I have now had my hit of all the major RHS flower shows for the first time, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of Chelsea, Hampton Court and Tatton Park. They all have their own, layout, atmosphere, identity and, this year, pretty much the same sunny weather. Which was nice. Before I go on though, it must be said, there are other shows happening in the coming weeks that could well keep you and I going over the summer such as the ones at Wisley and Hyde Hall.
The flower show behemoth that is Chelsea was only my sixth day of work with the RHS but it was one of the things I was most looking forward to. Not to be too cliché but, it was one of those times that as I approached the entrance, I could feel my excitement peaking as well as sense the gravity of the event – Chelsea is, of course, the one that has the highest reputation and the biggest fuss around it. This may have something to do with the fact that it is always attended by the Royal Family in some capacity but the effect on the show is that it has the highest quality of gardens and exhibits. On that note, I did hear from a colleague that Buckingham Palace doesn’t actually inform Chelsea of how many of the Royal Family are coming before they turn up – they only live down the road, surely they could at least ring ahead! Overall, my first Chelsea did not disappoint: the gardens were glorious (my particular favourite was The BrandAlley Renaissance Garden), the floral marquee magnificent and I even saw a few celebrities.
Hampton was a somewhat different affair and I had already been pre-warned that it would be a more ‘relaxed’ show. Even the show’s location and setting evokes that sense: lying just off the Thames, in the grounds of the palace and bisected by the Long Water. The setting also allows it to be a much larger show than Chelsea (Chelsea is deceptive – my own imagination and the TV coverage had given me the image of a vast show. It is not.) and the grounds of Hampton comfortably fit everything in allowing each stand, garden and feature plenty of room to breathe. However, there was a slightly adverse effect because of this: I didn’t feel as attached, engrossed or felt as if I knew the gardens as well as I did at Chelsea, despite spending roughly the same amount of time at each. But this was slightly rectified when I returned later in the week for a future show gardens meeting and then once again with my family at the weekend as I was able to revisit them with fresh eyes and spend longer with them overall.
I hugely enjoyed Tatton for a couple of different reasons. Firstly, it seemed like the perfect end to the show season due to its combination of the designated young designer category, its, even more than Hampton, relaxed nature and the large variety and number of gardens, stands and displays. Secondly, it was a great opportunity to blur the gap between working and socialising with my colleagues. Let me explain. The two major London shows are relatively convenient for me so I only went for the day, but for Tatton I joined the online and The Garden teams, who usually stay overnight for the other shows, for two days at the show and a night’s stay in a hotel. This gave me a chance to see a different side to a show and to enjoy a tremendously enjoyable social evening that was peppered with, often hilarious and interesting, anecdotes and experiences!
I just cannot imagine anyone in this industry growing tired of going to shows year in year out. I enjoyed every minute of being in the show environment and being around new plants, designs and people. I’m quite disappointed there’s not another big one until next year now but, even though my traineeship with the RHS is only a year, I know I will be attending more of the larger shows, as well as specialist delights like the London Shows, and I highly recommend that you do the same. They are all truly wonderful.