Thoughts on 2011 Chelsea Garden Show

bahia(SF Bay Area)May 25, 2011

I was just browsing some photos and videos on-line of this year's Chelsea Garden Show, and was wondering if anyone had opinions on this year's winners or the general content of the gardens? It was interesting that the garden awarded the Gold, designed by Cleve West, was based on ruins in Libya, such a coincidence that current events and Chelsea have such a connection! I've only been but one time, back in 2002, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the gardens. There is simply no comparison with the budgets and effort that go into Chelsea compared to our local San Francisco Garden Show, I'll leave it at that.

Anyone seen the press on the gardens, or followed the usual gossip about the designers, sponsors, relative quality of exhibits this year as compared to other years?

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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I guess there isn't much interest on this forum for Chelsea, too bad, because I love hearing others' opinions/criticisms on design trends, name designers, etc. It sounds like the Irish designer Diamuid Gavin has been the usual lightening rod for criticism pro and con, and the Best in Show winner, Cleve West is quite an understated personality by comparison, but with movie star good looks and a past history and an aspiring Olympics contender. I think it would be fascinating to actually be at Chelsea during the garden set up phase, and have enjoyed the one experience I had with a garden design and set up for the San Francisco Landscape and Garden Show when it was still at the Cow Palace; a garden mounted by the San Francisco Bromeliad Society a few years back, the year that Michelle Derviss also took Best in Show for her garden.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chelsea press coverage

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 11:11AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada

I am an RHS member and the Garden magazine always has coverage but the issue that will have coverage hasn't arrived yet, not surprisingly. I'm not sure if the link below will work or whether you have to be signed in to see it, but the Best Show Garden looks good in the video - I like the flower colors with the gray pillars. (A trite comment I know :-) Generally speaking, I'm a bit of a Philistine when it comes to show gardens. I prefer to get my inspirations from real gardens.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chelsea Best Show Garden

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 12:09PM
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Checked the link - I like the informality in this year's winning gardens, quite a change compared to last year, no "eureka" moments though. Browsing more gardens, I found one that sort of clicked, the Hesco garden (I was reminded of some of my favorite deserted industrial zones, and the plantings weren't overdone in terms of variety) - I like the "less is more" aesthetic and it doesn't always have to be accompanied by clean geometry.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 2:47AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada

timbu - I hadn't checked the other gardens. The Hesco one is nice - love the waterwheel. I also liked the M&G kitchen garden. I love strongly geometric spaces and the woven walls were very appealing.

Here is a link that might be useful: all the show gardens

    Bookmark   May 27, 2011 at 1:05PM
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I have been waiting all week to have time to comment on this post - It was a crazy busy week here. (In NH memorial day is not only the frost date, it has a big significance as the beginning of summer season and there are alot of graduations - so everybody wants everything done!!)

I love following the coverage of the chelsea flower show. I hope some time i will have a chance to go see it. I really havent had time to read the reviews- just look at the pictures.

Well, best in show- what can you say? Of course? It is amazing the political relevance this garden has given that it has been planned for more than a year. I love the mix of modern and ruins and the use of the yellow wall with terra cotta spouts for the water feature. One could say it is an amazing blend of multiple cultures, history and the future. I think the architecture of the garden is perfectly complemented by the choice of plants- they look like they will just wander there in the garden for all of history and that they have been there since BC.

The other garden that stuck me was the melbourne garden. Its a little more relevant to real life. i love the use of the felted smooth stones - a very interesting use of materials. Then the light that echos the circular theme, but in a very un- smooth way - made of willow or something.

I am looking forward to further browsing the coverage today - so I will probably have more to say! Thanks for bring up the topic, David!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 8:13AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada

The May edition of the Garden magazine arrived yesterday. The Chelsea coverage will be in the next one, but Ursula Buchan's column was interesting. She said that the cost of a large show garden at Chelsea is about 150,000 Pounds so most show gardens have sponshorship by large corporations, institutions or charities in order to fund the cost. How does that cost compare to shows like the San Francisco one David - do you know?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 12:55PM
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I was just checking out the coverage of the peoples choice - D. Gavin with the sky pod thing. I know he has his critics but what a fantastic idea to have a birds eye view of the garden. And the rest of the garden really interests me. I love the contrast between the three main elements - the cicles of still reflective water and the tightly clipped pill shaped -are they-yews -?- and the motion and reflective qualities of the grasses. I know there are other elements - the cone shaped whatevers and the path cutting through it all- but it is those three elements that strike me. The pod thing - well, I really like it more in its theoretical basis than in reality; but it does seem like an amazing change of perspective. How many gardens are designed to be viewed from not only the north south east and west, but from above also?! My call is next year he does a garden with an plexiglass base so you can look at it from below and enjoy the roots :)

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 3:49PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I think my favorite garden was the Tourism Malaysia exhibit; I really liked the clean sculptural lines of the architectural elements, with the repeating columns/arcade leading to the seating area within the water feature having some rich symoblism of Islamic/Persian/Moghul garden designs. I also appreciated the clean lines of the water walls dripping with plants and a subtle use of water rather than over the top impressive. I could well imagine myself enjoying such a garden as a retreat from worldly pressures and intrigues.

It is a bit hard to really judge some of the other gardens with their super elaborate/complex plantings, but in photos so many come across as just too busy/not natural. I prefer my plantings more structured and obviously designed. Perhaps in person I'd react differently.

Diarmuid Gavin's Pod Design struck me as the grand gesture, and I wonder how many people actually got to experience it from above. Apparently it only took 6 people at a time, and was inoperative if there was any wind. In my view, it was theater and high drama, but didn't move me in the same way that Malaysia's garden did.

As to comparative costs, nothing compares to Chelsea, but grand display gardens at the San Francisco Show that also depend on lots of structure can also easily be more than a $100,000. The one display garden I worked on for the SF Bromeliad Society depended heavily on plants lent by members, and specimen background plants lent from local nurseries, and all the time to design/install/take-down was volunteered time as well. The really difficult part is that many of these shows have such a short window for installation, in SF's case, it is only 4 days for installation and 5 days of actual show.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 6:38PM
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I really liked the tourism Malaysia exhibit also. It was really great in contrast to last years exhibit that contrasted the white rectangles with the rest of the garden. This was much more of a blend of architecture and water and plants. The abundance of still water was really striking. And I agree the dripping wall with plants on top was a very nice feature.

I think in the past I have favored the more realistic exhibits and the other extreme -ones that challenge the boundaries of landscaping. This time i find myself more in the middle:)

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 7:19PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

A link to some photos taken at 2011 Chelsea Show...

Here is a link that might be useful: 2011 Chelsea photos

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 6:39PM
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