Oh, Chelsea, Chelsea, you really shouldn’t be distracting me so. But you are, and I’ve admitted defeat. Chelsea it is.
So in complete contrast – although geographically next door – to James’s quarry was Sarah Raven’s cutting garden. I’d read about it in advance and thought, ‘yes, yes, lovely flowers, it will be very pretty’ and moved on to read about the next one. Exactly as I preached against in my last post!
The reality though, was something else. The reality was that this was my favourite garden of all.
Conceived of only in March this year (yes, two months ago!), Sarah’s garden was absolutely magnetic. She has an incredible eye for colour and form, but this garden went way beyond the planting. It was just impossible to believe that it hadn’t been there, in that exact spot, for at least the last fifty years. I was transfixed and kept finding myself heading back that way for just one more look (and another few hundred photos!).
The attention to detail in every square inch surpassed every other garden. Just look inside the battered old shed and you’ll see enormous numbers of little bud vases lining every shelf. Look at the little trinkets in the seating area, the watering can, the skinny brick wheelbarrow paths and the repurposed plant pots.
But perhaps most of it, it was an active garden. Sarah could be seen deadheading, watering and generally pottering about, going in and out of the shed in her gardening dress as if she were at home, entirely oblivious to the thousands of fascinated onlookers. The garden seemed to be full of people coming and going; celebrities, friends, you name it, everyone was welcomed in to have a wander and this gave the space life and authenticity.
I’d love to say it could be real; clearly thousands of plants had been stuffed together to peak at the same time in usual show garden fashion, but you warmed to it as though it were. There were no murmurings from the onlookers debating this, that or anything else, it was just simple joy and delight expressed by all. Sometimes you don’t want to have to think about gardens, you just want to be immersed in them and feel instinctive pleasure and this was certainly the garden for the job.
I love the ‘clashing’ colours, which didn’t clash at all to my mind and I loved the moments of respite in calmer blues and greens. I loved the natural stakes and the feeling of letting the plants pretty much find their own way, spilling out as they wished over the grass. I loved the (totally impractical) Eucalyptus providing calming and beautiful structure to the beds and I adored the fact that the whole garden was unbelievably full of bees.
I think there was much to be said for these Senses Gardens being excluded from the judging too. There seemed to be a whole other air about them, not one of trying to forge a reputation but one of a much more laid back, fun, why-not? attitude. There was a sense of them being relaxed, comfortable and self-confident in themselves.
This garden was really about the simple pleasures in life…a cheery, delightful respite from more challenging world events.
Yet it was still another garden I learnt from. The glorious detail gave me so many ideas and the biggest revelation of all…that at heart, I’m just a brightly-coloured-flowers girl myself!