For me this is a strange experience – here at home on Monday 18th May when I should be on our stand at The Chelsea Flower Show. What to do? We have all these new items we were to launch at the show and so it will just have to be a virtual Chelsea…
Welcome to Chelsea Gala Night Preview Special, but first there is always the Press preview… Recognisable people walking around focused on memorising their pieces to camera, lots of media types and the odd Chelsea Celebrity popping on and off the gardens. I have been watching this gentile media scrum for over 25 now… and I find myself here having to pluck up the courage to do it myself;it’s a one take 10 minute video walk around Taddington – Click hereto see my efforts. I can now say I have the utmost respect for those TV types, walking and talking at the same time is, it seems, remarkably difficult and one’s brain does tend to fuse, so my apologies for some mistakes… Hercules wrestling Antaeus is by the sculptor Jan Pieter van Baurscheit the Elder (1669 – 1728) and the sculpture dates to circa 1710, so technically this is an 18th century work and not as said 17th. Next the Cotswold stone urn is a model inspired by the Borghese Vase and, right at the end, it was of course the War of the Spanish Succession, though I suppose it was a distinctly French affair.
And now to the canapes and fizz, the Queen has just left and the atmosphere is tightening… Hurried footsteps and eager catering managers talking bossily into walkie talkies, all to the (if you think about it) surreal back drop of beautiful show gardens big and small. Fine horticultural displays all accompanied by their respective designers and growers, dressed up in their finest after two weeks being knee deep in mud and toil – I salute you all (I include those oft forgotten flower arrangers).
We are as trade stands honourable spear carriers in this scene, but we do our best and try hard to keep up the standards and put on a mini show of our own. A picture here of last year’s stand which, with pride, we won a 4-star award – thank you Katie and our team. But all this sadly is not to be this year and so I thought here to present some Chelsea highlights in the form of new garden pieces that we would have premiered at this year’s show.
Our Copper Planters are our signature collection and at every Chelsea people have asked if I can make them watertight for a fountain feature. It has taken me some time to work this out but here they are – hand made to order in our standard sizes or bespoke.
I also finally have in inventory a nice big wooden table with equally stout benches, made from recycled teak. I am hopeful they will look the part in a number of garden settings and, at £3,600 + Vat for the set, are an option to consider as an alternative to our new hand forged iron garden dining tables and chairs… my video walk round showing examples I think gives a good idea of sizes and scale.
Our Tree of life, made in Haiti from recycled oil drums, has had a prune and now is available in true tree form, as opposed to a full roundel – a nice alternative I thought with both options available.
A pair of magnificent lead lions – I am not sure where I was going to find the space for them on our 5m x 5m Chelsea stand, however, here they are in all their glory. The model for the lion and lioness can be traced back to an unknown sculptor working around 1740 for William Kent, on behalf of Lord Burlington at Chiswick House. They are still there either side of the of the Exedra (a curved garden feature or folly), being copied sometime after 1760 by John Cheere (1709 -1787), known at the time as the man from Hyde Park Corner where he had his workshops. Cheere produced, in lead, copies of the Chiswick House models with examples sprinkled across the stately homes of the United Kingdom, and can be seen at Castle Hill, West Wycombe, Heaton Hall, Anglesey Abbey and Quenby Hall. Here ours being a faithful copy cast in the true spirit of the 18th century.
The gentlemen of the Grand Tour would looked to have taken in Naples with the excavations of Pompei and Herculaneum and their disgorged treasures, most of which thankfully stayed in the Museum. Here in Naples in the 19th century copies were allowed to be cast from the originals and here, in bronze, you have the wonderful bronze Daini. One of a handed pair (available if required), this fine model was discovered in Herculaneum in the Villa dei Papyri. I have always sought in the antique but now is so rare I thought to offer as an exact copy cast via the lost wax technique.
Another client driven innovation being the subtle but now finally available ‘stone’ coloured patination for all our cast fountains and pool surrounds. Sturdy and able to stand up to the cold of northern hemisphere winters, this material is chosen over stone for longevity and the look of age for use when it is felt appropriate for a period property.
Finally, a pair of Finials – Neo-classical in design one can see this model in many National Trust properties. They can be used as both formal gate piers or as an accent, such as a terminus to a long wall or vista.
And so, as the light fades and the air cools, the party is coming to a close… The busy bustle thinning, last dash-back conversations over, Katie and I leave the stand with, hopefully, a few sales under our belt and drift into the London night. I will not miss the 14-hour days, but I do miss the people and that unique Chelsea atmosphere… Next year, and there will be a next year, I look forward to seeing you there.