Industrial ruin blooms at Chelsea
The familiar seaside landscape, transplanted from the beach at Scarborough to the artificial countryside of south west London, was to be expected. Welcome to Yorkshire had fashioned its display out of eight tonnes of sand, and tonnes more of chalkstone, sandstone and pebbles.
But as the RHS Chelsea Flower Show opened to invited guests, it was another side to the region that started to turned heads.
Doncaster-based Walkers Nurseries had constructed its featured garden around a recycled industrial wharf, as an example of how a derelict urban space could be made into a useful outdoor area.
The artisan garden, designed to resemble a northern canalside, includes a crane arm and a decked area, and is decorated by a pile of rusting cogs and corrugated metal.
Its designer, Graham Bodle, said he hoped the the garden woud inspire “a sense of wellbeing”.
The displays at this year’s show also include a Chengdu Silk Road Garden, with huge multi-coloured sculptural fins representing a Chinese mountain range, and a Bermuda Triangle exhibit with an “erupting” volcano.
Giant Maltese limestone pillars are a feature of another garden, which will also include plants unique to Malta.
The gardener Alan Titchmarsh, said the show had given gardening a “shot in the arm”, despite the number of key sponsors who had pulled out this year.
He blamed the retreat on the EU referendum, and he said he was confident that support for the show would return to normal next year.
Mr Titchmarsh said: “It reflects the fact that, when everybody was booking for Chelsea last year, it was when Brexit happened and everybody got a bit nervous, but I think next year it’s going to get back to normal.
“Gardening will survive anything. It will be the last thing to go so we need to keep growing things and we need to cheer ourselves up.”
The Ilkley-born writer and presenter has been a familiar face on television screens for more than 30 years, first covering the Chelsea Flower Show for the BBC in 1983.
Three decades on, he says the event, which will this year host more than 500 exhibitors, still surprises him.
“You see new plants, as well as things you forgot you used to know, everywhere you look,” he said. “It is the height of horticultural excellence.”
Yesterday’s preview, at which the customary garden tour by the Queen and Prince Philip was a highlight, was also attended by the TV cook, Mary Berry, who joined the Radio 2 presenter, Chris Evans, to open a vegetable-filled “taste garden”.
Actresses Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders, from the BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous, also made an appearance, as well as Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell and actors Hugh Bonneville, Joan Collins, Samantha Bond and Peter Kay.
The show is open to the public from today until Saturday, and is expected to attract some 165,000 visitors from around the world.