For gardeners May is not only the month of frantic seed sowing and burgeoning cold frames, it also means the RHS Chelsea Flower Show – the highlight of the gardening calendar for many. The pinnacle of garden design and planting it’s a celebration of all things horticultural. Of course, this includes greenhouses too. I was lucky enough to visit Chelsea this year on the Monday, the day when the show ground opens to the press, and designers nervously stand by as the RHS judges walk around their creations with clipboards at the ready.
The show gardens and the Great Pavilion are the main attractions of the Chelsea show but dotted about are horticultural companies trying to grab your attention and tempt you on to their stands. Dancers from Strictly Come Dancing performing a waltz in front of a stand of hedge trimmers and leaf blowers certainly caught the attention of the press photographers. For me, one of my favourite spots, and I’m not just saying this, was the Gabriel Ash stand and its fantastic collection of greenhouses.
There’s a lot to compete for your attention at Chelsea so it’s important to catch the eye of passers-by. I’m a huge fan of succulents and have a growing collection of my own, so I was drawn to one of the Gabriel Ash greenhouses devoted to a beautiful display of echeverias, cacti and aloes. Vintage pots and pieces upcycled into quirky containers is another love of mine. I spend a lot of time scouring flea markets and second-hand shops looking for objects I can use as alternatives to the more typical pots you’ll find at the garden centre.
I loved the display of old trunks, enamel colanders and vintage finds with a beautiful collection of pelargoniums, petunias, foxgloves and aquilegias. I would love the space to have a greenhouse devoted to plants purely for ornamental purposes. The main functions of my own greenhouse are as a seed production space and as spot to protect my tomatoes from any blight. It would be fabulous to be able to indulge myself and grow a whole range of tender plants like jasmine, gardenia, Rhodochiton atrosanguineum and plumbago. Some of these are perfectly happy outdoors during the summer in a warm, sheltered spot but you do need somewhere to keep them over winter. And, tender plants like these will grow more vigorously and flower over a longer period if kept in the warmth and shelter of a greenhouse all year.
For most of us greenhouses are about edibles and what about this for a pretty scene – packed with herbs, tomatoes, peas and some flowers to add a splash of colour. And, of course the flask for that all important cup of tea.
Chelsea is all about being inspired, whether it’s to buy yourself a greenhouse like those Gabriel Ash make, to take away some ideas for plants to grow in your own protected space or interesting ways to display your plants. There’s something for everyone at the Chelsea Flower Show.