My apologies in advance for the breathless Flowers! Flowers! Flowers! nature of this post; given the photographs you can forgive us a little breathlessness, because we were.
It was hot that Thursday - one of the first hot days this year - in my minds eye, the halcyon beacon of the beginning of summer. They say go early, and they, whoever ‘they’ are, the old-timers I suppose, are quite right. I took an alarmingly silent train into the city, Jesse thrust a coffee into my hand on emerging from the tube and we walked straight in, which is just as well because I’m terrible company in a queue, particularly when there is a pavilion of hundreds of varieties of English roses the other side of the barrier.
And there we were, awash in a sea of deliciously coloured petals and honeyed scents with all the other iPhone-toting flower enthusiasts. It was heaven. My notepad filled to capacity - 5 hours worth of curating the ultimate floral shopping list of varieties of flowers and foliage we want to grow for our weddings and events next year - phone numbers, illegible scribbles, incomprehensible Latin genera, and I’m sure my phone has still not recovered the ordeal of zooming in upon the stamens of thousands of flowers.
In an expanse of beauty the Peter Beales roses knocked me dead - there’s witchery in those ramblers, I’m sure of it. Kelways peonies, just as fleshy and buxom as can be. Thorncroft clematis. Heucheraholics heucheras and heucherellas (a tongue-twister if ever I wrote one). Millais Nurseries’ rhododendrons, which I feel are very uncool and bed-jackety but I’m developing a fondness for them, particularly the granny-apricot shades like ‘butter brickle’. They make me think of 1930s garden parties, hazy afternoon hedonism and cigarette holders; I can’t think why. The siren song of the Cayeux iris display that stopped me in my tracks and kept luring me back to gaze at their bearded two-tone pouts - nude, coffee, lime, the faintest heart-fluttering mauve, like an early summer mornings mist. Ballerina colours, a whirling blur of them - perfect flowers for wedding arrangements, while nuanced enough not to be dull. And speaking of colours, there were distinctly trending shades of copper, rust, mustard and coral detected, which if this is the fashion week of the flower world, we will see continually trending into next year on the event scene. I am longing for a brave bride who'll let me use that murky, rusty tobacco-y colour in her wedding bouquet. Just once, or twice, and with the timidest pink, naturally.
And the show gardens! The Mathematics Garden was my favourite, because everyone has to have one of those - you hear people walking around going ‘oh this is my favourite’, ‘oh no hang on a minute, this is my favourite’, in between shed envy. The band of copper and silvery-blue tones of foliage, with chartreuse and those exquisite apricot Geums - it was a magical space. On one of the promenades was a sculptural concrete cube with peephole windows, which I can only think must have had Monty Don inside, naked presumably, because a queue of women of a certain age circled out from it clutching their picnic baskets in an excited spiral. We didn’t even get close.