After months of preparation, today’s the big day. It’s the day when the great and the good get a first glimpse of this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, with the Queen’s visit traditionally taking place in the evening. Today every last petal, every leaf, every blade of grass is in place and looking immaculate.
It’s been a monumental journey to get to this point. I was there over the weekend, to see the gardens coming together. And as anyone who’s ever been involved with staging or participating in an event – large or small - will know, it’s all about those last moments, the final frenzy as the precious hours and even minutes trickle through your fingers.
Of course, it’s stressful. Some people I met had been on site for weeks already, sealed in the Chelsea bubble, away from friends and family. When I arrived on Saturday, some gardens were still under construction; a hive of hi-vis activity, with fork-lifts delivering a seemingly endless stream of materials and greenery.
But those final hours are also when miracles happen, with order emerging from chaos. Walking around the site on Sunday evening, the gardens were transformed. Whether shady woodland, arid desert, or informal wildlife garden, most were finished and looking picture-perfect. Most, but not all… and as darkness fell, it was obvious that for some at least, a late night was in store.
The final weekend of Chelsea build-up is also a great time to see the garden designers at work. Of course, they all have amazing people working with them, and each garden is the result of teamwork on a grand scale. Nevertheless, the designers have profound involvement themselves throughout the build and during the show itself, and there’s a real feeling of camaraderie as we all faced our own particular challenges.
All of the designers I met were knowledgeable, passionate, dedicated… but also down-to-earth and friendly, even after the emotional and physical demands of creating a garden. It’s a huge privilege to have the time and access to talk music and meconopsis with Chris Beardshaw, designer of the Morgan Stanley Garden; and to share memories of the Yorkshire coast with Tracy Foster, designer of the Welcome to Yorkshire Garden.
This week we’ll be bringing you some behind-the-scenes glimpses of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017.