The Great Pavilion at Chelsea Flower Show

My final post on the 2013 Chelsea Flower Show, it seems like a long time ago now, nearly a whole two weeks have passed and already eyes are turning to the next show, the next big event.  

If I had limited time to spend at Chelsea Flower Show I would have to prioritise what I visited and what I could leave to watch on television later.  I would not have to give this prioritisation any thought, if I had to make that decision I would head straight for the Great Pavilion as that is an experience not to miss.
The show gardens you can watch on TV, you get a good view of them and if you can stand the sometimes inane commentary from who-ever then you can see what you want to.  You cannot really experience the Great Pavilion via TV, you need to be surrounded by it, you need to hear the constant hub-hub of people, see the sights and take in the incredible scents from the plants.  I think, somewhat sadly, that the Great Pavilion does not come over well on TV.  I am not sure why, but it always feels a little flat compared to the show garden coverage.
I love the walls of fuchsias.  So many colours, shapes and sizes and each flower and leaf is perfect.  I know they will never be that perfect in my garden, but that doesn't matter, what matters is this is what they could be.
The amount of time and effort put into the exhibits is awe-inspiring.  The exhibitors pour heart and soul into creating a small piece of perfection.  I admit a bias when I visit the Great Pavilion, there are the exhibits that are row upon row of perfect flowers/vegetables and whilst I can see the work that has been done and they are visually stunning; the exhibits I prefer are the naturalised scenes that many nurseries create to show their plants off to their best effect.  It is looking at these small dioramas that gives me the most joy.
There are also the exotic like this stand from Thailand.  It is big and exuberant and a nice bit of spectacle, but it is not what I have gone there to see.
Also big and exuberant is the Hillier's stand, it was mahoosive!
and the flowers matched the cushions - that is attention to detail!  A great exhibit, superb planting, amazing trees and shrubs, a must see!
As is Kelway's, if you like peonies and irises then this is the place for you.  It is a shopping list, I photograph the name tags so I can remember them when I get home.
One day I shall own this one: Black Pirate,
one day......
Crûg Farm exhibited for its second time.  Now I am very fond of their plants, very.  It was a brilliant stand and worth it's gold medal.

Then of course there are the poppies of desire on the Kevock Garden Plants exhibit:
Beautiful when focused upon...
but look how amazing the rest of the exhibit is?  So much care and attention for really quite a small space.
There is topiary to admire,
tulips, many tulips,
The exhibits blend into each other, just a thin wall of card separates each one so the rows of lupins from the naturalistic landscape.  It should look odd, well it does really, but no matter it still works.
There are also other things in the Great Pavilion, such as this huge exhibit from Birmingham Libraries.  The ent with the blue shiny eyes is enough to give anyone nightmares!

Some stands present just the one specialism

But in my opinion, the addition of a few badgers really can make all the difference:
A lot of time and effort goes into these type of displays and I admit I want to see the nurseries, particularly the British nurseries, this is their place to shine and be celebrated.  I applaud them all.

But, there is a but, the first time I went to Chelsea the thing I couldn't understand above all else was that you could not buy any plants from these stands.  You can buy catalogues and sometimes seeds, but all you can do is look and admire.  I know there is the final day sell off and one day I would like to experience that, but I still think it a little odd that at a show where it costs so much to go in, it costs so much to exhibit, that to buy a plant feels a little like you have mentioned filthy lucre.  Meanwhile outside the pavilion they are selling statues and accessories and all sorts of stuff.  Oh well, the next show I am going to is Tatton and they do sell plants there, who knows, I might be tempted to buy one......


  1. The Great Pavilion was the highlight of our visit to Chelsea!

  2. Thanks for the really excellent tour of Chelsea, I've enjoyed every bit of it.

  3. Thanks for your lovely pics and overview. The Great Pavillion is my favourite too whenever I get to Chelsea. The detail, varity and sheer beauty is captivating. I was surprised about the thing that you couldn't buy at Chelsea, maybe it's so big and the show gardens take up so much room that there isn't enough room to store plants for the period? I'm looking forward to Tatton Park - all those nurseries, and you can buy!

  4. Dear Papaver
    I really enjoyed my first visit to Tatton last year - it had the air of a country fair and I bought quite a few lovely plants which are growing well. I would find it really difficult that you can't buy the plants at Chelsea (until the sell off) as to me, that is a big part of the whole experience!
    Best wishes

  5. I agree with everything you say here, the pavilion doesn't come over well at all on TV, the natural stands are wonderful showing an amazing variety of plants. I have enjoyed walking through Chelsea with you, will look forward to the next show!

  6. I do love the show gardens, but the displays in the pavilion are just extraordinary. Always the highlight for my mom and me when we go!

  7. I think I could happily send all day in the pavilion, writing notes on and taking photos of wonderful plants, admiring the skill and artistry in the stands.

  8. Thanks for all the comments - much appreciated


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