Wearing embarrassingly new steel toe cap boots, with matching high visibility couture, access was granted to the Royal Hospital grounds, where preparations for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012 are in full swing. The sheer scale of work required to create this most famous of plant shows, is quite incredible. The grounds are simply packed with JCB’s, bobcats, lorries and vans, causing traffic jam havoc. The main Chelsea buildings; the Great Pavilion, stands and shop fronts are already in place, waiting to be filled with the legendary abundance of plants and delectable wares.
Only two weeks into construction, the show gardens are already emerging from the (very) muddy ground. Even at this premature stage, the detail that is Chelsea, is much evident. The majestically tall Cypress trees in Tom Hoblyn’s (Arthritis Research UK) garden are immaculately spaced out and precisely level; Arne Maynard’s (Laurent Perrier) garden boasts beautifully pruned topiary; the masonry work in Cleve West’s (Brewin Dolphin) garden seems almost ancient; the ever sparkling Doris (1950’s Fisher caravan) in Jo Thompson’s (The Caravan Club) garden, is poised and ready to accommodate worthy staycationers. Seeing first hand, the enormity of the work and the devotion to detail, involved in the creation of show gardens, only amplifies my already copious respect for the garden designers, contractors and their construction teams. Though, as focused as they all are, the atmosphere is tremendously friendly and supportive.
Despite being blinded by the vast number of enormous yellow JCBs, Diairmuid Gavin’s ‘Westland Magical Tower Garden’, is hard to ignore. The seven story structure, made from fancy black scaffolding with brassy fixings, towers twenty four meters (80ft) over the grounds. Never failing to produce the unexpected, Gavin’s latest creation is certainly commanding and startling, though admittedly slightly alien. Granted, it is early days, but one can’t help but wonder if the requisite for being habitually controversial has just taken over? Is this latest creation simply the result of the so dubbed ‘bad boy’ of garden design striving to satisfy (or amplify) that image and/or dominate Chelsea as he did last year? Despite being a firm admirer of Gavin’s work, and always game for novel and unpredictable garden design ideas, I am a tad skeptical as to this current creation. Hopefully though, come show time, he will prove me very wrong.