Monday, 31 May 2010
We all, I am sure, take away so many memories of this, the most extraordinary display of gardening anywhere in the world.
I find it hard to believe that I can visit it and gaze in amazement, several times during the week, and now have wonderful friends new and old with whom I catch up, praise their immense and tireless work, and admire and encourage their magnificent achievement.
As soon as I was in on Sunday I fell upon the Eden Project/Tower Hamlet garden and sat down with Scruffy, the man in the woods among his besom brooms, cauldron, knife and hoe. We talked and he explained how the man who lives in the wood is so vital to its maintenance and care. He is the barometer for Nature and knows before anyone else when something is threatened by our increasing demands on our habitat and environment. He is of course, The Green Man.
I sang for them all and wandered on, riveted by my friends on the Hillier stand with a magnificent collection of specimen trees and plants, all in bloom, some 15ft tall and seemingly happily in situ for years....umberella acers, ravishing foxgloves, and a Moroccan garden and fountain "alla Yves St Laurent" with an Ali BaBa pot that I longed to hide in and jump out of.
Instead, later in the week I donned a masque and sat in the throne in their little studio and gave (how dared I?) a gardening tip on camera. "How" I asked "can I, give YOU a gardening tip?!!!" But then I had an idea, and with one of my own roses that was a bit floppy, showed how to revive a thirsty bloom when it seems all hope has gone. I have learned this after years of dealing with bouquets in hotel rooms, sometimes at four in the morning before I take off my make-up and finally fall into bed. I ALWAYS travel with my bouquets unless I give them to someone, or a hospital before I leave.
I sang some Puccini and wandered on... to Joan and her exquisite Auriculas, a tiny, new green one, and all of them beautifully displayed in a black pyramid like perfectly groomed Victorian ladies..........and sang some Gershwin for Joan too.
Easily distracted I HAD to see the roses, David Austin's ravishing bowers and arches of old-fashioned delights with perfume and modern health, and Peter Beale for whom I left a letter of homage and a CD, to the most enchanting Gentleman and his most beautiful roses which I first planted in my own tiny garden many years ago, long before I met Robert Harkness.
Greeting all of the Harkness Family, as they patiently and with the utmost care and gentleness arranged their wonderful stand, I stood back to see it, if I could, as any other visitor would.
Great arcs of Hybrid Teas and Floribundas, beds of shrubs and patios, the climbers surrounding a tiny table and chair that I can sit in gratefully, whenever I'm there. They are set entirely in grass and I love them all and bask in the perfumes. One of this year's new one's is Twiggy's Rose, a china pink shrub with a delicious perfume that I was asked to describe many times. In my humble opinion she is earthy, mossy base, woody middle note and a green almost cedar/citrus top note.......a very definite old rose scent and rare to encounter these days.
The Harkness stand was awarded a Gold Medal and I was not surprised as, after the broiling heat at the weekend and opening, we all wondered how the plants would survive.......but they did, gloriously.
I ran around the gardens, and was so happy to see lots of real English planting with peonies, iris, lilac, tulips and poppies instead of concrete, decking and loungers, which doesn't seem to me what gardening is about.
I talked, sang, gazed amazed, and came away with a wonderful array of Ornamental Bananas, given to me by Charles of the Bermudan garden (he deserved some Noel Coward) along with some of my own roses that finally were not needed. I ran off next day with them, for my surgeon and oncologist at UCH.
My last thought as I drifted off to sleep that night, was the heavenly blue of the Delphiniums.....................
and the Roses.
The first time that I ever went to Chelsea was as a student, and I queued at the end of Friday for the Grand Sell-Off and finally bought, for 50p I think, a huge bunch of deepest, red roses, Hybrid Teas and carried them home on the bus in heaven.
They must have come from the Harkness stand.............................