An Antidote to Chelsea

As the curtain falls on the 2010 Chelsea Flower Show the attention of the horticultural world turns once again to the Alternative Garden Show Awards, known affectionately as the Aggies, awarded to amateur garden designers. While there is no set limit to the money that may be spent, the style of the show is a far cry from the high budget gardens of Chelsea.

This year the show was held for the first time in the tiny French département of Ariège, at the foot of the Pyrenean mountains, a region whose slow pace of living and acceptance of the more natural pleasures of life is perfectly in tune with the show’s ethos.

The full list of awards has yet to be published, but the awards and particularly the judges’ comments give a flavour of this year’s designs.

THE HERB CIRCLE GARDEN
Designer: Gilly Ginevre
Client: Herbals ‘R Us
Award: Silver Gilt medal

To produce an interesting garden from a limited group of plants, even a group as broad as herbs, is always a challenge and this talented designer has achieved a high standard. The judges were particularly impressed by the central circle with it’s mass planting of chives, nepeta and golden oregano.

THE KITCHEN TERRACE GARDEN
Designer: Gilly Jambon
Client: Barn Conversions plc
Award: Silver medal

While much of the planting in this pleasing garden followed a mauve and yellow theme, the failure to maintain the theme throughout compromised the coherence of the garden. The judges appreciated the tendency in the early years of a garden to use the plants one has in order to reduce costs, but felt that a real opportunity had been lost here to produce a garden of true merit. When the hedges surrounding this terrace garden reach maturity and fully enclose the garden the space within will clearly be one of great charm and restfulness.

THE CREAM GARDEN
Designer: Gilly I.N. Trouble
Client: (Name Withheld)
Award: None

The client brief for this garden was for a contemplative space in the style of a maghrébin courtyard, using only cream-coloured flowers. The designer has failed to meet this brief and therefore could not be awarded a medal. A box hedge in a geometric pattern does not constitute an Arab courtyard, nor do a few straggly cream eschscholtzia californica fulfill the colour requirement. In the judge’s opinion the designer has failed so spectacularly to achieve the style requested as to constitute a blatant disregard for the show’s rules. She is therefore banned from entering the competition for a period of five years (please note that the Flavio Briatore gambit will not work here).

THE COUNTRYSIDE BEYOND GARDEN
Designer: Mother Nature
Client: Gaia
Award: Gold medal and Best In Show

The judges were unanimous in awarding Best In Show to this exceptional example of a natural landscape. The designer’s use of the indiginous lime and hazel trees in the foreground to enclose the view over pasture land and barns to the sparcely planted hillside beyond shows a true understanding of nature and beauty. Mother Nature’s vast experience and her eye for detail and simplicity shines out in this exemplary design.

The judges and organisers would like to thank all the designers and gardeners for their hard work and enthusiasm in making the show once again such a huge success. See you again in 2011.

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16 responses to “An Antidote to Chelsea

  1. patientgardener

    I loved this post, really made me smile especially your contemplative garden. I have to say I am completely fed up with reading about Chelsea and I do think that the BBC highlights it far too much and should use some of the resources to maybe highlight other shows such as Tatton which no one ever seems to see

    • Helen: I agree about Chelsea coverage I haven’t seen it for years now, but was certainly over the top. Much better to show other places too. Glad you were amused by my little skit. Loved your comment on Twitter about my having to leave the garden during the judging!

  2. Brava, to all the winners. I might not have been so harsh on the cream garden. Unfortunately, having recalled the translation of “ginevre” judge will now be singing “Jennifer Juniper” for the rest of the afternoon. Points deducted.

  3. Ooh, it’s all so gorgeous. The countryside is amazing but the garden looks wonderful too. And I thought it was all just some parched and windswept hillside.
    You, on the other hand, have totally lost it.

    • Lia: Thank you for the kind words. Mmmm. Our hillsides may be windswept at times but with well over a metre of rain each year they are never parched. This is a stunningly green area. Glad you like the garden.

  4. Wonderful. Gardening with that hilly (mountain) backdrop, how can you fail.

    ….and if you have “lost it” you are almost certainly better off without. If you do find out what “it” is please tell. I may try & lose “it” too & encourage others to do likewise

  5. Yep, mother nature beats us gardeners hands down. Every time.

    You live in a very beautiful part of the world.

    A great antidote to everything we’ve been drivelling on about this past week 🙂

    • VP: Mother Nature’s garden is my favorite too (even though she did beat all the Gillys). I was standing by my hammock to take that shot, that’s the view I see as I swing gently in the shade of an enormous lime tree. Am I lucky, or what!

  6. Better late than never with response to this sensational display of gardens. I particularly liked the way the marquee is lost in the planting and the crowds have been diverted down a track. Next year I shall definitely join what must be a very long waiting list to get tickets to this beautiful and exclusive show. Yours from the shrubbery
    Ps whats the catering like at this show?

  7. This was a wonderfully creative post, and I got a kick out of it. I agree, Mother Nature has the best garden, but some of yours have real merits (and promise) too! I’m looking forward to more Aggies awards next year.

    • Laurrie: Thank you so much for your kind comments. The garden is 3 years old now and is just beginning to come together. As for the Aggies, they are normally held in a different country each year. Do you fancy hosting the 2011?

  8. If it hadn’t of been for some out of place yellow flower in the front left of the herb circle picture it would have definitely won gold!!!! So close – and yet so far away. Never mind there is always next year.

    • Arabella: Damn, why didn’t somebody tell me? I hadn’t spotted it. Sabotage, that’s what it was. Someone snuck it in, probably that Gilly who got banned, nasty piece of work,that one.

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