Thanks to my mother, who is a legend, I had a whole, wonderful, child-free day to visit the Chelsea Flower Show yesterday. For those of you with young children, you will appreciate my giddy delight at having nothing more to do than selfishly enjoy myself for a whole 12 hours. So what did I do? Spent the whole time going round the show trying to find gardens and gadgets which my children would love. It's akin to getting a rare night out with your other half and spending all your time discussing the children.
To be honest, there wasn't a lot to make small people jump for joy (but then as they're banned from the showground, perhaps that's to be expected). I was, however, holding out high hopes for the Children's Society garden - after all, the clue's in the title.
So what did I think? It was beautifully built, tastefully planted, gold-medal winning, and from a kid's perspective dull, dull, dull. Did anyone ask a child's opinion at any point? What on earth was there for one to do here? Would anyone under 10 be allowed near such tweaked perfection in the first place?
Much more inviting for children was the Eden Project's Key show garden. It has originally been designed for the public to walk through and I could well imagine Ava, Oscar and Archie wanting to run through it's maze of paths and through the key shaped Gourd tunnel (made from recycled concrete reinforcing rods). What's more it looked fun and colourful - something so often missing down the showground's main avenue.
I also loved the ideas in the Future Nature garden. Although it may not have been the most beautifully deisgned space at the show, I loved its insect hotel highrise. A brilliant way for encourage creepy crawlies to visit your garden - and something I will be trying to emulate in my own back garden.
The other trick I shall pinch is the use of a colander as a strawberry hanging basket. This was done to perfection in Aralia's Freshly Peppered garden which created a gorgeous outdoor cooking area and made a welcome change to the oh-so-similar courtyard gardens.
Of course, the kids were most excited by two things I shall not be able to recreate here. I have been toying with the idea of keeping chickens, and couldn't resist taking a shot of this amazing pink egg chicken coop. Produced by Chicubes it comes in 200 different colours, but at £1400 I'm not sure their pocket money will stretch.
And, surprise, surprise, the pictures they loved the most were of the James May's plasticine creations. I know there will be many who feel this is not appropriate at the world's premier flower show, but it made me smile and you have to admire something so beautifully executed. And from a PR perspective, the RHS certainly gained enough column inches (and probably attracted a few more punters).
This also resulted in my favourte eavesdrop of the show from some elderly ladies. "Who's James May?" "Oh, I've heard of him, I think he's a flower arranger."