To be fair, I’m not a great bastion of knowledge when it comes to horticultural design or flair, but I know what I like and I keep this blog so that I can vent my own opinions/thoughts on things, so that in the future, with a bit more experience, I may cringe at what shit I was talking and it will be my own fault when that happens. But for now, I’ll carry on regardless, being willingly heartless and brutal about things I don’t like, or know anything about.
Chatsworth Flower Show was a bit like that. Obviously, being its first year, its feet were being found, by feet, I mean bespoke cobbled wellingtons because let’s face it, its not an average, humble sort of venue to hold an event. That may have been part of its problem (that and the fact that some of the stuff on show was shite), it seemed to suffer from a sense of scale and majesty. Everything sort of felt a bit lost and irrelevant, with the backdrop of Chatsworth House and its mahoosive squirty fountain and the small fact of being many small, ‘meh’ gardens set within the FUCKING EPICNESS of a Capability Brown one. It sort of ruined the view, filling it with Tory voters, plastic garden furniture, shit plants and acres of rubber matting.
The angle of RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, is to provide a platform for challenging and cutting edge garden design, with an aim to encourage ‘outside the box’ approaches, contemporary cleverness, oddness and extravagance. I was looking forward to seeing what would happen, as it turned out, not much.
The centrepiece of the show was the much hyped inflatable Paxton palm house replica. Imagine I thought, that could be amazing! I envisioned having to push my way in through huge bananas and tropical Epiphytes, be astounded by giant Victoria amazonica lily pads (of which Paxton and the 6th Duke of Devonshire were famous for bringing to flower in UK). In reality, the place had a few big banana plants, underplanted with a load of houseplants from Tescos (probably), with some National Trust style information boards wadged in, planted in raised beds edged in horrific hessian, with a big paddling pool from Argos (probably) in the middle, over which was suspended a metal open sphere, the struts of which were bound in moss, with some rainforest plants cable tied to it.. oh, but there was a disco ball and some misters and some lighting of, ooohh, exciting neon blue and green.. Zero Victoria.. fucking dreadful! Check out just how awful it was here: RHS Chatsworth Flower Show . Onto the show gardens I thought;
There was the one that looked like it had fallen out of the arse of 1982, with its rockery in blocky blocks of horrific red stone and planting that was all horrible bits of bitty shitness.. Think variegated Hostas and bright pink Astilbes and you’ll be there.
Then there was the one that was about as edgy as a child’s rattle, with fashionable wooden grey painted raised planters in squares, because squares are contemporary and grey is contemporary and Geranium ‘Rozanne” is ..blahblahblah…
Then there was the one with the big lump of rusty (modern) wall, with the concrete (modern) square (modern) with sunken (modern) area and shale (modern) borders with, yaaaaawwwnnnn… Cirsium, Sambucus, Penstemon et al, in shades of dark purple, soft pink, silvers and blues (modern). Oh, and some randomly placed faux wicker furniture from B&Q (probably). (modern).
Then there was the one with a gold, silver and bronze cow, of which the silver one looked hilariously bald. Which played with perspective by using a gradually widening central path through a meadow, to a ‘funny’ formal garden. Only perspective is lost when you’re in a massive great field… that and it was boring.
There were some others too, which were either so entirely bland they escaped my attention, or I was lucky enough not to see them.
Then there was the ‘freeform’ section. Un-judged, apart from by me and everyone else who saw them. It was one of these that had the nicest bit of design and planting. The Brewin Dolphin garden, situated along the edge of the river, meandering along with some rebar fencing, a mown path and a weird spirally room at the end. It wasn’t stop-you-in-your-tracks amazing, but compared to the rest, there was evidence of a genuine eye for detail that seemed to be lacking in a lot of the other gardens, wether that be in the planting (choice of plants), finish or awareness of the landscape it would be shown in.
Another free-form, comprised of two shipping crates (modern), painted grey (modern), with a pile of rocks shoved up against them (modern) and a perspex window (modern) with some pa… ah fuck it, I can’t even be bothered to explain!
It was also here that a thing called ‘Pick ‘n Mix’ was. Right in front of Chatsworth House with its gold-leafed adornments. It vomited itself out into the field, a mess of plastic, bits of tat and some knackered stuffed foxes each holding a deflated inflatable animal in its mouth. The first time I saw it, I laughed genuinely, at the shitness of it! The more I saw it, the more I appreciated the shitness of it. There is a long and pretentious commentary on why everything is what and why and how it is. The fact is, there are stuffed foxes with punctured monkeys in their mouths, vague people shapes made, badly, out of scraps, machinery parts and horses legs, a veg patch with Haribo and a papier mache t-rex skull on a pile of sacrificed potatoes. It’s the garden people see in a Birmingham suburb when they’re walking home about 5am in the morning after they’ve done shitloads of acid. It’s so shit, it is, actually shit… and I wished it held itself at that and didn’t spew some bollocks about consumer society and the nature of 21st century excess. It would be great if someone did it just because, there’s Chatsworth House, in a triple SI protected landscape.. and said in their proposal; “Here Tory cunts! have a load of shit in your garden!” .. that would have been a truly admirable piece of design.. but sadly, no. The most exciting/ironic/shocking sight to be found in the place, was when a large tract of Heras fencing got blown over next to an art exhibit titled ‘The Invisible Wind’..