to be here – everything’s quiet and you can almost hear the buds opening.

OK… quick coffee and back out to hunt down more new plant introductions. Seventy eight as of last night – and eight or nine more already this morning.