19 MAY 1973, Page 25


The flower show

Denis Wood

When it is impossible to find a taxi in London, when underground trains to Sloane Square are filled with well-bred, penetrating voices comparing the weather in Wiltshire and Westmorland, then the Chelsea Flower Show is on. To evade tall haggard women, striding from one of the great spectaculars to another, hoarsely crying out "I must have colour" as if they had invented it, an experienced gardener will rouse himself in time to get into the show soon after 8.30 a.m. and look for less obvious delights.

Hilliers of Winchester's stand will be a large one, built round the monument, and almost certainly filled with more detailed and re-fined interest than some of the tiered displays of flagrant colour and sheer opulent size. One would hope to see many of the rose

species and old roses which, from their good manners, do not make a great display on an exhibition stand, but are enchanting for their delicacy and their transience in a garden. Hilliers are also planning to have an exhibition of some of the plants discovered and brought back to this country by George Forrest, a great collector of plants, mammals and birds, who made seven expeditions to Yunnan between 1904 and 1932, in which year he died and was buried at Tengyueh.

There is an interesting article on Forrest in the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society for March, with a photograph of him with his arm round his labrador. Some of the best known plants which he brought back are gentiana sino-ornata, rhododendron fictolacteum and rhododendron griersonianum, among others; and many primulas including bullyeyana, forrestii and helodoxa.

I shall hope to refresh my memory of tulips and make notes, particularly of the colours of some of the lily-flowered ones, willowy and elegant in a bed against a house wall, where they would be replaced later in the summer by tobacco plants and heliotrope. The mysterious viridiflora tulips also have a special attraction, for the curious greenness of their flowers infused with other pale colours.

I will try also to keep up to date with irises and peonies, both of which seem to have so far escaped the attentions of promoterbreeders, and look out for them on Kelway's two stands.

I have not much hopes of the exhibition gardens in the main avenue. In the past too many of these have relied to an undue extent upon rhododendrons and azaleas planted out almost as summer jaedding, but with only a three weeks' duration and therefore grossly misleading to inexperienced gardeners.

I shall call at the exhibit put up jointly by the Soil Association in collaboration with Ewell County Technical College, to learn how gardens can be managed with minimal dependence on artificial fertilisers.

In Crossway, the Garden History Society will have a stall where particulars of membership and the Society's activities will be made available. I have happy memories of this Society — conferences at York, with visits to great gardens, Studley Royal and Castle Howard; at Ludlow taking in Downton and Croft Castle, and expeditions to unforgettable gardens in France and Italy.

The times of opening and admission charges are: May 22: 8.30 am-8 pm. (Private view only for holders of Fellows' and Junior Members' tickets); May 23: 8.30 am-5.30 pm £1.50; 5.30 pm-8 pm. £1.00; May 24; 8.30 am-5.30 pm £1.00; 5.30 pm-8.00 pm 70p; May 25: 8.30 am-5 pm. 60p. (No admission charge for children under five years.)