RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2018 Whirlwind

Writing this little blog, I still cannot believe what has happened the last few months. It all began with a wee email from the RHS, asking if I wanted to come up with a design application for a long Border for the Chatsworth Flower Show. The brief was ‘movement’ with a background link to historic herbaceous borders and Gertrude Jekyll. It all seemed a no-brainer; we have a 47m long historic herbaceous border at Broomfield Hall Gardens that I manage. We have been restoring and redesigning it for the last two and half years with a repetitive rhythm of rainbow colours taking inspiration from Gertrude Jekyll’s painterly blending effects. 

I had only four days to apply with a full design and a planting plan, we were lucky that it was the time of the late snow flurries meaning that I was able to concentrate on my efforts. I put in the application with support and help from my partner, family and garden volunteers. I didn’t really expect to be chosen, it was a big shock when the RHS stated that they wanted us to actually go ahead and build the border at the show. Every day, I expected them to turn around and turf us out of the competition, I couldn’t believe that I was actually going to be taking a piece of the garden that I put all of my love and hours into to Chatsworth. 

Then, low behold, the BBC got in touch, a researcher from Gardener’s World wanting to know more about our border. I couldn’t get my head around this, I didn’t get back to the researcher, I just thought that this was normal with every application. I was wrong, the researcher got hold of me eventually thankfully and explained their keen interest in the whole story. They loved the fact that our application was to highlight the work of the volunteers, celebrating our own historic gardens and the thought of it being my first time actually at a show. 

A date was booked for the Gardener’s World team to film at Broomfield Hall Gardens, I still didn’t believe that it was actually going to happen until the day they arrived. It was a full day, 8am to 6.30pm, lots of modern camera equipment and a wonderful crew. Luckily, I was able to string words together. Lots of garden volunteers came in to make it a lovely sociable day, it was fabulous to have all of the support. 

A week later it was the build at Chatsworth, I was still pinching myself everyday that I was there, I kept thinking, “is this really happening to me?”

I also still didn’t believe that the filmed interview was actually going to appear on the Gardener’s World Chatsworth special. But, I came home from work on the day and my phone was beeping constantly with congratulations from friends and family who had seen me on the programme. My partner sat me down with a glass of wine to see the result. I was thrilled with it, my interviewing was okay, but most importantly, I was thrilled with how beautiful the gardens looked and how long the coverage was, a whole eight minutes or so including an interview with the legend Adam Frost at the show. 

The build at Chatsworth had gone extremely well, we were very organised, the last build day was spent tickling plants, (removing dead flowers, leaves and making sure that our interpretation was perfect). Press day is an unusual day, you are working solidly to create the result that you want and then everything stops for 24hours, basically waiting for the most important customer/judge, the public to arrive. 

You get nervous when the RHS judges come round to judge your garden, you know that they are going to be critiquing your hard work, it is hard to not take it personal. Some of the feedback I took away, knowing that I had broken some of the rules, but, I knew that we had done our very best and I was absolutely chuffed and proud with the fact of receiving a silver medal. 

The best thing about the whole show was the reactions of the public, they absolutely loved our border. 

At the Adam Frost interview and continuously ever since, I have been asked would I be applying again next year. It is a huge amount of work on top of my usual Head Gardener job. If I get the support from the garden volunteers and if it all helps massively with the promoting of the gardens and the college then I would certainly wish to. I had been told how addictive it can all become, I am already beginning to think up creative ideas for next years application. 

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