Flower Power at the Chelsea Flower Show

gillianSussex farmer Gillian van der Meer, a steward at Chelsea, explains why the event is special and what farmers can learn from it.

I have stewarded at Chelsea – the world’s premier flower show – since my sons finished school about six years ago.

It’s a long day, leaving home around 6am and not returning before 10pm. But what a show – a display of late spring/early summer horticulture, where grand urban and contemporary architectural gardens stand out, but with a gentle nod to our rural heritage and simple wildflowers.

And then there is the Great Pavilion, where the heady scent of lilies, roses, jasmine, lavender and other flowers rise the moment the sun hits the marquee.

It is such a fabulous place to steward and where I get to do one of the best jobs around – to engage with the public surrounded by a stunning display of fruit, vegetables and cut flowers showcasing UK growers. Talking to the public here is so rewarding. They want to know about what we do on our farms, where they can buy what they see, and I always get asked at least once “what’s that funny looking thing?” to which the answer is always “a celeriac”.

Last year, the BBC came over to film Christine Walkden (of Gardeners’ World and The One Show) talking about and tasting a new variety of apple called Kanzi. I had one eye on what Christine was doing as she picked up the apple to describe it and eat it. After they finished and began packing up, I saw what she had done and went up to her and the crew and said “You’ll have to re-take that, you ate the wrong apple.” Sure enough, she had picked up a different variety of apple next to the Kanzi. A re-take promptly followed.

Farming needs to take itself to shows such as Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace (where I have designed and shown farming-themed exhibits), as there is a large audience that does not visit agricultural events, but which is so open to hearing about what we do.

Horticulture has engaged with the urban population; agriculture needs to do the same. The rewards will be great.


  • chelsea

For lots more pictures see our Chelsea 2012 picture gallery.


Top shopping picks from the show


Brian Alabaster

Bull’s head

This bulls head sculpture is a detail from full sized version that is due to be installed in Hereford this weekend. If you have prize winning livestock then you too can have them immortalised in bronze – contact Brian for more details. POA

James-Doran-WebbJames Doran-Webb

Driftwood Hen chicks

James lives in the Philippines and sources all his wood from the shorelines and riverbeds of the archipelago. £3,500

burgon-&-ballBurgon & ball

RHS-endorsed perennial spade

Need to split and divide your perennial plants? Well you can slice with ease with this beautifully crafted spade. Overall length 53cm. Head dimensions 14cm wide x 14cm high. £19.95

emma-bridgewaterEmma Bridgewater

Jubilee tea towel

Be steadfast and true with this unashamedly celebratory Diamond jubilee tea towel featuring crowns, lions and even a corgi! £10


Hamish Mackie

Side of Aberdeen Angus beef

For this numbered edition of 12 bronzes, Hamish Mackie purchased himself a side of Aberdeen Angus beef so he could better understand the anatomy – it now resides in his freezer. However this bronze could reside in your home or garden. Each bronze is signed by Hamish and dated 2012. It’s an impressive piece at 48cm long x 125cm high x 39cm wide. POA


Herbi4 Pottery Co


With flocks of character skillfully sculpted into their faces, these sheep attract interest from sheep dogs and humans alike. Each sheep is totally individual and lovingly created by Jon. The sheep are frostproof and are more than happy grazing outdoors as well as in. The solid base can be buried into the ground, making them sturdy on their hooves.
Depth: 76cm, width: 46cm, height: 76cm. £1,400.


Heyland Whittle

Hope & Glory candle

Fill your home with Hope & Glory with this luxurious, natural smelling candle candle made of natural soy. £22

Jenny-PickfordJenny Pickford

Galvanised Ironwork & glass flowers

Inject some year round colour and drama into your garden with one of these striking steel and glass Arum lilies created by one of the country’s leading female artist blacksmiths. Height approx 85cm. Flower diameter approx, 20-25cm. £85



Fairtrade Panama hats

Pronounced pa-cha-cu-tee, it means “world upside-down” in the Quechua language. The panamas are made from Ecudorian toquilla palm meaning that at the end of their life they can simply be put on the compost heap! Prices start from £47.50.


posh-graffitti2Posh Graffitti

Wooden letters

From golden gilt to natural wood you can spell out your thoughts with these beautiful letters. Prices start at £5.


royal-hospitalRoyal Hospital

Jubilee decorations
This beautifully beaded keepsake decoration will be real heirloom and all purchases from the Royal Hospital support the Chelsea Pensioners’ appeal so you can buy with a clear conscience. £6.50


Sophie Allport

Jubilee mug

Sophie’s stand is a sight for sore eyes and the judges thought so too awarding it a Certificate of Commendation’ for the high presentation quality. This jubilee themed mug is one her best sellers. £8.50

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