Friday 24 May 2013

Farewell to Planet Chelsea 2013

A cold, wet Friday, my last day at Chelsea 2013. Last year sunshine, warmth and Pimms; this year I travel in a woolly scarf and crave soup.  The visitors flock in as always. Raincoat sales rocket and Panama hat sales limp. The Pavilion is more crowded and the showground difficult to negotiate. The rain does not dampen the spirits of the visitors and it is certainly not a wet blanket on the Hillier Team. Several of the staging team turn their hand to manning and it becomes a bit of a reunion. We are happy to be together again, as Owen says “It’s nice to enjoy the garden we’ve made”.

Jamie turns up with a bottle of Pimms, buys Sprite, scrounges fruit and ice and sets about organising the lunchtime drinks party in the Sydney garden room. We savour the moment and vow to return to Planet Chelsea as a team next year; we will fill the void between somehow.
Some of the team adjourn to the exhibitors’ restaurant for something warm to eat and drink. We hurry through the freezing rain past Mehrdad in his sentry box warmed by a hair dryer on a high stool; innovative. The party resumes, but with tea instead of Pimms.
I take Jamie to the Australian garden; we explore and chat to Philip the designer. Then, the first of the farewells. We say goodbye to Philip and then Leanne; her last year at Chelsea; it can never be quite the same. Back on the Hillier exhibit a few last pictures with Jamie and Gillian. As ever I can’t bear to leave, but it’s definitely time to go.

A last look back: the brightly striped cushion, the soaring birches, the rain capes and above it all, the Monument.  I’ve had such a bond with this piece of granite for the last ten years; will we be on this spot next year, will that be for the last time, who knows? We never did have that conversation about next year’s layout, but now it’s too late.
I plunge into the crowds, the rain and the umbrellas, bid farewell to Mark and the Panama hats. I would love another, but I don’t need another, not this year anyway. The gravity of Planet Chelsea is still strong but it must get weaker, I have other worlds to explore; at least for now.

Chelsea 2013 has been extraordinary, one of our best exhibits, and one of our best Chelsea teams. I feel I’ve achieved my objective. No, not just our 68th consecutive Gold Medal; I know those involved feel that this is the best thing they've ever done. Also I think those that have visited feel that this is the best we have ever done. Mission accomplished. Farewell to Planet Chelsea 2013.

My thanks to everyone involved in ‘Risk’: Hillier at Chelsea 2013: you made the ordinary quite extraordinary!   

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