Chelsea Flower Show is one of my highlights of the year. Quite often, in the past, I've been installing huge displays for Chelsea in Bloom throughout the night before it opens and by the time I get myself to the show, I'm feeling pretty zombie-like and float around not taking anything in properly.
This year, I was feeling pretty spritely for once and after hanging out on the Brora stand chatting to their customers about our collaboration, I spent a wonderful hour in the Grand Pavillion absorbing the magic.
Pollyanna Wilkinson’s garden “This too shall pass’ for the Mother's for Mother's charity was my highlight. The planting was airy and light; lots of pastels and vibrant green, a soft peachy Iris that I'd never met before - peach was definitely a running theme this year - soft pink roses, sprinkly alliums, deep red poppies and delicate sugary geums, gave me such an overwhelming feeling of lightness and calm I found it hard to tear myself away.
Foxgloves are one of my reasons for living in May and I missed them desperately when the flower show moved to September last year. This time, they did not let me down and showed up in a major way. Their sensational spires, again in colours that were new to me appeared, searing into the sky in most of the gardens I saw. I do love the peachy Sutton’s Apricot and Dalmation Peach but I'm yet to be sold on the highlighter yellow ‘Digitalis Ambigua’ that popped up a lot. The Dalmation white with deep Ribena splatters are still my faves.
Before I went to the flower show, I spent the morning with Charlotte Lawson Johnston from ‘Cloth Collective
’ and natural fabric dyer Kate Turnbull at Anna Mason’s atelier learning how to dye fabric using plants and flowers. It was utterly fascinating ( I'm going to tell you more about that in our next issue of The Seedling) and so thrilling, mere hours later, to discover Kate’s own ‘Textile Garden’ she had created with gardener Lottie Delamain, which happily, was bursting
with foxgloves as well as her exquisitely naturally dyed wisps of hanging fabrics.
Five minute chat with Pollyanna Wilkinson...
Polly, huge congratulations on your silver medal, I c stop thinking about your wonderful garden! I've always been fascinated about how you get these plants in such perfect condition for a show like Chelsea, is it as tricky as I think it must be?
It is so tricky!! There are backups after backups. To ensure 6 good Iris the nursery will grow more like 40. Timing is crucial, and the weather in the lead up can make or break the final plant selection. Interestingly being in the pavilion this year I found certain plants just didn’t work when they arrived on site - the colours translate differently indoors. And then of course there is much trickery and attention on the plants before we install them, from wiping each individual leaf of a plant, or using paintbrushes to brush off the dust - it’s an odd sight to behold!
What will happen to all the plants after the show? Can I have them!?
Haha! They are being relocated to Hartcliffe city farm in Bristol, close to where the charity Mothers for Mothers is based. It’s lovely to think a little slice of Chelsea will live on for others to enjoy.
What is the name of that magical peach iris?
Wondrous! It’s slightly mad isn’t it - and not one I would normally get to use in a client brief, so it was fun to play with colour in this garden.
Tulips are coming to an end now and we’re thinking about filling our pots for the summer. What’s your best planting combination right now?
I’m a real Dahlia fan, so if we are keeping pots seasonal I tend to switch out my tulips for Dahlias intermixed with grasses and annuals.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be back at my desk attending to current projects and designing gardens for the foreseeable, but rather excitingly we are also about to install a Rose tea garden celebrating the Queen’s jubilee for Hampton Court Flower Show in July. We’re planting over 300 roses in 7 varieties - each celebrating a decade of the Queen's reign.
How do you look after yourself during and after a huge build like this?
The days are long - building a show garden is 2 weeks of 14 hour days - there is little time for much else. I’ve existed on Gail’s cinnamon buns and coffee for a fortnight, so once the show is over it will be lots of sleep, time with my little boys and I’ll try and eat a vegetable or two.
What were your best bits of exhibiting?
The positive feedback from the visitors, raising the profile of such a worthy and essential Charity, and the camaraderie of all those at the show. It’s a wonderful experience.
See more of Pollyanna's beautiful gardens at:
Photo credits: Clive Nichols