Judging Chelsea in Bloom for a second year was an absolute joy. Along with my fellow judges Stephen Woodhams, who was fresh from judging the show gardens at Chelsea the day before, and Sorrel Everton, deputy editor of Gardens Illustrated, the day was spent covering the entrants from Sloane Street to Sloane Square, Duke of York’s Square to the King’s Road, and down to Symons Street.
Above: Clipboards at the ready, underneath Rag & Bone’s beautiful floral arch. I knew from last year that heels would be a disaster – so it was a neon Nike day.
Do check the displays out in person ( I wasn’t able to photograph them all), as Saturday is the last day they will be up.
Tuesday wasn’t as bright and sunny as Monday, but that was to the good: no walking around in blazing sunshine and, after last year where I was in danger of frostbitten knees, we were just glad to be warm.
We were judging in accordance with RHS guidelines. Each display was judged in three different categories, gaining 0-4 points in each, to a maximum of 12 points each. This makes for a very equal competition, because scale and expense don’t affect criteria, such as suitability, flower choice or container usage. We disqualified anyone who wasn’t ready, or who used wholly fake flowers.
I was quite taken by the Jumeriah Carlton Tower Hotel’s flamingo (the first pink bird of the day), the floral arches inside, and the bird tweets, that were set off by a motion sensor.
We had two rickshaws to transport us around all day.
Pickett have quite tricky windows to decorate, but we thought this was a clever way around them.
Bruno Cuccinelli, who came joint second last year, had another perfectly executed window.
Hackett were real contenders with a beautiful set of windows, and wonderful displays indoors.
We moved on to Tiffany & Co, whose clever numerals reference the famous Tiffany Atlas clock at the Fifth Avenue store, and the new Atlas collection. (At top too.) Here’s Stephen and Sorrel getting up close and personal with the lime green carnations.
Then we crossed the road to last year’s winners, Rag & Bone.
We particularly loved the floral UK and US flags in the windows.
Hamptons’ display was super cheery and extremely popular with passersby.
Hugo Boss has commissioned set designer Gary Card to create these giant foliage men, which were executed by Grace & Thorn.
We loved that this lady was conceptualised by the store staff at belt store Elliot Rhodes, and that they used belt offcuts to to make her bodice.
Liz Earle pulled a blinder with their homage to the Isle of Wight.
Dubarry had one of our favourite planting schemes.
LK Bennett had a phenomenal installation, conceived in-house, and executed by the VM’s mother, who just happened to be a florist.
I loved Jigsaw’s clever use of knapsacks and handbags as containers.
Cos’ simple display of cacti and succulents by The Garden Edit was extremely effective
Pandora had more tweeting motion sensors/
We thought Whistles’ flamingo was perfectly executed.
There were ravishing peonies at Links of London, arranged into a bow.
Kate Spade took us on a trip to Rio, designed in house, and executed by Nikki Tibbles and her team at Wild at Heart.
Brora paid homage to their textile heritage.
Basia Zarzycka’s display mirrored her eclectic interior.
A lovely floral lady with an ivy pompadour by florists Moyse Stevens.
Peter Jones also had a wonderful floral lady, to match a vintage John Lewis textile, and Mary Quant replicated some of their cosmetics in carnations.
We finished up at 11 Cadogan Gardens for a delicious lunch, adding up of the points, and some vigorous discussion amongst the judges.