Monday, 18 May 2015

Chelsea Flower Show 2015

Press day at Chelsea Flower Show and the RHS trainees flocked into London to lend a hand while getting some insider's knowledge of the UK's most famous display of plants and garden design.

I was assigned to assist one of the judging committees for the exhibits in the Great Pavillion: on a tight schedule of two and a half hours we had to help the judges navigate their way through 17 exhibits, which they were to judge, according to their expertise.

The displays are judged based on the brief submitted by the designers, and according to horticultural and design criteria such as:
  • plants, 
  • overall impact;
  • endeavour;
so that the best receive a medal: bronze, silver, silver-gilt and gold. Special awards are also assigned to gardens and exhibits during the show.

The judging process is very confidential as the stakes are high for the participants of such a high-profile show, and results are not announced until tomorrow. That is why trainees are asked to help the judges get the space to view the exhibits thoroughly and in comfort, and the privacy to discuss and propose their votes without external pressure. In the process, we got the the opportunity to experience the judging first hand.

As the name reveals, Chelsea is mainly a flower show, but there were some fruit, vegetables and herbs exhibits and I was on the committee in charge of evaluating them, which was fascinating!

The judging viewing completed for the medals, a group of us also helped the judges on a further round of judging sessions for the awards. The judges were then going to spend the rest of the day finalising the distribution of medals and awards, while we got time to spend visiting the Show.

Potatoes at Chelsea!

My favourite edible exhibit was an educational potato display with some 140 varieties: tubers of varied colour and shape, grouped around their on species' plant, on a black background, put together by Morrice and Ann Innes and sponsored by seed and plant company Thompson & Morgan.

For some people, seeing such variety of potatoes must be a novelty indeed... it was for me when I was first invited to join a Facebook group of potato breeders and growers called "Kenosha Potato Project" where I've seen the strangest, more colourful and interesting shaped tubers from across the world and learned that "papas" is the original name of these favourites of tubers. They come as coloured and stragely shaped as below!

The Grenada's ‘Pure Grenada’s Rainforest’exhibit was also rather gorgeous, displaying lush green, bright colours, spices and fruits that are native to the island: one had to recognise tha some places on earth are blessed with particularly show-worthy flora, such a Solanum mammosum or titty fruit that is said to resemble a human nipple to one side and a cow's udder to the other, and pink banana Musa velutina.

Solanum mammosumMusa velutina
Delicious fruits, such as the colourful fruit of Theobroma cacao that gives us chocolate, or Zingiber zerumbet, with edible tubers, juice, leaves that can be used as flavouring and flower heads that provide shampoo!

Pouteria sapota and Theobroma cacao Zingiber zerumbet
I also found a delightful herb garden

Herbs exhibit
where I was particularly attracted by 3 herbs: Galium odoratum edible dainty leaves and white flowers, which I first saw in a garden I worked last year and two non edibles: Polemonium caeruleum with dark leaves and blue flowers and Prostanthera rotundifolia a shrub with pink flowers.

Pennard Plants stand

Detail of vegetables at Pennard's

And I will finally mention the rather glorious exhibit by Pennard Plants, inspired by a R. Kipling's poem"The Glory of the Garden" in its 150th anniversary, with stunning vegetables.

PS: Glad to say the potatoes I helped being judged got a gold medal, the first of its kind! Grenada and Pennard Plants were also gold medallists.

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