My childhood garden was full of flowers and plants. All year around, it was rife with colour from new flowers blooming. In the spring the borders would be over-run with daffodils and tulips, and in the summer they were replaced with irises and lupins. The hanging baskets and pots were so large that they began to hide the house. My Mum, the avid gardener, would be messing in her flower beds, long into the dark hours. We’d look out of our bedroom window at night and see her little head torch in the pitch black, as she beavered away. Despite growing up with such a green fingered parent, I didn’t enjoy gardening as a child. In fact, my only involvement was getting paid 50p a black bag to pick up dead leaves from the borders!
It was only when I bought my first home, complete with very long garden, that I began to be green fingered myself. Over the years, my interest has been swayed towards growing produce to eat; herbs, fruit and vegetables have slowly shrunken the flowering borders. However, due to my childhood garden, I will always love flowers. Since getting ill, I have spent many an hour sitting in my Mum’s conservatory, admiring her garden from the warmth!
When we were children, my Mum would comment that she’d love to one day visit the Chelsea Flower Show. This ambition rubbed off on to us children, and it too was something I wanted to one day experience. Therefore when she turned 60 this year, tickets for the show was one of the many presents we bought for her.
In the lead up to the event, I was nervous about whether my body would be able to cope with a day trip of that length. When I’d bought the tickets for my Mum and myself, I had been in better health. However as the event neared and my illness got worse, I was really nervous about how much we would be able to be see in the short time my body could cope with. Thankfully in the last few weeks, I’d begun to feel a little stronger, so I had all of my fingers crossed that I’d manage more than an hour. Ever the organiser, I tried to swing the odds in my favour as much as possible: I spent the last couple of days before completely resting, I highlighted a route on the map so we could see our favourite sections first, I prepared the picnic and disabled car parking in advance to minimise hassle on the day, and I didn’t even talk to my Mum in the car on the way to conserve some energy!!
Since getting ill, I’ve found that one of the biggest lessons I’ve had to learn, is that life has to carry on regardless. I have to accept that I won’t be able to stay for as long or do everything that I could have done before, but it’s important to still try and have new experiences and create memories. Occasionally this lesson is tested though, and for me the Chelsea Flower Show was one such event. In the proceeding days, I did have periods of wishing things were different, and that we could be there for longer than a couple of hours. However I managed to change my mindset by reminding myself that going for two hours would be better than a day in front of the television! And to stop the guilt associated with potentially making my Mum have only a short trip, we joked that it would be like a taster day; we could return next year to see the bits we’d missed. Luckily my Mum is very understanding, and was excited to be going, even if we were only able to stay an hour or so.
It was a fabulous day! We loved it! Despite arriving at 9am, the crowds were already quite deep. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to see much from the vantage point of my scooter. However happily all of the competition gardens had ramps to access them, and amazingly people were incredibly kind and someone would always make room for me and my scooter at the front, so I could see all of the gardens clearly. And despite the crowds.. I didn’t once run over anyone’s feet as I manoeuvred in and out! We didn’t agree with the judges’ choice for winning garden, there were so many nicer ones. Our favourite was the mathematics garden. In fact a couple of the gardens didn’t pass my grade due to the abundance of ornamental grass everywhere (they reminded me of our overgrown plot too much!).
One of the main features was a wonderful display of 300,000 crocheted poppies! It took three years to make, came all the way from Australia.. and looked fabulous! Being disabled we were allowed to bypass the crowds queuing up to see the display behind the barriers, and instead could get up close to them, and have a chat to the organisers.
After a couple of hours I needed a rest, so found a quiet spot, whilst my Mum did some shopping on her own. Laying on the grass listened to the parakeets, you could easily forget you were in central London! It turned out to be a great vantage point from which to people watch! After half an hour, she returned and I was feeling a little stronger so we enjoyed our enormous picnic. Later, we wandered among the stalls, admiring the amazing statues and garden delights… but looking aghast at the price tags! £20,000 for a garden ornament! However if I ever win the lottery, I know exactly where to go to spend some of it! The artisan area turned out to be a favourite, as the offerings were slightly more in our budget.
We left the Pavilion until the end, assuming it would just be a giant garden centre. How wrong we were- we wish we’d gone in there earlier! It was enormous and filled with hundreds of stalls displaying so many varieties of flowers. Displays of every variant of daffodils, gorgeous smelling hyacinths in an array of colours, enormous chrysanthemum balls! It was wonderful to wander around. We were amazed at how perfect each flower looked, and how there were tables of spring flowers in perfect bloom despite it being nearly June! The floristry area was fabulous to look at; animals and buildings made completely from flowers!
So my fears in the lead up were unfounded, my amazing body managed to keep going long enough to allow us to see everything at the show! In the end we were there for 5.5 hours! Unbelievable! My longest day trip this year! I was so incredibly happy and relieved to have lasted so long and thus to have been able to let my Mum see the whole of the show. In fact as we managed to see it all, next year we won’t need to return to finish it off, but instead we’ve decided to visit the Hampton Court Flower Show! After the long long day (7am-5pm) I fell asleep, incredibly thankful and happy, as soon as we got home. My Mum, however, inspired by the show, went straight in to my garden, and spent the rest of the evening weeding my flower beds for me! I hope she wasn’t comparing my garden to the ones on display at Chelsea!