Sunday, June 30, 2019

Since we moved to London nearly three years ago, I’ve been dying to attend one of the foremost British gardening events in the U.K.

Put simply, the U.S. does not host a gardening event like the stunning RHS Chelsea Flower Show that happens to attract nearly 165,000 people annually over a five-day period.

Tickets for this event, aptly nicknamed the “World Cup of Gardening,” sell out every year. So this year, I was determined to go and signed up as a RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) member and bought advance tickets way back in February! Hubby and I attended this year’s show on the second day in late May which was dedicated for RHS members only. 

Although we only live in a two-bedroom apartment here, one can always dream of having gardens like one of these, right?
I mean, how do you build an entire old stone house like this just for an event?
And how does one set mature trees into a temporary garden scene like this one? Amazing!
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show was everything I had imagined it would be and more! I took nearly 300 photos of the various show gardens, 17 smaller gardens and other gardening exhibitions, which spanned across 23 acres, so this blog post is more a photo post.
A wee bit of history:
·       Held in Chelsea since 1912, the show is hosted by the RHS on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

·       Originally called “The Great Spring Show,” the flower show first started in 1804 in a large tent with 244 exhibitors in Kensington. The show was used to highlight many of the top plant and seed merchants across the U.K. The show later changed names and moved to the hospital grounds in 1931.

Now, back to the main event!

Since we had the special RHS-member only tickets, the Chelsea Flower Show felt quite civilized and the gardens were quite fresh. I’ve heard that by the last day, the show can get a bit chaotic because it’s also the day that many vendors want to get rid of items and sell their flowers. Also, I chose the p.m. ticket, which means we only had access to the show from 5:30-8 p.m., because we both had to work. Having less times mean that you need to prioritize which gardens you want to see, but the advantage is that the gardens are better to photograph in those pre-sunset hours.

Sadly, I don't understand why the show doesn't stay open later because the sun doesn't set until nearly 9 p.m. at this time of the year.

Basically, if you attend the show in 2020, you won't be disappointed. I love flowers and I'm so happy I finally got to attend the show this year! Maybe next year, I'll buy an all-day ticket!

Hope you enjoy the RHS Chelsea Flower Show as much as I did!

The Montessori Centenary Children’s Garden
The garden was sponsored by the Montessori Centre International featured two greenhouses set among living walls and an interactive wildlife pond area.
The Donkey Sanctuary: Donkeys Matter
This garden featured a terraced garden of silver and purple Mediterranean-style plants. The international animal welfare charity, The Donkey Sanctuary, was celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and the garden provides a showcase for the charity's international work.

Walker’s Forgotten Quarry Garden
In a section of a disused quarry, this garden showed how nature is reclaiming the space with lots of foliage and a small pond.

More Garden Displays

Perhaps some Game of Thrones influence here? 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Annual Tulip Festival in West Sussex, UK

My jaw literally dropped open, and I exclaimed “Wow” as the train rolled past the Arundel Castle in the English countryside.

Guess I didn’t do enough research about this nearly 1,000-year-old castle, located in West Sussex, about 90 minutes away from London by public transport. I simply had a day off and had Googled where I could find a tulip festival as I recalled hearing about one on TV recently. (The castle overlooks the River Arun and was built at the end of the 11th century by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel.)

Well, the first week in May (this month) might be about the last chance you have to see the annual tulip festival in bloom at Arundel Castle. I visited the extensive gardens earlier this week and was disappointed to see that the large field of tulips were already depleted. Bookmark your calendar for mid-April 2020 so you can see the more than 60,000 tulip bulbs burst into bloom. Of course, when the tulips bloom is always up to Mother Nature.
Never the less, I thoroughly enjoyed walking around the grounds of the castle and the gorgeous gardens. At one point, I think I was the youngest person in the gardens. Ha ha. That’s what happens when you have a day off in the middle of the week.

Tulips of all the rainbow colors adorn massive flower pots as well as immaculately designed gardens spaces. If you love flowers and gardens like I do, you could easily spend a few hours in the gardens alone.

Get ready for a ton of tulip photos!

Castle History and the Keep
While there are several ticket options, I purchased a silver level one for £16.50, which included access to the castle keep as well as the gardens. I also received a £3.00 voucher for the café where I bought a slice of Victoria sponge cake and a coffee after all the walking I did outside in the gardens.

The keep, located within a courtyard and surrounded by a stone wall, was the heart of the medieval castle. The tower keep, with its extra thick walls and protected entrance, generally was the safest place to be during warfare. The tall tower offered its protectors a 360-degree view of potential enemies. Today, the keep offers spectacular views of the English countryside and of Arundel Castle itself.
One of the oldest parts of the castle is the gatehouse, which dates to 1070. Under his will, King Henry I (1068-1135) settled the Castle and lands in dower on his second wife, Adeliza of Louvain. Three years after his death, she married William d'Albini II, who built the stone shell keep on the motte. In 1155, King Henry II confirmed William d'Albini II as Earl of Arundel, with the Honour and Castle of Arundel.

I was also interested to learn that the castle is pretty well preserved because the same family – The Duke and Duchess of Norfolk – have owned it for several generations. Part of the castle is open to the public, and part of it is where the family actually lives. I can only imagine the upkeep of this impressive castle.

In 2002, Edward Fitzalan-Howard became the18th Duke of Norfolk when his father died. Arundel Castle has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years – descending directly from 1138 to the present day, carried by female heiresses from the d'Albinis to the Fitzalans in the 13th century and then from the Fitzalans to the Howards in the 16th century.  
Looking at the private section of Arundel Castle where the Duke of Norfolk lives with his family.
If you want to peek inside some of the castle’s extravagant rooms, check out this post by British bloggers Hand Luggage Only.
On the way back to the train station, I had a nice view of Arundel Castle along the river.
If you missed the tulips, don’t fret as they are followed by a flurry of purple and white as thousands of allium bloom for the Allium Extravaganza this month. 

Wouldn’t you like to visit an English castle with gardens like these?

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