Chelsea had a relaxed feel this year. Much has been made of the small number of Show Gardens - eight in all, but I think it benefited. There was more space; it felt less crowded; we weren't having to rush down the Main Avenue to ensure everything got seen before we were booted out pre-Majesty arrival at the end of Press Day.
Speaking of the Main Avenue, though, I was surprised at how some of the spare space was dealt with. OK, so Show Gardens were thin on the ground, but was this all that could be done to fill the gap between the Welcome to Yorkshire and Breaking Ground gardens?
By contrast, behind Chris Beardshaw's The Fractal Facts of Nature for Morgan Stanley was a cool, calm seating area with benches, with the large self-advertisement that's featured in the top photo. Why ever not put that in the space on the Avenue, allowing a view of passers-by as you sat, and hide the loos behind Chris's The Fractal Facts of Nature garden?
Sound asserted itself more strongly this year. Not only did we have the premiere of Linger in Light, Lauren Marshall's composition for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, created in response to Chris Beardshaw's garden (see some of the performance), but Welcome to Yorkshire (which I would classify as more of a film-set than a garden - a conundrum I looked at in 2015) played the cries of distant gulls to evoke the seashore, in conjunction with a buoy that ducked somewhat stolidly up and down in the water to create ripples. (I sound as if I disliked this, but actually it made me laugh.)
In a new position for gardens, along the Royal Hospital Way, were five Radio 2 Feel Good Gardens, each dedicated to one of the senses, including the Zoe Ball Listening Garden, designed by James Alexander-Sinclair, built by Crocus and described by James himself as "strangely mesmerising". He was referring to the way deep bass notes resonated, creating ripples in the water troughs and vibrating the ground (which you could feel if you dared to place your foot over the line and on the gravel of the actual garden).
Zoe Ball Listening Garden. If the video isn't visible, see it here.
"It's creating the feeling," said James, "of a walk through the woods, where you come across three rusty troughs and you're 'not in Kansas any more'. It's surreal and strange." The planting certainly came together to create a slightly malevolent feel. Many of the sounds were merely frequencies played in a pattern, but every twenty minutes or so the bass beats of rock songs came through. Though the chances of recognising Smoke on the Water, Another One Bites the Dust, Help!, or Seven Nation Army seemed slim.
What became abundantly clear with the Radio 2 gardens, extremely popular as they were, was that the DJs whose names graced them had had virtually nothing to do with the designs. Makes you wonder why they chose who they did. Wouldn't it have been fun, for example, to have had the Suzy Quattro Listening to Rock Garden...?
Back to the Avenue. It can't have come as a surprise to anyone that Chris Beardshaw's design for Morgan Stanley won People's Choice of the Show Gardens. It was never going to be anyone else's, even if the judges did only give him Silver Gilt, his being the only one packed full of colour and making you want to linger...
...without strange, multi-coloured ribs interposed between plants...
...which tended to overpower the colourful planting in the China garden, which won Silver Gilt too.
Over in the Fresh Gardens, only one stood out for me, and that was City Living, the self-funded design by Kate Gould, addressing the problem of an urban apartment block where residents have no access to outdoor space. Plants were taken vertically and lush leaves gave a cool feel to shady areas.
In the Artisan Gardens, the Poetry Lover's Garden invited you to sit and contemplate. My attraction to this had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I was dying to take the weight off my feet and it was in one of the coolest, shadiest parts of the grounds.
Meanwhile, next door, at the World Horse Welfare Garden, there was a fine display of the etiquette of snuggling up for the camera without getting too personal behind the scenes.
And what would Chelsea be, without that odd quirkiness? There were Flower People...
...and Tree People...
But my very favourite had to be this.
"Is there a person in there?" I asked. Apparently there was.
A very hot one.