The Inaugural RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

RHS Chatsworth 1 Pic S Astley
Pic ‘n’ Mix by Heywood & Condie with Chatsworth House as a backdrop.

We can’t simply call it the ‘first’ can we? Not with a venue as super posh as Chatsworth House, Derbyshire home to the Cavendish family since 1549, seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and 105 acres of glorious English countryside featuring a spectacular ancestral home and world famous gardens. Nope, it has to be inaugural, as word befitting the setting.

Taking a day off the DIY and with the Moregeous garden in mind, off Mr M & I scooted over the Pennines. We’d googled the weather. The wellies were on. I am ashamed to say I’d never been to Chatsworth House, but ‘knew’ it from both Pride & Prejudice and The Duchess. What a stunning location for one of the RHS annual flower shows and a great Northern addition to the gardening calendar.

RHS Chatsworth S Astley image Floral Bridge
My view shot over the Palladian Bridge on River Derwent

The festival was different to others I’d been to in a number of ways, not just the stunning architectural backdrop and countryside setting. There was definitely a leaning towards the arts which gave the event a standout quality. It’s not often one finds a dinosaur head, giant yew figures and stuffed foxes at what is expected to be gentle RHS event. Several of the other installations were notable for their pushing of boundaries and thought-provoking meanings. I love to see this as a continuing theme each year, blending art and planting as is so often the case in the most famous of gardens.IMG_0047.jpg

Wind Installation with white polystyrene balls at Chatsworth RHS 2017
These light white spheres moved with the wind, simple but so effective.

I finally decided what I’m going to do with my stuck-in-the-cellar Cow Parade cow. Gild him!IMG_0060Sheds. Sheds were everywhere. Everyone wants an outdoor room of some size, shape or description. I’m a lot in love with shingles and have been ever since a holiday to Canada several years ago, so this roof does it for me. We created a huge outdoor room recently for a client and incorporated these little beauties, though I can’t show any images for a few months. Aren’t they a delight?IMG_0054.jpgSucculents are super popular in interior styling at the moment and Chatsworth had them in abundance, with some amazing displays in the floral tents. The bench has been set supremely high for DIY tool box decor however…

IMG_0078.jpgTwo large Floral Marquees housed wonderful displays and opportunities to buy the featured plants. RHS Chatsworth isn’t as big as Tatton, to give regular Northern visitors as idea on size, but there was still tonnes to see and buy. Lots of stalls, well spaced out, with a good focus on foodie stands and places to sit and eat. My fishy crab & prawn lunch was ace. And how cool to see the Duke & Duchess wandering around the show taking it all in with the hoi polloi, all greened up and looking just as bedraggled as the rest of us 🙂

Normally I’m super organised but not only did I forget my ‘big’ camera but my iPhone died mid afternoon – tech fail! Luckily the RHS images (all below with most credited to Andrew Fox) are fab so I’ve popped some of them below so you get a wider, crowd-free feel for the new show. The weather wasn’t fab (understatement of the year) but that’s what wellies and rainproofs are for eh? There had been a flood disaster on the press day but by the time of my visit on Saturday, the site was squelchy but mulched. Clearly some excellent site management had kicked in to ensure visitors could still navigate their way round and the festival felt well spread out. I thought the buying areas could have had a bit more room given the size of the pastures, but it didn’t stop me buying.

RHS Chats Andrew FoxA telly tubby white blob aka the Great Conservatory was set in the centre of the pasture, across the River Derwent from the house. This cloud like bubble was accessed across a spectacularly colourful floral arch, the Palladian Bridge, and housed a suspended ball of moss, sprayed with gentle plumes of mist. It was packed when I visited but was one of this spaces you really just wanted to sit silently and take in all the exotic flowers and tropical palms. Much, I guess, as guests would have done in Joseph Paxton’s original Great Conservatory, built in 1840 but demolished in 1920, where the famous Chatsworth Cavendish banana was first grown. Did you know practically all bananas now shipped and eaten are descended from this Derbyshire estate? No, me either, and there’s a great piece on them here for any of you bonkers about bananas.RHS Cons 3.jpgRHS bridge.jpeg

Floral Bridge 2.jpgThere was literally not a bum seat free at the front of these tropical flower beds when we were there. Mr M was perched bottom left with all my plants whilst I meandered and read about fruit. I’ll never eat a ‘nana again without thinking of Chatsworth.RHS Great Conservatory 2.jpegGreat Cons 4.jpeg

A very minor observation from me of the show is that it was pretty hard to get good shots of the show gardens without something ‘ugly’ in the background or zillions of people. I haven’t found that to be the case at other shows for example and although it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the gardens or the ability to take inspiration from the planting, it makes it harder for amateur photographers already battling crowds and poor weather! These press RHS images are way better than the ones I took and showcase some of the show garden for you wonderfully.

RHS CruseBexleyThe Cruse Bereavement Care Garden, with water flowing through a gentle rill and different areas signifying memories, loss and peace.

Antithesis of Sarcophagi GardenThe Antithesis of Sarcophagi Garden. A great block of granite with peep holes into a secret green space.

RHS Moveable FeastThe Moveable Feast area. Easily changed gardens, great for Generation Rent.

RHS Wedgewood Gardens Sam Ovens ChatsworthThe Wedgwood Garden, a gorgeous country style space with crisp contemporary features. Texture stone walls and crisp black details.

RHS Curves and Cubes David HarberThe Curves and Cube Garden, gentle oak benches with a central lattice rusted steel sculpture.

IQ-Quarry-Garden2560x800The IQ Quarry Garden. Brutalist or what? Not for most garden, admittedly, but in small doses, absolutely.

I thoroughly enjoyed our trip over to Derbyshire and would visit again, hopefully in 2018 with a bit of sunshine and much less rain. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for the stallholders to be told to evacuate the site at 1pm on press day. What absolute troopers and thank goodness it cleared up to allow the show to continue!

This is already a mammoth post, so I’m going to do another one on the plants I actually bought and some garden trends I think are coming through. Pop back next week for more gardentastic news x

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