Chelsea 2012
May 22-30th, 2012

May 18th – 21st

I arrived into London May 18th from my Morocco tour and stayed at the Hilton London Heathrow Hotel again. I had been welcomed as per the usual graciousness of this hotel brand and in chatting with them found out that this hotel was going to be undergoing a renovation as it was 20 years old. I could not believe it…hardly a mark or stain anywhere…amazing when you think of this as an airport hotel. One thing I do know for sure is that everyone who works here takes a pride in ownership that I find very nice. In hotels like this, the customer is always the winner. Upgraded again and another nice surprise in my room. I am here until the 20th then head on over to our tour hotel to check in and prepare for Press Day at Chelsea on the 21st….can hardly wait. Anyone who is lucky enough to get into this day knows how much fun it is with all the extra activities happening…celebrities strutting their style among the flowers, bands and music and drink. It is a great day and with so few people a wonderful chance to see the gardens up close and personal.

This is the 99th edition of the world’s most prestigious horticultural event and will it be fun. This is also the first year for the Fringe, a series of events taking place all over the city – 70 this first year – so a very exciting time for those who love plants and gardens. Diarmuid Gavin, who always seems to break the Chelsea mold – take his floating pod last year – will this year display an 80 foot pyramid.

I am sure there will be plenty to see while there…

The 2012 RHS Chelsea Flower Show will be the 90th show to be held on the grounds of the Royal Hospital and the ‘RHS Chelsea Flower Show’ is the lasting title of an exhibition with a history of over 140 years. The first RHS Flower Show to be held in Chelsea was in 1913. Demand for tickets continues to grow and since visitor numbers have been capped since 1988 (at 157,000) it is necessary to book early. The show was originally called the Royal Horticultural Society's Great Spring Show, first held in 1862, at the RHS garden in Kensington. In 1888 when that garden was closed the RHS found itself without a site in central London at which to hold the show. It was then moved to Temple Gardens near the Embankment, where it was held under canvas until 1911.
In 1912, the Temple Show was cancelled to make way for the Royal International Horticultural Exhibition. Sir Harry Veitch, the great nurseryman, secured the grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, for this one-off event. It proved such a good site for an exhibition that the Great Spring Show was moved there in 1913, where it has taken place almost every year since.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show has witnessed numerous changes in horticultural fashion. Show gardens, over the years, have mirrored the changing enthusiasms of garden designers - from the Japanese and topiary gardens of the early days (Japanese dwarf trees, now known as bonsai, were seen at the first Show in 1913), through the rock garden craze during the war years, the paved back yards and cottage gardens of the 1980s, to the contemporary sculptural gardens of the present day.
At the heart of Chelsea is the exhibition of plants staged in the Great Pavilion by nurserymen and women, professionals and amateurs - although the number of amateurs represented today is proportionately much smaller than in the early years. Scientific exhibits, model glasshouses and displays of tools and equipment have remained constant features from the outset.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is still viewed as the most important event in the horticultural calendar and is as popular as ever. With enormous media attention and exhibitor waiting lists longer than ever, there seems no sign of this appetite abating. The new trends constantly appearing at the show illustrate the changing face of garden design and mark this country’s ever-changing horticultural history. A new professional floristry competition was launched at the show in association with the British Florist Association in 2009.
In 2012 there is a new category FRESH, replacing the old category Urban Gardens.

As a side note, as you can appreciate, I have taken thousands of pictures over the years of the gardens that we are see while on the Chelsea tour or others. I invite you to visit our Pix area on  and go through the years and the progression of the gardens since 1998 when I first starting doing the Chelsea Flower Show Tour… On  you can also see some of the comments we have received on our tours.

May 21st Press Day at Chelsea

There is something so civilized about attending Press Day at Chelsea. The flavor is so different and the walkways are so open. Mind the cameras and all the guys hauling photography equipment around…mind the television stations who are doing live broadcasts…mind the last minute details and you are in for an extraordinary day. A day that brings celebrities, music and photocalls to introduce new plants. There were stars here I heard but I was too busy looking at the gardens, displays and accessories that are on offer this year. This is THE show you want to be at to see the very latest in the horticultural world.

We had just started our walk and as we approached Diarmuid Gavin’s huge 80 high pyramid called the Westland Magical Tower Garden, who is there sweeping up the last minute bits of dirt and leaves but Diarmuid himself. He was multitasking – on the phone – as well as sweeping and smiled at us. Thrilled that I was one of the few that cold pronounce his name correctly he then invited us to go inside this overwhelming show garden. Diarmuid likes to have fun at Chelsea and with his pod last year, we wondered what he would do this year. It was amazing inside…all kinds of small sitting areas to relax in, and even a kitchen were you could make a cup of tea or enjoy a glass of champagne in privacy, surrounded by greenery….a huge tree house. The lift was closed as they did last minute plant changes, so we only got to the second floor, but it was really enchanting to me to be inside where the view of this structure is much more visible and appreciated.

Later on in the day as we were heading to the press tent for a much needed cup of coffee we see his pyramid edged all the way up with Chelsea Pensioners…smiling and waving to the people. They had as much fun as we did.

It’s a great time to meet all the designers of the gardens too. Jo Thompson, in her flowery dress, was chatting away in her garden designed about caravanning. They call trailers caravans here. We caught Carol Klein just about ready to do a live bit and she smiled back at us for a picture…Laura Wright, a classical singer sang her heart out in one of the gardens…pure magic to listen to classical music in a garden.

Press day is a day of rest – kind of – as they have set up their gardens and wait…wait for the judging to begin. The air is filled with excitement as you see little huddles of judges moving from garden to garden and then hands raise and off they go to the next.

Inside the great marquee or tent are all the cut flower displays, fruits, vegetables and more gardens as displayed by other countries like Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Thailand, Korea, and Grenada. My friend Suzanne, who is the lead designer for the Grenada display has another hopefully Gold Medal coming. She deserves it…it is gorgeous. A tropical wonderful helliconia and orchids that makes me pine to be back in Grenada again. A country truly worth visiting with some wonderful gardens and gardeners!

This being the Jubilee Year, there were lots of things around the show to remind us of that. They put together a small garden at the entrance to the Bull Ring with a beautiful picture of the Queen that rotates. New plant introductions this year included the name ‘Jubilee’ in them and of course many items to buy in the shops.

Chelsea 2012 is all sold out, it usually is. Only 157,000 people get tickets for this event which runs five days now with a mad sell off of plants on the Saturday.

When we were done the show we took our goodies back to the hotel to get ready for Afternoon Tea…yes, the quintessential reason for being in London is to enjoy Afternoon Tea too! This tea would be taken at the Langham Hotel, a gorgeous 5 star hotel where tea is a tradition.

Do you know the history of Afternoon tea? From the Langham website “Dating back to 1865, English Afternoon Tea is credited to the Duchess of Bedford. The legend says that the first lady to enjoy ‘afternoon tea’ was Anna Maria, the 7th Duchess of Bedford who lived at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire and was lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria.

The Duchess of Bedford is said to have experienced a ‘sinking feeling’ in the middle of the afternoon one day and asked her footman to deliver all the tea making equipment with some bread and butter to her private room. She found this new meal so satisfying and
enjoyable that she soon started inviting her special friends to join her for ‘afternoon tea’. Even when she went to stay with her aristocratic friends in their manor houses, she took her own kettle and tea making items with her so that she could continue her afternoon parties when she was away from home. The simple platefuls of bread and butter that first accompanied afternoon tea developed into much more elaborate selections of sandwiches, scones, muffins, cakes, biscuits, gâteaux and fruit desserts. The centre piece of The Langham, London - the dazzling is famed as the place where the tradition of afternoon tea was born over 140 years ago. An indulgence that lives on today and the heart of enchanting hospitality.

Asprey Jubilee Tea at Langham Hotel is a tasty experience. A tea sommelier will help you choose the perfect tea to enjoy then he disappears to get it ready. In the meantime a plate of too pretty to eat deserts are placed on the tiered rack to tempt you while you wait for your sandwiches to arrive…• Parmesan with celery and cream cheese, • Smoked duck with foie gras and blackcurrant, • Asparagus with Wiltshire ham, Gruyère and chives, • Cornish crab with cucumber and shiso and • Smoked Scottish salmon mousse with caviar. Each is a delight. Then your scones arrive in a silver basket – plain (always my choice), raisin, chocolate and marinated orange. Slather half of a heated scone with Devonshire clotted cream (yes, 60 percent fat, but what the heck this is an experience where calories don’t count) then a dollop of home made strawberry preserves and savour this true British tradition. Before desert they come by again to see if you would like some more sandwiches but you are already past the point of no return and need to make room for the last course….the deserts. All inspired by Aspreys most recent jewellery collection….• Praline truffle, • Pina colada macaroon with Malibu, • Blueberry and bilberry battenburg, • Purple jasmine with apricot and • Blackcurrant and white chocolate mousse. You are now totally full and never want to eat again. You sit back with the last bit of tea and think that life never gets better than this…

We tried three different teas while here as well. Jing Assam Gold, pungent and with a hint of raisin and malt. Afternoon Tea from Tregothnan here in England, and finally Palm Court Exotic Blend, a Chinese white tea with hints of hibiscus, rosehip and pink rose petals.

On our way back to the hotel, of course there were more pictures to take of a floral shop, pastry shops and Whole Foods to stock up on a few items to nibble on when the need hit.


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