Today was my fifth year as a Guest at Chelsea Flower Show, meaning I get to preview the Show on the Monday before it opens to the public. To say it is a treat is an understatement. In previous years I have interviewed celebrities for my Green Scene column for Media Wales but this year I also had the challenge of recording brief interviews for BBC Radio Wales.
I have never used a ‘flash mic’ before and was contemplating the fact that I should really have probably practised on friends, family, Yogi … anything really. But I hadn’t, so it as with a degree of devilment that I strode confidently toward Alan Titchmarsh who was the first celebrity I saw. Completely oblivious to my rooky status, he was delightful, charming and I was in business. A few strides further down the Main Avenue Rob Brydon nodded ‘Hello’ and admired my boots – I optimistically took that as an offer to be interviewed and he didn’t disappoint. It was also rather fortuitous that we were standing in front of a couple of live gnomes giving me added fodder for my interview. Informal, fun interviews with Ben Fogle, Peter Sissons, Nigel Havers and Joanna Lumley quickly followed.
I did have my Chelsea Boots on. They are my spin doctors for Chelsea – everyone loves them and they open garden gates. When Joanna Lumley shrieks, “Oh Darlings, look at her boots they are gorgeous,” people look. I got my interview.
(Pictured with the amazing Mr Austin of David Austin Roses)
My boots even got me photographed for Hello magazine – much to the amusement of Toby Buckland who I was talking to at the time and consequently was ‘papped’ with me! He didn’t seem that upset about it to be fair.
Ringo Starr is probably one of my biggest fans – OK one of my boot’s biggest fans and commented ‘Cool boots Man’ last year. This year he crossed the Main Avenue to say he was still in love with them, sweetly adding, “and in love with you, Man”. He’s cool.
Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its Centenary year this year and there are many themes comparing old and new; 100 years of flowers, 100 years of veg, 100 years of horticulture and 100 years of anything remotely connected with horticulture.
First The Beatles, then The Rolling Bones.
Gnomes have also been a big talking point as they have had a brief reprieve; banned from Chelsea Flower Show in previous years, they were allowed to join in the celebrations this year although several of the trade journalists I spoke to were upset that the Gnomes had stolen the column inches in the Press and hijacked more haughty-cultural headlines.
It was also Prince Harry’s first time at Chelsea – no obvious connection with gnomes, purely coincidence I think. He has been involved in the ‘Forget-me-not’ Garden designed by Jinny Blom. It’s a garden that courted much controversy as people were waiting to see if it would get the expected Gold Medal due to its Royal connection. Many thought it was undeserving on merit and more than one person commented on having completely forgot what the Forget-me-not Garden was like.
And while I remember, you can listen to more Tales from Chelsea on BBC Radio Wales tomorrow at 1.30 when I’ll be talking to Lou on the Louise Elliot Show and I will write more about my visit over the next day or two, including Chris Beardshaw’s fabulous Arthritis Research UK garden, why Diamiud Gavin didn’t have a garden at Chelsea this year (and why the RHS were relieved!) and lots more besides.
For me it is a day of two halves; now home from the bubbly and the luvvies, it’s time to feed the pigs and walk Yogi the terrier-ist. Make no mistake, Chelsea Flower Show may have shades of Chelsea Power Show for some but this is one gardener who will be keeping her feet firmly on the ground.
There’s no place like Gnome.