Hello again and this time it’s from my very wet and muddy new home, the Chelsea show garden site.
I, and the team who are helping me build The Caravan Club’s garden, arrived here last Friday (4 May) and our first job was to place five 18 year old Betula albosinensis ‘Fascination’ trees which arrived from Hampshire on Saturday. Sticking to a strict entry schedule, the 6-7 metre trees, each weighing about half a tonne, were lifted into place using a telehandler (like a big forklift truck).
On Tuesday Doris, a 1950s British made two berth caravan and the focal point of the ‘Celebration of Caravanning’ garden, arrived from her home in the Isle of Wight. She was greeted by BBC TV cameras and she has quickly become the talking point of the garden too. I’ve had many people stopping to look at her and to discuss the merits of caravanning.
As well as placing trees and Doris, boundaries and edges have been established this week. One of the challenges of our position, opposite Sarah Price and the Telegraph’s garden, is that we've got to conceal the 8m high white pavilion behind us. Hopefully the judges will be happy with the screening. As for edges the British Wealden sandstone is gorgeous and lovely to work with. It’s been laid to give a diagonal dimension to our 10m by 10m plot giving it an illusion of depth. From what I’ve seen so far, the trend at Chelsea this year is the use of light coloured stone in gardens. So if you are planning to visit look out for that.
As we end our first week on site all the hard landscaping is now in place and we are running to schedule; all credit to the contractors who have had to contend with so much mud and rain including my volunteers from Japan.
Next week will be all about the planting side of things whilst finishing off the hard landscaping.
The poor winter and early spring has really affected the plants and means nothing is growing as it should. The only flexible part of the design at this stage is the plant list, thank goodness for that. Plants that should have been fine seem to have caught a bit of a cold over the winter and are not doing what they are supposed to be, whilst others look set to out-perform even our highest expectations.
With 1,000 plants arriving we will be able to see what we've got and if my planting scheme might need to be adapted. All the designers are faced with the same dilemma and it will be interesting to see what changes are made.
With hundreds of other people it is amazing to be part of a process that will see an 11 acre playing field turned into a one week show visited by the royal family, celebrities, 157,000 visitors and 900 different media from around the world. It’s hard to believe that transformation will ever take place given the acres of mud that surround us at the moment.
Held in the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital (just north of the river) every year since 1913, with the odd gaps during the two World Wars, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a celebration of the highest quality of horticulture and design and one of the most famous gardening shows in the world. Not least the show has become an important place for observing trends and this year it’s defiantly the return to popularity of carvanning.
Jo Thompson video diaries: episode 1 / RHS Gardening
Design for Caravan Club Garden
Jo's Japanese volunteer Yoko with Doris at Chelsea.
Tree arriving on site