The social season in London is in full swing with the vibrant 101st Academy Awards of flowers, the sold-out RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which is guaranteed not to disappoint star-struck gardening fans. Colour and innovation abound from the big Show Gardens, sponsored by corporations like the Royal Bank of Canada and The Telegraph newspaper vying for gold and silver medals, to the smaller Fresh Gardens, like Gucci’s Flora Garden, inspired by their fabric of the same name. A gorgeous chandelier from Vancouver-based design house Bocci illuminates a rock tunnel, with bromeliads (air plants) and ferns cradled in its lit crevices. Everyone who is anyone in the gardening world is here.
True to Oscar form, there is also high drama. On press day in the Great Pavilion, judges announced the Plant of the Year from a shortlist of 20 species. While my sentimental money was on the adorable yellow Georgie Boy narcissus named in honour of the little Prince, this time, royalty is eclipsed by Miss Saori, a pink Hydrangea macrophylla whose deep rose margins, white centres, double-petalled flowers, and burgundy fall foliage do indeed say “star”. Hosta breeders have also come up with a new plant to honour last year’s Wimbledon men’s singles winner, aptly named the Brookfield Hosta Andy Murray.
Always innovative, the British are celebrating youth and the next generation of gardeners are ubiquitous. Loads of bumblebees grace the RBC garden designed by 26-year-old Hugo Bugg, while brothers Harry (26) and David Rich (23) created the Vital Earth: the Night Star Garden. The youngest gardener I meet is working the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company’s Generation Garden in the Great Pavilion. With his Corelli College mates, Velizar Kirilov (11) has been experimenting with playing music to identical plants in identical grow mixes in different classrooms. In the music-deprived classroom, the flower box is mediocre. A second box fed hip-hop music is more resplendent, while the final box fed a solid diet of Tchaikovsky is blooming to beat the band.
Music also lures me over to the Grenada stand of tropical flowers, where a security policeman is taking a break from his duties to play the steel drums. From across the pavilion I get a whiff of famous David Austin Roses and depart to smell the new varieties they are launching this year. After all, a rose by any other name…
The 2014 RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs May 20 to 24 at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea.