What an opportunity of a lifetime to help Jason with the build of his Chelsea Flower Show Garden. I was so excited I couldn't sleep the night before my first day on-site. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined I would be able to help out with planting at Chelsea.
It was such an eye-opener seeing the Show Gardens start to emerge amongst the lorries, forklift trucks, rubbish, debris and mayhem. As soon as the flowering plants were planted, bees appeared, followed by butterflies and ladybirds! Jason appeared as a beacon of calm - always sure of his vision and confident of completion.
Assessment and judging days involved madly working to ensure the garden looked its best before judging - I learnt that show gardening is very different to gardening, involving planting plants as close together as possible, never having enough perfect plants, removing dirt from leaves with paintbrushes, followed by polishing and deadheading everything, everywhere! I enjoyed all of it.
In the last 24 hours before opening, paths appeared, lawns were laid, signs put up and the show was ready. I was able to walk around on Sunday (judging day), view all the gardens and talk to the designers with no crowds around! It struck me that many of the gardens were show gardens - unachievable for the majority, but The Cirrus Garden was a garden which could be copied on any balcony or in any small garden, to improve mental wellbeing for many.
I was so pleased for Jason achieving a Silver-gilt for his first garden - so deserved and I'm sure the start of a successful career. Returning on Saturday, the garden was packed with visitors all day. So many positive comments and many conversations about how important our outdoor spaces were during the pandemic lockdown.
I would like to thank him for allowing me to put a massive tick on my bucket list and to Thrive for the opportunity. My own mental health has received a real boost this week - I'm walking around on Cloud Nine or should I say a Cirrus cloud!
We arrived in shifts to cover 12 hours a day (Jason was there a lot longer!) just one week before the show opened. The weather was incredible, and, with the sun's reflection off the white rendered wall of the balcony, keeping up with watering was the first priority. As soon as the RHS contractors had finished the balcony’s decking and railings, we could start installing the large planters and try to make up some time. Deliveries of materials and plants kept on arriving, and so too did the insects, bees and even a butterfly!
The Chelsea site was a hive of activity as teams of people beavered away with their own tasks and projects as time counted down to the immovable deadline. The atmosphere was incredible - despite the pressures, people were so cheerful, helpful and supportive.
The day before judging began, the majority of the planting was complete and we let go of any notion of ‘real’ gardening. We continued deadheading but also rearranging and rearranging again, snipping, tweaking and even polishing leaves!
We left Jason on Saturday afternoon making his very last minor adjustments to ensure everything was perfect for the judges. The show opened on Tuesday and Thrive and volunteers were there during the show to provide information about the garden and its aims, and to promote the work of Thrive itself. Jason's Cirrus balcony garden was immensely popular with visitors, they absolutely loved it! One visitor said: “it’s just happy, I could look at this all day.”