Chelsea Flower Show Envy

 Cancer Research Show Garden
Flowers on Show

It's not simply a case of Chelsea envy. Nothing is quite that simple! I blame the difference in our hemispheres...

In New Zealand, as I write this, it's a few weeks to the winter solstice. I have a garden full of tree skeletons covered in a pale-blue wash of winter light. Where's my sun?

Up there, quietly doing its business - hidden behind the tall pines and gums in the wide shelter belt I call the Hump. It's a terrible trade-off. Knock them down and I'd see more of the feeble winter sun. Then in spring, and summer, and autumn the 'bracing' nor-westerly winds would huff and puff - and blow the house (and garden) down...

Reaching Out to Chelsea

So, sitting in the mid-day semi-gloom on the Moosey house patio, I'm trying to 'reach out' to the Chelsea Flower Show. I have been trying hard to imagine this great gardening event - to 'feel' its flowery ambience through the eyes of the London Moosey Team.

But this is just not the right time to visit a Flower Show! Knowledge of the way the earth turns and the seasons change has no impact. Late May is the time to visit the woodshed, and possibly the back paddock to collect pinecones for the log-burner. It's the time for indoor previews of seed catalogues, and outdoor wearing of striped thermal underwear.

Go Aussie Go!

Again Chelsea seems to reward its out-of-season southern hemisphere gardening friends. Last year a New Zealand garden called the Kia Ora Garden of Well-Being won a prize. It had ferns, and water, and the designers apparently had difficulty sourcing a local cabbage tree (Cordyline) in flower.

 Gold winning show garden.
Australian Garden

2005 is the year of our neighbouring Australians, winning one of only six gold medals. The traditional British Commonwealth ties are holding strongly in the garden designer world! Oddly, the Australian garden does't actually look very Australian in this photograph - for example, where are the gum trees? Where's the 'barbie'?

The Local Flower Show

Local Flower Shows just don't quite cut the mustard. I'm sure the Chelsea Flower Show has loftier horticultural ideals than the Ellerslie Flower Show which I experienced in 1999 (I've never been back). It tried hard to sell me smocked white lawn nightdresses (I bought one) and Taro plants for my sub-tropical garden (I didn't buy - I don't have one). Mind you, quite a lot of designer water has passed under the garden bridge since then...

 Brass Bandstand in the sun.
Bandstand at Chelsea

It was great fun flying up, staying in downtown Auckland, and catching a lumbering bus full of well dressed ladies. My memories of the show itself are hazy. I remember all the wrong things - like a busking trumpeter, and some really expensive garden hammocks.

 Sex in wellies
Diarmuid Gavin

The Year of the Frilly Succulent

One exhibit was memorable - an aged dinghy, turquoise paint peeling (tres trendy), with a froth of succulents spilling out - all pinks and purples. 1999 was obviously the year of the frilly Echeveria (and peeling paint). I also remember cute 'little' Gunnera plants in cute 'little' stainless steel pots. This was also the year of the silver garden accessory.

Right now in mid-winter I'd really appreciate seeing some sunny flower colour, perhaps some new roses, even a cabbage tree in flower. My garden is full of damp lawns and borders covered in leaf litter. It is cold, tired and scruffy (rather like its head gardener).

If only I could teleport to Chelsea and float around with the other Mooseys, joining the crowds of famous and infamous gardeners. I'd wear my best floating summer apres-gardening shirt. I'd even wear a skirt! I could join the queues of older lady gardeners trying to get Diarmuid Gavin's autograph...

Well, maybe not a skirt. But maybe next year?


I really hope that the London Mooseys enjoyed their day at Chelsea. I'm looking forward to reading all about it, and seeing their lovely, colourful photographs. Honestly!