Thursday, 29 May 2008

The Carrot and Kids Alternative Guide To Chelsea

I was given lots of good tips before setting off for Chelsea and those, together with some very out of character organisation, meant I had a perfect day.

So here are my tips, some of which you may have read before, some not, but all of which I will be referring to next year if this blog and Chelsea are still going strong:

  • Get there for opening time at 8am. Probably thought of as a bit extreme by my nearest and dearest but I think it paid off. It meant getting up at 5am and finding myself eating an apple crumble cake and drinking coffee at Waterloo at 7.20am but it's not like I do it every day. It added to the excitement, the complete change of routine was invigorating and I got to see the gardens while standing shoulder to shoulder rather than four people deep.
  • Head for the Grand Pavilion. Do this as soon as you get there and find the Garden Design Forum. There will be stewards standing outside clutching wads of tickets for talks throughout the day. There are only 150 places so first come first served. Do not listen to RHS volunteers who think the tickets are handed out just before the shows. Even if you think you're not interested in any of the subjects, grab a ticket anyway. You'll be glad of the sit-down.
  • Don't bother collecting all the pamphlets given out at the gardens: I did and I could have easily found the information on the internet. Plus it saves a few trees.
  • If in doubt follow somone: Actually this is probably rubbish advice but I found it easy to spot the ladies on the tube heading to Chelsea so, not knowing the exact route, I followed them. However I was in front so I had to do a fair bit of glancing over my shoulder. This copy cat philosphy also directed me to the stewards clutching tickets for the talk and to the correct bus stop on the way home.
  • Take a hanky. Take lots of hankies. Nobody tells you this but by the afternoon ninety per cent of visitors are sneezing. And a bit snotty. And rubbing their eyes. Pollen falls from the trees like confetti and even I, who never gets hayfever, was sneezing and had sore eyes by the end.
  • Take a handy cart on wheels: Victoria has already written about these but it's handy to know about them. I didn't so by the time I got home I had arms like a gorilla. Seasoned Breakdown participants obviously knew the score. I bought a beautiful mosaic lantern and a wrought iron pot holder for a wall and I would have loved something other than my tired arms to cart them home.
  • Don't bother with the Breakdown: I did and I'm not entirely sure it was worth it. Rather stupidly I bought three Ivory Queen aliums for £9 (and got one thrown in for free) but they were small and got easily crushed in my bag. Before I'd even left the Grand Pavilion two had been beheaded. Those triumphantly sporting giant ones home fared much better, I reckon. I also paid £5 for a large-ish salvia which is not dead. Yet. I wasn't after a bargain (I am rubbish at mad, busy bargain hunting, obviously) but I wanted a souvenir for my garden. I like gardens that tell a story.
  • Go for comfy clothes every time: I did see a few glamour pusses who looked like they were dressed for a wedding, all heels and floaty dresses. I clomped around in my very ugly but deeply comfy crocs, tee-shirt, cardi, kagool tied around my waist (my dad told me showers were in store) and jeans. The jean pockets were handy for holding rail card, talk card and some loose change. Not sure where the glamorous people stored stuff like that as they all sported teeny tiny bags. My handbag was my wonderful Crumpler camera bag which has many very stiff, loud velcro pockets that I thought I would surely hear any would-be pickpocket.
Oh and just one more piece of advice: expect crowds. I did and they didn't bother me. I honestly can say I barely noticed them, such was my blissful state. State of mind, I think, counts for everything.


  1. Very good point about the leaflets. They usually don't tell you much anyway (as opposed to nursery catalogues). And wasn't the pollen AWFUL!!! Even I was sneezing and snuffling and I never suffer normally. I think it was a combination of plane trees and horse chestnut flowers.
    Like you, I'm torn about Breakdown. I don't really NEED my clematis, but it is nice to have a souvenir. One woman I met said she'd got some lavender from Diarmuid Gavin's garden. She didn't know what sort it was, but from that moment on, as far as she was concerned, it was going to be 'Diarmuid's Lavender'.

  2. Sounds like some great advice.

  3. That's a handy tip about getting tickets early from the Grand Pavilion. A talk and a sit down - excellent combination.

  4. Great hints & tips for next year :)

  5. I think your tips about Chelsea were great and could be used for all garden events. We have a few in Oklahoma (not as big,) but the tips are wonderful. If I ever get to Chelsea, I'm going to come back to this page. Glad you had fun.~~Dee

  6. Good tips although (speaking as compere in the Garden design Forum) I am not absolutely sure if the sponsors intended it as a resting place for the footsore! There were,however, moments when people concentrated more on their sandwiches and a glorious session where an old chap in the front row slept soundly - though not silently - through the whole thing.
    Nice blog, great chickens.