PEI

Armchair travel: Rachel Hershfield visits the Chelsea Flower Show

Looking for a little garden inspiration? Islander Rachel Hershfield recently revved up her green thumb at the famed Chelsea Flower Show in England as well as several other British gardens, and agreed to share some of her 700 stunning photos of the trip with us.

'When I walked into the Great Pavilion, I almost cried'

One of the gardens constructed for the Chelsea Flower Show in England. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)

Looking for a little garden inspiration? Islander Rachel Hershfield recently revved up her green thumb at the famed Chelsea Flower Show in England as well as several other British gardens, and agreed to share some of her 700 stunning photos of the trip with us.  

"I've become totally obssessed with gardening and flower since I moved to P.E.I.," said Hershfield, who came from Calgary eight years ago where she only had a small condo deck.

If you're going to have weeds growing everywhere, the delicate and colourful English daisy can't be beat!— Rachel Hershfield

The Chelsea Flower Show had long been on Hershfield's bucket list, and she decided this was the year. A few weeks ago, she embarked on a group bus tour that included the legendary show as well as seven more horticultural gems in South England, most preserved and managed by the National Trust.

"It was awesome, just fantastic," Hershfield said. She enjoyed not having to find directions, buy tickets or stand in long lineups, she said of the tour. 

'Everything looks so nice'

"I think what inspired me the most was just how into gardening the English are," she said. "Even if it's just a little garden, they're working hard and everything looks so nice." 

Huge arrangements of gladiolus caught Hershfield's artistic eye at Chelsea. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
A plethora of potted pansies at the Chelsea Flower Show. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
 

The abundance of dramatic plants that grow in England's warm, damp climate were also exotic to see, Hershfield said. 

The highlight of the trip was definitely the Chelsea Flower Show, Hershfield said. 

Globe-shaped arrangements of mums were a touch of fun at the Chelsea Flower Show. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
The red and white begonias in the foreground at the Chelsea Flower Show are 'as big as dinner plates,' says Hershfield. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
 

"When I walked into the Great Pavilion, I almost cried," she wrote on Facebook.

Even though it was very crowded, she tried to ignore all the people and enjoy herself. "It's massive!" she said. 

Inspiration and marvel

After the show, the tour headed on to other famous gardens throughout England — each stop providing Hershfield with inspiration and marvel. 

Some of the magnificent gardens and plants at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, which includes 25 different gardens. Hershfield quipped that she now needs to build a stone wall on her property on which to grow roses. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
 
Some of Hershfield's many images of the gardens at historic Sissinghurst Castle, which dates back to the mid-1700s. The castle was used as a prison, a poor house, and a farm over the centuries. It was given to the National Trust in 1967. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
The view down into the manicured gardens at Sissinghurst. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
 

Great Dixter originated in East Sussex the mid-1400s and eventually became the family home of gardener and writer Christoper Lloyd, who wrote many books and articles over 40 years. It's now a destination for many gardeners from around the world. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)

This whimsical laburnum walk in yellow was at 'gorgeous and peaceful' Wilton House near Salisbury. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
Wilton House and its extensive grounds — 14,500 acres — are a popular set for filming period dramas including Sense and Sensibility, The Madness of King George, The Young Victoria and scenes for Outlander and The Crown. (Submitted by Rachel Hershfield)
 

"As I left [Wilton House] I couldn't imagine anything that would make more of an impression — but then I hadn't yet seen Stourhead," she wrote. 

Stourhead, opened in the 1740s, has been described as a "living work of art," according to its website. 

'You're left marvelling at the thoughtfulness, planning and determination that led to the creation of this magical place,' says Hershfield of Stourhead estate. 'Every minute or so you turn a corner and gasp at the view. And this happens over and over during the hour that it takes to walk the path. And throw in the Temple of Apollo, the Pantheon and a grotto and you're left marvelling at the thoughtfulness, planning and determination that led to the creation of this magical place.' (Submitted by Rachel Hershfield)
The 1,000-hectare Stourhead estate includes a lake, classical temples, rare and exotic trees and wildlife, as well as a Palladian-style villa with authentic Chippendale furniture and incredible collections of art and books. It was given to the National Trust in 1946. (Submitted by Rachel Hershfield)
 

'The gardens were so lovely, with the wisteria draping over the walls and the water in the moat gently flowing,' says Hershfield of the Bishop's Palace of Bath and Wells. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
 

'I even loved the weeds'

Hershfield said of Hestercombe House in Somerset, "I loved everything about it, especially the gorgeous views of the English countryside and the use of symmetry in the design. I even loved the weeds — if you're going to have weeds growing everywhere, the delicate and colourful English daisy can't be beat!" 

Flowers proliferate on steps at Hestercombe House in Somerset. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
Hershfield love the use of symmetry in the design at Hestercombe House. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
Iford Manor 'had everything,' says Hershfield — 'A grand old home, meandering streams, hidden little mysterious paths, whimsical garden sculptures, gorgeous landscaping and wonderful views.' (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
Spot of tea anyone? These whimsical topiaries at Iford Manor in Wiltshire, England delighted Hershfield. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)
 

'Happiest, cheeriest and brightest'

Upon returning home, Hershfield decided to give her own garden a facelift. 

'It may not be vast and majestic, but I feel like I've achieved what I've been envisioning all winter long,' says Hershfield of her garden and deck reno. (Rachel Hershfield/Facebook)

"It may not be vast and majestic, but I feel like I've achieved what I've been envisioning all winter long — the happiest, cheeriest and brightest garden I could imagine!" she wrote on Facebook. Key to the design: a colour palette, fresh paint and reupholstered furniture.

Hershfield is a graphic designer by trade and has decided to sell some of the images she captured in England on the online marketplace Etsy. 

She booked her 7-day trip through Brightwater Holidays, and it cost approximately $2,600.

She'd love to see a flower show in P.E.I. similar to the Chelsea show, so Islanders could see what plants are available and new and how to plant and arrange them. 

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About the Author

Sara Fraser

Web Journalist

Sara is a P.E.I. native who graduated from the University of King's College in Halifax. N.S., with a Bachelor of Journalism (Honours) degree. She's worked with CBC Radio and Television since 1988, moving to the CBC P.E.I. web team in 2015, focusing on weekend features. email sara.fraser@cbc.ca