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  • Writer's pictureDebi Holland

RHS Virtual Chelsea Flower Show

Kazuyuki's fabulous tranquil garden at Nagasaki, Japan

Due to the corona virus, this year saw the first ever virtual RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The presentations ran from Tuesday 19 to Saturday 23 May and allowed the public to still get their floral fix from the safety of their own homes.

I share some of my highlights from Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday's virtual garden presentations. Click the programme titles to catch up on each presentation.

Monday Member's Day

Monty Don’s three minute walk from his house to the chicken shed following his morning garden routine was a joy. I felt as if I was ‘Nigel’ trotting along behind him on the garden path! A personal, beautifully shot, evocative piece. It was interesting to place all the separate aspects of his Hertfordshire garden, many not shown in Gardener's World, together in one continuous flow. It was like constructing a horticultural jigsaw puzzle. Video unfortunately no longer available.

Monty Don and Tim Peake

School Gardening Club

Fascinating to hear what happened behind the scenes. Spanning over 36 minutes long, four rocket science project members talk science. An enlightening insight to the trials and tribulations of getting seed into space and back again and the project that turned 600,000 children into space biologists!

I actually took part in the Rocket Science project after seeing the display at RHS Chelsea 2015 Click on each photo in the gallery above to enlarge.

I convinced my son’s primary school to sign up. I later went in to the school and took a Rocket Science workshop teaching the Year 4 kids to sow and grow. Wonderful to watch the awe and excitement of the children as they took part in a little piece of history.

Me teaching Year 4 school kids to sow & grow rocket

Potting Bench

Cottage Garden Plants with Rosy Hardy This was exactly like watching one of her live demos at Chelsea. Magnificent display and description of her top herbaceous perennials, including Astrantia 'burgundy manor,' Saxifraga umbrosa and Valarian piriacrea, Geum 'Scarlet Tempest' Salvia nemeoroma 'Silver Blue.' Fabulous!

Rosy inspires confidence in even the most nervous gardener: "Don't be worried about whether something goes with another thing, if that's what you like, grow it."

Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants

The Flavours of Spring Raymond Blanc His enthusiasm was infectious! He energetically showed us round his edible containers on his balcony garden and spearheads the nutritional health benefits of seasonality in growing and eating. Help your local community, buy from your local farmer. A delightful, uplifting video.

Gardening Advisor 54 minutes of viewer's gardening questions answer by the professionals, Matthew Wilson, Martin Fish, James Lawrence and Michaela Freed. Lively chat, most enjoyable. Gardener’s Question Time Chelsea style.

Raymond Evison Clematis Enlightening insight into the world of commercial clematis growing. Eight minutes of joy seeing the 2500 clematis grown for Chelsea in his five acres of glasshouses at Guernsey.

Raymond explains the eight to ten year process of getting new varieties of clematis to market, from controlled crosses, germination, seedlings to propagation. He shares some of his favourites, 'Tranquility,' 'Corin,' Nuba,' 'Diana's Delight,' 'Kitty,' 'Volunteer,' and 'Gizelle.'

And lastly I also enjoyed The Potting Bench with Simon Lovett. A immensely calm piece, packed with beautiful flowers, encouraging us to grow, eat and enjoy plants with a live flower arranging demo from his London garden. As Simon says 'Unleash the power of the flower!'

Showcasing the diverse horticultural talents taking part in 2020 Virtual Chelsea

Tuesday Highlights

School Gardening Club Lee Connelly, Skinny Jean Gardener - Seed Bomb Piñata Lee's natural energy engages adults and children to get stuck in to gardening and encourages everyone to get outside. He offers a lively four minute practical demo with the star of many of his podcasts, his apprentice and daughter Olive. They give us step-by-step instructions on how to make a kid's piñata. His core message is grow your own, encourage wildlife and have fun!

Nursery Tour

A behind the scenes look at the world famous home of English roses. Head Gardener Steve takes us around the glasshouses nurturing the Chelsea roses and introduces us to the 2020 newcomers 'Silas Marner' and 'The Country Parson.'

David Austin Rose 'Spirit of Freedom'

Potting Bench Demo

Create Your Own Green Oasis with Indoor Garden Designer Ian Drummond Malvern Garden Building Relax in their green oasis created before your very eyes. A blank carcass is transformed into a green room tropical jungle. Ian discusses popular houseplants and growing conditions and explains about their charity work for Project WingMan, creating break away calming plant-filled spaces for frontline NHS staff at UK hospitals.

Robert Evans of Pheasant acre Plants gives us step-by-step advice on how to get the best from these much loved perennials.

Top Design Tips

A fabulous five minutes of naturalistic, sustainable garden design top tips. Take time to enjoy your own garden, sit, take pictures, keep your eyes open and observe. Wise words, a joy to watch. Sarah's design tips embrace wholeheartedly the emotion and ethos behind how I personally garden. Her piece certainly struck a chord with me.

"See how you can get the most out of your garden for your mind and physically. Nurseries need your support. Get plants, place them, play in your garden. Enjoy the unexpected."

An uplifting visual lockdown tour of Olympic Park. Having attended the London 2012 Games it was amazing to see how the gardens have developed since. Charlotte explores structure, colour, nature and water and talks us through some of her favourite plants as well the importance of public green spaces for people's physical and mental wellbeing.

Wonderful Wildlife Wednesday

Lee Connelly builds a hedgehog house with his daughter Olive

School Gardening Club

Lee and his daughter Olive show us how to make a simple five star hedgehog home out of found objects from around your garden in lockdown. An upbeat presentation to inspire all the family and encourage hedgehogs into your garden by creating nature corridors through fences and hedgehog houses for your garden. Great fun - get outside and get making!

Olive builds a hedgehog house with her Dad Lee Connelly

Potting bench tutorials

An incredibly informative demo offering growing advice, how to divide iris and the low down on the supporting plants they use in their Chelsea displays from canna to dahlia, nepeta to acers.

Mark shares some of his favourites varieties: 'Sable,' "Sutton's Palace,' 'Blue Shimmer,' 'Deep Black' and 'Carnival Time' and the most valuable gardening advice to get your iris flowering - "rhizomes must be facing south and baked in the sun or the iris leaves will shade the rhizome and you will not get flower growth."

Nikki gives a step-by-step demonstration of how to create a fabulous bouquet of cut flowers whilst in her beautiful orchard surrounded by birdsong. She shares her florist’s top tips.

John’s nursery hosts the national collection of achillea and he passes on his expert tips on how to reinvigorate your plants by splitting and potting on.

For anyone who has not sown seed this was a thorough insight into all aspects of the process to ensure a blooming success, followed by a delightful peek into the fantastic foxgloves at the nursery that would have featured at this year’s Chelsea.

Fantastic Foxgloves - taken at RHS Chelsea 2015

Tours of presenters/exhibitors gardens

This was one of my favourite tours.

At almost 19 minutes long it was a lengthy presentation but the time flew as Adam’s enthusiastic friendly manner keeps you hooked as you take a relaxed stroll along with Ash the cat, through all the different aspects of his grounds, showing developments old and new, discussing future projects and most importantly urging us to sit and enjoy our gardens.

It was a hugely enjoyable, honest, engaging, heartfelt tour illustrating his passion for wildlife and how he has changed they way he gardens to accommodate more naturalistic areas for wildlife.

My absolute stand out showstopper today AND of the show was...

Kazuyuki Ishihara - outstanding presentation and garden

What an utterly captivating, immersive experience. Kazuyuki takes us on a tranquil tour around his 'never ending' Mihara garden at his hometown of Nagasaki, Japan. An ethereal journey around the exquisite colours, textures, light and sounds of his immaculately designed peaceful garden in the context of its surrounding landscape. The sound of running water calmly punctuates the air whilst Kazuyuki energetically recounts his hopes, dreams, themes, aspirations for the future and his passion for moss. Absolutely loved this from start to finish.

I would love to see an RHS virtual Chelsea Flower Show run alongside the traditional live show each year from now on. I always thoroughly enjoy the BBC televised shows and think the online presentations add another accessible dimension in this digital age. It would be great to see this expanded next year and such a wonderful way to get a wider audience involved, on a personal level with Chelsea, particularly if you cannot physically or financially make the trip to London to the show.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 2020 RHS virtual Chelsea Flower Show. It was a dream to dip in and out of information when convenient for me to view it so I did not miss out on any of the action and the presentations have remained available online so everyone can catch up on any shows they missed. The information was accessible, easy to find and clearly laid out and the site was simple to navigate around.

My favourite element was the intimate, behind-the-scenes informal tours of well-known gardeners and designers. It was great to see a little insight into their private gardens. It created a personal connection between the presenter and the audience, as if you were a friend being shown around. As we cannot visit gardens in lockdown, this section provided a breath of fresh air, particularly for anyone who does not have their own outdoor space to escape to. A brief window of green therapy.

Looking forward to next year!


Photos of Lee and Olive Connelly © Lee Connelly, The Skinny Jean Gardener

Photos of MAC/Kazuyuki's garden and all RHS Chelsea 2015 by Debi Holland © 2020

Screen grabs of presentation listings from the RHS Virtual Chelsea Show website

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