Heart of Chelsea

Lovers think ahead and get to the pin­na­cle of gar­den shows next May

Irish Examiner - Property & Interiors - - | Interiors - Pic­tures: Dan Line­han

ence — at Chelsea, the na­tion of shop­keep­ers ex­cels it­self — there are stands and stalls ga­lore sell­ing ev­ery­thing from niche Ja­panese prun­ing tools, to mam­moth, rear­ing horses, to sleek, sexy glasshouses, (pure.co.uk) to gar­den fur­ni­ture, awnings, pavil­ions...the list is endless.

And then, to crown it all, there is the Great Pav­il­ion. This is where God and Mam­moth Onion meet in un­der three acres of tent in the mid­dle of Chelsea In­fir­mary — the place to see the sa­cred art of the seed se­lec­tor — a Mecca for nerds of the plant world.

Show­ing the skill, art and ar­ti­fice of the truly de­voted, this huge white tent has a fa­mil­iar flo­ral scent with an un­der­tone of hay and a top note of or­dure, enough to put the hayfevered into parox­ysms of sneez­ing, cry­ing and wheez­ing.

But to see the preen­ing beau­ties of the hor­ti­cul­tural world in a steroidal flower dis­play? Worth it.

For­get about the flim-flam out- side — the soul of Chelsea abides in the doughty, unas­sum­ing, ul­tra­ex­pe­ri­enced plant breed­ers. And al­though this is about the re­tail too, per­haps that’s a stretch when seeds, for most of the flow­ers and plants on show, (those nouns are al­most too weak to de­scribe the flam­ing beau­ties), are sell­ing for just two quid a packet.

If you must go hard or go home, you can splurge up to a fiver for the re­ally rare va­ri­eties. Seeds for Monty Don’s blue Hi­malayan poppy, for in­stance, had sold out, but you could have got­ten a half dozen plugs for a ten­ner — great value.

For those of us re­liant on the kind­ness of Aer Lin­gus and Ryanair, seeds are the way to go, and as well as that, you can get some nice sur­prises. I had forgotten the lily bulbs I picked up last year, (they fit fine in a suit­case) and be­cause it was late in the sea­son, I held onto them at the back of a cup­board un­til some­time in Sep- tem­ber. I lit­er­ally threw them into a pot, (I was mov­ing house at the time), and the pot was shoved un­der a huge old tree in my new abode, over­grown and forgotten un­til this month. Then, I no­ticed some­thing bloom­ing twixt the branches — the lilies I had forgotten about. Only, and I’m not ex­ag­ger­at­ing, the stems are 6’ tall and there are at least ten buds at the top tak­ing their lovely time to burst­forth.the­yaregi­nor­mous— to­tal Trif­fids — that’s the qual­ity of what you buy at Chelsea and they prob­a­bly cost a fiver for the pair.

This time round I vis­ited the Acer stand and picked up open­pol­li­nated seeds for a cou­ple of pounds. The gold medal-win­ning breeder says I won’t know what they are un­til they come over ground, (and she also said to leave them at least half a year to show), but I have ten seeds and the po­ten­tial to gift the gor­geous things to friends next year.

I also picked up some Del­phini­ums — again be­cause they are the best you can find any­where, and where I couldn’t find seeds, I took the names and brochures of the breed­ers, so I can source ev­ery­thing on­line, (that crinum Pow­ellii I’ve al­ways wanted is just a click away).

One of the more un­usual seeds I found was for a New Zealand

Louis Walsh just hap­pened to be pass­ing “500 Years of Covent Gar­den” when he kindly agreed to this snap by our staff photographer, Dan Line­han.

“Hand over all the lupins you’ve got!” — the old cot­tage favourite was the star turn this year in a lot of show gar­dens. This gold medal win­ning dis­play from West Coun­try Lupins was show­ing well in the Great Pav­il­ion. west­coun­try­lupins.co.uk. Be­low: Some of the gar­den art avail­able to pur­chase.

The range and va­ri­ety of Peo­nias on of­fer was very im­pres­sive and there was an early run on cer­tain va­ri­eties.

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