This flower show is one of the largest events put on by the RHS each year where designers, growers, and retailers exhibit their newest ideas and plants to the horticulture world.
On Friday I helped with the RHS Plant of the Year stand, where 25 of the best new plants of the year were displayed for the public to see. This year, Clematis koreana AMBER took the top award from the competition, beating a stunning Geum (2nd) and a bulletproof Calendula (3rd).
I spent the week walking through the entire show three or four times over, admiring the New Covent Garden Market exhibit with a profile of Her Majesty The Queen displayed in a rainbow of cut flowers. As well as fawning over the plant displays from some of the country’s best nurseries, and chatting with my many new friends, from this year's bursary, who along with the rest of the horticultural world had descended upon Chelsea for the week.
The Chelsea Flower Show seemed to me like one big party every night, with folks from all parts of the horticulture industry coming together to celebrate all that our profession has to offer.
After Chelsea I spent a week living and working in Regent’s Park at Winfield House, the residence of the American Ambassador to the UK. I stayed with Stephen Crisp, who has been the Head Gardener there for the past five presidents.
While there, I spent just a couple of days actually gardening at Winfield house, potting up some Skimmia and Canna, bedding out summer annuals, deadheading roses, and planting a woodland border. I also helped Steve with the flower arrangements for the house, which meant picking up the flowers from the London Flower Market, the largest of its kind in the city.
Apart from working in the garden together, Steve gave me a taste of London horticulture by showing me round to several different public green spaces including the new King’s Cross area, the South Bank near the Tower Bridge, Primrose Hill near Regent’s Park, and the Hampstead Pergola. We also had private tours from the head gardeners of the London Zoo, Chiswick House, the Royal College of Physicians, and Buckingham Palace Gardens. We also attended a Chelsea judge’s art exhibit and a play in the East End. It turned out to be one of the busiest and most enlightening weeks of the entire fellowship. Stephen’s knowledge of the history of London, and specifically the evolution over time of its green spaces, made the week a continuous learning experience, and one of my very favourite placements so far.
Chelsea Physic Garden
My last week in London was spent at the Chelsea Physic Garden, renowned for being the oldest botanic garden in London and the second oldest in England, behind Oxford. The garden is still set up very much the same as it has been historically, with systematic order beds divided into monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous plant families, with other areas dedicated to plants of a particular use such as medicine or alcohol.
During my time there we were planting nearly every day, and it was a good opportunity to familiarize myself with some of the less common genera of the important horticultural families in cultivation, as well as to learn some entirely new families, such as the lethally barbed Loasaceae.
Final stop the Southwest
The penultimate month of my fellowship that I spent in England was filled with beautiful flowers and as I watched the suburbs of London fade into pastures my train hurtled towards the southwest. I smiled thinking about what other Edens I might find in my last month in the Cornish sun.