Is it because you can’t buy plants at the Chelsea Flower Show that the urge to shop is so irresistible to most people?
Seasoned colleagues tell me they deplore the commercialism of it all, while I keep my guilty secret that I always look forward to shopping at Chelsea. Each year I make a point of buying something of very good quality which I would normally consider too much of an extravagance. Last year I treated myself to the Emma Bridgewater set of flower mugs made for the National Garden Scheme (NGS) and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them all year.
This time I fell for an antique Haws copper watering can for seedlings and houseplants, from Garden Brocante on Eastern Avenue (and yes I did actually need it). Husband and wife team, Peter and Zoe, sell antique garden tools and equipment at unbelievable prices (spades and forks with satisfying, wooden ‘D’ handles are about £16- £24). My watering can was only £20. ‘The prices reflect that I can’t be bothered to persuade people to buy something,’ jokes Zoe. ‘Everything is priced to go.’
I also succumbed to two sets of Wills cigarette cards (they used to be given out with ‘Woodbines’ and other brands in the Wills stable). Each set contains 50 lovingly kept cards, which illustrate practical gardening techniques like propagating dahlias, sowing peas and taking runners from strawberries. The back of the cards have advice on them.
At a cost of £15 each set, I feel privileged to own a small slice of horticultural history. Garden Brocante are given much more space at the Hampton Court Flower Show in July, so they have many more irresistible large items.
If you love tools, Felco secateurs are a good place to visit at the show on Eastern Avenue. You can take your old secateurs to be refurbished for £14.50. The company cleans, oils and replaces blades as necessary. If the handles need re-dipping they will send them away for you for a small extra charge.
Other goodies I spotted this year are a new portable BBQ by Town and Country for £10. They come in lime green, purple and blue and are useful in small gardens.
The Carrier Company is selling gorgeous fine wool, herringbone waistcoats for £94, which would suit men or women. Whereas tweed is often rather stiff, this soft fabric has an instant lived-in Mellors appeal.
We’ll forget the outdoor Jamie Oliver Wood Fired Oven which was unveiled on Mark Gregory’s ‘Children Society Garden’. Who wouldn’t want one? But, at £2,000 — £5,000 I don’t think our local Italian restaurant will be facing any serious competition.