The 2013 Chelsea flower show has come and gone, but we managed to get tickets for the final Saturday.
It was a long day as we were up early to catch the train down to London and it was late that evening before we arrived back home. As expected the event was busy and trying to get a glimpse of the show gardens took some doing, especially if you wanted a photograph or two. Despite the crowds the place didn’t make you feel claustrophobic and the day was thoroughly enjoyable. There was plenty to see, from the show gardens to the nurseries in the floral marquee who’s stands were done out like show gardens themselves. There was also array of other exhibitors ranging from those selling garden accessories to garden sculptures.
After being at the show for a few hours it became evident that no-one was actually selling plants. I found this quite strange, as being in attendance of similar events, the nurseries usually have some stock that they sell. It is possible that because of the location of the flower show that they cannot do this due to space and accessibility, however this created a massive sense of expectation in the build up to the 16:00 sell off, with everyone wanting to take a little bit of the show home with them.
The build up to the sell off starts well before 16:00. Once the plant you want has been identified you need to stay relatively close by to be in with a chance of obtaining it when the chaos commences. This wait can start at least 30 minutes before the selloff, in fact its long enough to get to know the people waiting next to you and which plant they’re after. I had decided upon a rose, a new introduction for 2013 by Harkness Roses. A good half an hour before the 16:00 bell, we had to leave their stand and a rope was put up to keep people from re-entering, a bit like a boxing ring and it must have felt like that to the staff who were surrounded by a massive crowd of people. We along with many others waited nearby not wanting to lose out on our target rose. As the time came nearer the staff gave out carrier bags and put on their gloves in readiness whilst we got our money out ready.
Suddenly Alan Titchmarsh was on the tanoy and a countdown commenced before the bell was rung. There was a large cheer and the madness started as plants and money exchanged hands quicker than shares on the stock exchange. It was all very well being at the front of the queue, but trying to get out was a nightmare. With plant raised high above my head I had to push my way through the crowd.
Some of the plants that people buy are madness and it is obvious that they have bought them to try and get on the telly. Tall echiums and delphiniums that will never last the bus or train journey home, at least not intact. Huge bunches of tulips and lilies, or spires of flowering foxgloves that will last out the week if you’re lucky. I may not have made it on the telly, but my rose will flower year after year and I can say I was there for the 100th Chelsea Flower Show.