Field trip to RHS Chatsworth

Time for another PlantSwap team field trip! Last weekend we went to a fabulous plant swap and craft sale in Nottingham and this week we have been off on a visit to RHS Chatsworth!

Every keen gardener knows of Chelsea flower show, but going down to London is expensive and time consuming. Luckily the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have considered us northerners and we now have two similar (but smaller) shows; Tatton over near Manchester (in July) and Chatsworth.

With Chatsworth House only half an hour away, and the PlantSwap team heroically undertook another field trip so we could bring you a report on RHS Chatsworth – and, of course, share some photos of the amazing gardens and plants we saw!

Selfie of the PlantSwap team in front of the bus to RHS Chatsworth
Getting the bus to RHS Chatsworth

First impressions of RHS Chatsworth

View of RHS Chatsworth show and the house.
View of the RHS show with Chatsworth house and Garden behind

I visited last year and having experienced the traffic and parking, I was pleased to be able to get the bus – highly recommended as an easy and relaxing way to get there.  The added bonuses are that it restricts how much you can spend on plants (as you have to carry them), and if you’re so inclined you can have a cheeky Pimms or G&T at one of the many foodie trucks in the show ground.

RHS Chatsworth is a mini version of Chelsea, so as you’d expect the highlight is the opportunity to see some show gardens.  Unfortunately there are only a handful, but they’re still very much worth seeing.

The RHS Chatsworth show gardens

We both really enjoyed the three local BBC Radio gardens, designed by listeners of BBC Radio Sheffield, Derby and Stoke. We got chatting to the husband and wife team who’d designed our favourite – the miners themed Derby garden.

Two people dressed in 19th Century clothing sit in a garden at RHS Chatsworth flower show
BBC Radio Derby’s wonderful Miners Cottage garden
Well dressing at RHS Chatsworth
Well dressing

Nearby were a number of well dressings, a local Derbyshire tradition. These were spectacular, and extremely intricate. Each element of the image is created with flower petals or bits of leaf pressed into a clay back board.

If you’d like to see them they spring up across Derbyshire and beyond during June/July and you can visit them in situ across the region – there are even a couple in Sheffield!

Visiting the Floral displays

Floral display at RHS Chatsworth
Floral displays

The floral display tent is always well worth an hour or two, earlier in the day is best as it’s not too busy. Nurseries from across the country display their most beautiful plants, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to pick up some unusual varieties.

I’ve recently cleared a large bed in my garden and so decided to buy a lovely hydrangea (they don’t like the soil where I grew up so I’m excited to be able to grow them in my garden), and Fay set her heart on a glorious fox light plum gold foxglove but they’d sold out (although given her history with foxgloves that might be a good thing – I’ll let you ask her about that!!). I also couldn’t resist an astilbe, one of my mum’s favourites.

The displays were mainly garden plants and flowers, with a couple of the stalls having house plants, luckily there wasn’t too much temptation. Although the carnivorous plants were particularly striking, and it was great to see some really impressive air plant displays.

Photograph of a piece of art depicting a tree by Thomas Perceval
Oak tree by Thomas Perceval

We had a brief wander around the shops, although to be honest it felt like an over priced garden centre. Although a couple stood out, particularly Thomas Perceval’s laser cut wood art of majestic Oak trees around the country – I love trees.

Fay listening to a tree through headphones at RHS Chatsworth
Listening to the wisdom of trees

Talking of trees; there’s a whole tree area – and the chance to actually ‘hear’ a tree from within!  I could have stood there for hours.

The other place we spent a lot of time was the Bee Keepers tent. Absolutely fascinating displays about bees, beekeeping and honey in general.  We learnt about the invasive Asian Hornet – seriously scary, go have a look and report to their website (actually it’s also worth knowing about as they are nasty and their sting is horrid).

Involving schools and children in gardens, plant care and gardening

A highlight for us were the school sensory gardens using recycled and upcycled materials – we spent lots of time looking at these – so inventive and innovative. I wish we’d done that kind of thing when I was at school. You could vote for your favourite by Tweeting a photo with the hashtag #rhschatsworthschools and if you’d like your kid’s school to get involved in this type of thing the RHS have a whole scheme for School Gardening. Also linked to schools involvement was the Rotary Club plastic bottle greenhouse – constructed from over 1300 2 litre plastic bottles! Not sure how long it would last on a Sheffield allotment, but still a fascinating idea.

Did you visit RHS Chatsworth? What were your favourite bits?

Our advice for a visit is; take a packed lunch (although there are loads of food trucks), a bag (or wheelie box!) to bring home your purchases; and definitely splash out on an ice cream! You’ll need most of the day there to really see everything. We didn’t even have time for all the local food producers stalls, or the demonstrations and talks going on around the showground.

Have you visited RHS Chatsworth or are you going to  RHS Tatton this year?  We’d love to know what you think, did you buy any plants? What were your favourite gardens?