Friday, 27 May 2011

My Visit To The Chelsea Flower Show 2011

Perfumes are the feelings of flowers. Heinrich Heine

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a garden show held every year for five days in May. It's held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The RHC is a retirement home and nursing home for British soldiers who are unfit for further duty, due to old age or injury. The residents are referred to as Chelsea Pensioners and wear iconic red coats on which to display their medals.

'Tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes. William Wordsworth

The Chelsea Flower Show is the most famous show in the UK and perhaps the most famous gardening event in the world. It has become part of London's summer social season. It's a ticket only show, covering eleven acres in the Royal Hospital's gardens. Medals are highly coveted and awarded to the best show gardens, best flowers, exhibits of trees/shrubs and vegetables.

The photograph below shows delicious plump ruby strawberries, but sadly the picture doesn't convey the amazing sweet smell which surrounded the display!

Earth laughs in flowers. Ralph Emerson

I loved this statue of Alice in Wonderland. It reminded me of Edgar Degas' ballerina in bronze which I saw last autumn at the D'Orsay Museum, in Paris. If I owned this Alice, I would dig a deep round hole nearby so she could follow a top-hat-wearing white rabbit when it appeared!

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one. Edna St. Vincent Millay

Flowering Redcurrant

Underneath the silver birch
They’d hang pink with pleasure,
Blushing blossoms
Full and frothing.
Beneath the birch’s lolling leaves
I’d read, or sing or dream.
And look through dappled light
To pale bare skies
Where contrails paint across the blue.
Small fingers fashioning necklaces
From a constellation
Of crimson-tinged daisies,
Dotted on the lawn.
The smell of earth, damp and raw,
Grass stained knees and the tantalising
Whispers of summer on the breeze.
I’d lie beneath those verdant boughs,
Embraced in their beauty.
And even today,
When years have passed,
I smell the flowering redcurrant
And remember,
And smile.

By Angela Barton

This flower display (below) in the Grand Pavillion, reminded me of fireworks. Here are a few paragraphs from my novel Lies and Linguine. Daniel has been scarred physically and mentally by a firework accident in his past. Tess has suggested that he faces his fear with her, in order to help heal his nightmares.

The sky lit up with brilliant arms of cascading gold and silver stars. Bright glowing pearls rose silently into the darkness, dissolving into the heavens. Blue tracer stars crackled as they wriggled in a sparkling mesmeric dance, lighting upturned faces. The whizzing and whirring echoed across the cricket pitch and far past the village.
Daniel pulled his scarf up to hide his mouth and nose. He didn’t think that a soft cashmere mix, a gift from his sister, would be much protection from a wayward explosive, but it made him feel warmer and safer. He turned to look at Tess to see if she was looking at him with a pitying gaze. Fortunately, she was looking skyward with a hint of a smile on her glistening lips. Her profile was silhouetted against The Royal Oak’s lights, a pale glow outlining her features. His eyes were drawn to her smooth neck which stretched upwards as she watched another rocket explode into a chrysanthemum of stars. Her lips parted slightly as a series of whistling clusters shot into the black night. He watched her eyelashes blink with each explosion and burst of colour. From the position they were sitting in, Daniel slightly behind Tess, he could watch her in secret against a backdrop of Swarkovski crystals raining down from the sky.
So, for the next ten minutes whilst a crescendo of squeals, oohs and aahs emanated from the distant crowd, and a climax of whistles, bangs and crackles sprang from the sky, Daniel focused on Tess. He drank in the curves of her profile and the warmth of her body leaning against him.
A cheer and a noisy round of applause heralded the end of the display. Tess turned towards Daniel.
“You okay?”
“I’m fine,” he answered, truthfully.
Watching the fireworks as a background to Tess’ lovely face, had been the perfect way to be re-introduced to the volatile explosives. They were the colour wash to the central eye-catching subject of the painting - Tess.

I can't look at blossoms now without thinking of Dennis Potter. What an incredible interview he gave to Melvyn Bragg. Dennis Potter was dying of cancer and this interview was to be his last. As he sat there obviously in great pain and occasionally swigging liquid morphine, I'll never forget some of his descriptions. He said that he knew his days left on earth were numbered, which made him take notice of simple things and appreciate the beauty of nature. It's so easy to walk past a blossom tree, but he said that as he knew this would be his last spring, the blooms looked like the 'blossomiest blossom' he'd ever seen. He said he was appreciating the 'nowness of now' and not just sailing through his last days. It was a great lesson in appreciating the present and not always planning for the future. Our lives are now - we're living it!

Flower-filled garden partitioning.

I'm always transfixed when I see a bonsai tree. Barely a foot high, they are perfect minatures of the giants in our gardens and parks. This beautiful artistic medium originated in Japan. Their purpose is purely ornamental. They're not grown for fruit or medicines. The earliest mention of dwarfed potted trees was depicted on a scroll dated back to 1195. Luckily, due to the early warm spell this year, this bosai tree blossomed during the perfect week - The Chelsea Flower Show week!

What's in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)

With plaited alleys of trailing rose
Long alleys falling down to twilight grots,
Or opening upon level plots
Of crowned lilies, standing near
Purple-spiked lavender;
Whither in after life retired
From brawling storms,
From weary wind,
With youthful fancy, re-inspired.

Tennyson (Ode to Memory)

The flower that smells the sweetest
Is shy and lowly. William Wordsworth


  1. I love Alice too, and very nice pics - looks like you enjoyed your day out.

  2. Thanks Kay. I always love a visit to London, but I think we picked the rainy day! Thank you for popping by my blog. Ange xx

  3. Thank you so much for transporting me through cyberspace to the Chelsea show, Ange - what beautiful photos. I love the little snippets of poetry and your own is lovely. Your poetic writing comes across in your extract too.

    Do you have a publisher or agent yet for your novel - so I can read it!

  4. Hi Rosemary
    I have an agent who's in the process of sending out my MS to publishers. I have my fingers crossed, but in the mean time, I'm keeping busy with novel #2, Sugar and Spite.
    Thank you for reading my post and leaving such a lovely comment.
    Ange xx

  5. Such a lovely post, filled not only with gorgeous flower pics but lovely words as well.

  6. Oh thank you. I'm so glad you think so. 'See' you on twitter shortly. Ange xx

  7. Your poetry and prose always contain brilliant descriptive passages. Where do you find the words?

  8. What a lovely thing to say Keith. Thank you. I suppose I'm just a day-dreamer really! I wonder sometimes if I'm too away-with-the-fairies when I write, but it's heart-warming to know that you enjoy the descriptions.
    Ange xx

  9. Wow, fab post, Ange. Am very jealous of your flower visiting. Lovely poem and brilliant extract too. And the 'blossomiest blossom' - oh yes.
    Megan x

  10. Lovely to hear from you Megan. Hope your books are flying off the shelves. Thank you for popping by and for your lovely comment.
    Ange xx