For the next 12 hours, if you hear the term "Chelsea" it is probably going to refer to the football team rather than the flower show. In honour of all the potentially hilarious conversational muddles that could ensue today, I bring you my own floral tribute to the Champions League Final.
Camassia "Orion", pictured above, is one of the best bulbs I've ever seen. Take the Camassia - which is already a great, great plant - with its azure starbursts that provide such subtle structure in a floppy spring flower bed. Now make it the zingiest, most electric blue, with a
touch of yellow that reminds me very slightly of Chelsea football strip. Yay! You've done the whole world a favour!
I spotted it on a gorgeous stand in the Marquee: happily, Pete Free
pointed out to me last night that the display in question was actually
a National Collection, as otherwise I'd have been looking fruitlessly
for the nursery name for hours. The collection holder had arranged the
Camassias against wheaten-white grasses to stunning effect.
You can find "Orion" for sale in a few places: Aulden Farm do it, as does Marina Christopher of Phoenix Plants, everybody's secret favourite plant-person. Beeches also do it at £3.50 a bulb, but their mail order (like many other small nurseries, I note) is now closed till autumn.
In slightly less authentic Chelsea colours, but nevertheless a mouth-watering purpley-blue, here is Clematis "Natascha", from Sheila Chapman's sweetly gothic display (yes, you can be sweet and gothic: think of Northanger Abbey).
But watch it: there are two Natashas, each with a different spelling
- this is the one with a 'c' in it, who comes at a reasonable £10 from
Sheila is one of those nursery people who quietly lurks ready to
give the information you need - how can you not love someone who
describes her specialist plants thus: "Clematis have huge appetites,
being in the Billy Bunter class."
Finally, can I offer anything to
those ill-tempered people (my friend Tim, my cousin Layla) who will by now be shouting at me "what about the Reds?" (Well, would be shouting at me, if they weren't in Moscow.)
Check it out! Gloriosa superba, sometimes called G. rothschildiana.
Imagine Paul Scholes with a bit of that draped over him, eh? This photo
is from the National Association of Flower Arrangers stand, which was -
let's just say, pretty unbelievable.