On Tuesday 21st May, the annual RHS Chelsea Flower Show will make its return, as the go-to destination for the very latest in garden designs and colourful creations.
With all eyes on London this May for the five day event, plant enthusiast and Head Houseplant Buyer at Dobbies Garden Centres Claire Bishop, is delighted to have been asked to return for her fourth year judging, as a 2019 assessment panel lead. Claire will also be a panel lead at a whole host of spring summer RHS events – Chatsworth, Hampton Court Palace and Tatton Park.
A keen gardener herself, Claire is looking forward to seeing all of the handiwork that has been carefully crafted and planned for over many months.
Ahead of a busy summer of judging, Claire gives us a window into her role at the iconic show, trend predictions for 2019 and qualities she looks for in an award-winning stand…
1. What will your role as assessment panel lead involve and how will this differ from previous years you have been involved with the show?
Being panel lead means you ultimately make the final decision after listening to everyone’s opinion and looking at the criteria. As panel lead you present the awards and provide feedback to exhibitors that have requested it which helps then understand what we look at and how we come to the decisions we do.
2. What is your favourite thing /what do you love most about your judging role at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show?
I love the atmosphere on the first day and the shear pride that everyone takes when showing their plants and gardens. Its such a unique show full of fabulous flowers, plants and gardens but also great new innovations and trade stands with great products for visitors to take home.
3. How long does it take for you all to come to a decision on award-winning stands and is this usually unanimous?
There is a certain standard that all stands, and exhibitors, have to meet and this is what they are judged upon. There is an additional group of assessors who also have scored each stand and then we meet up and compare scoring to make sure it’s consistent.
4. Do you have any exclusive insights or Chelsea Flower Show trend predictions that you can share?
As gardening appeals to a younger audience every year there is a realisation in the industry that not everyone has a large garden, so there is a focus on small spaces especially balconies.
Mental wellbeing that gardens can provide again will be a theme, as will the importance of pollinators – provide and protect our bees.
5. For first time visitors, do you have any top tips to make the most of the day out or help them to plan their visit?
The show ground is surprisingly small, however there is so much to see, from the show gardens to the flower pavilion its worth coming up with a plan so you don’t miss anything.
The flower pavilion is not to be missed, with some of the finest plants and cut flowers on show it takes a long time to walk around just to see as you’ll want to stop and look at everything.
Find your local Dobbies and get prepared to make the most of your home and garden, www.dobbies.com
With the RHS Chelsea Flower Show just around the corner(21-25 May), here’s a selection of garden-themed holiday ideas
The enchanted jewel of Lake Maggiore – Veneto, Italy from £1,181pp with Sunvil
Like a flower-strewn barge, the flourishing Italian-style gardens of Isola Bella are a floating splendour on Lake Maggiore. Set beneath a majestic Baroque palazzo, the 37m high green haven of overlapping terraces commands impressive views. Nestled amongst 17th century statues and fountains, a plethora of rare exotic plants provide a feast for the senses, while sauntering white peacocks add to the grandeur. Seven nights’ B&B at the family-run Cannero Lakeside Resort costs from £1,181pp (two sharing) for May and June departures, including return flights (Gatwick) and car hire. Call AITO* member Sunvil on 020 8758 4758 (www.sunvil.co.uk).
Explore Victorian gardens in West Sussex – from £148 pp with Pride of Britain Hotels
The gardens at Gravetye Manor, an Elizabethan stone mansion in West Sussex, are an oasis of calm, originally designed by visionary gardener William Robinson in 1885. The dynamic flower garden features a combination of annuals, perennials and shrubs, and the walled kitchen garden is filled with produce for use in the Michelin-starred restaurant. There are two acres of orchards and, from May, the surrounding meadows are in bloom with native wild flowers. Daily garden tours are available for residents and lunch guests (11am Mon-Fri; £25 pp). Stay overnight from £295 per room total/ £148 pp (two sharing), including full English breakfast. Call Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 39290 (www.prideofbritainhotels.com).
See the UK’s longest laburnum arch – Worcestershire from £68 pp at Brockencote Hall
Situated on the banks of the River Severn in Worcestershire, Arley Arboretum & Gardens (open Wed-Sun; £5.50 per adult) is home to over 300 species of trees and the UK’s longest laburnum arch (65m), which blooms in May and June. Other highlights include a Magnolia Garden with over a dozen varieties, beautifully-restored Italian Gardens and spectacular displays of rhododendrons and azaleas. Stay nearby at Brockencote Hall, an imposing Victorian manor house near Chaddesley Corbett with a private lake, set in 70 acres. An overnight stay is priced from £135 per room/£68 pp (two sharing), including full English breakfast. Call Brockencote Hall Hotel on 01562 777 876 (www.brockencotehall.com).
The joyous mix of gin and gardens – from £100 pp at Seaham Hall, County Durham
On Sunday 9 June, Crook Hall & Gardens – a 13th century Grade I Listed medieval hall in Durham City – will host a Gin-Themed Afternoon Tea, including gin-infused scones, cakes and truffles, plus a menu of fabulous gin cocktails. Enjoy this experience out in the glorious, quintessentially English gardens. Stay just 20 minutes away at Seaham Hall, the five-star, seaside boutique hotel where Lord Byron married back in 1815. An overnight stay in a Junior Suite costs from £100 pp (two sharing), including a full English breakfast and use of the spa facilities. Call Seaham Hall on 0191 516 1400 (www.seaham-hall.co.uk).
*AITO is The Specialist Travel Association: more than 120 specialist travel companies providing an unrivalled collection of holiday ideas that cover every corner of the world.
Consumers booking with AITO can be assured of high-quality holidays and excellent personal service. Visit www.aito.com for further information.