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Down to Earth: May will always be Chelsea month




For Cambridge garden designer Robert Barker, May brings back memories - of the whirlwind that was his Chelsea debut

Robert Barker's Chelsea garden (56277194)
Robert Barker's Chelsea garden (56277194)

I try not to look back too often, but sometimes I can’t help but be reminded of an event that took place in my past. For some reason I hold on very tightly to memories until an annual milestone has passed and then my grip loosens, enabling me to gently let go. Even though looking back can at times be unhealthy, I hope you will indulge me as the month of May always brings up a memory of an event that took place several years ago.

In May 2018, I showcased a garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show called Skin Deep (pictured, main image). Ever since I embarked on a career change into design I had dreamed of showcasing a garden at the most famous flower show in the world. After having success at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in 2016 - I was awarded a gold medal for a garden entitled The Red Thread - I was determined to enjoy being part of such an incredible event.

Ferns and white foxgloves featured in Robert Barker's Chelsea design (56277185)
Ferns and white foxgloves featured in Robert Barker's Chelsea design (56277185)

Yet when I look back, I can’t help but be reminded of what a whirlwind that time was, and am left with the regret that I didn’t enjoy it even more than I did. That however, is life. I had no experience of showcasing at Chelsea, so no wonder I now feel more experienced to deal with the situation, as now I am more experienced.

I believe that the danger in looking back is that we reminisce about how we remember an event compared to how we were feeling about an event at the time. When we look at old holiday photographs, we only see the fun times, we forget about the fact we might have been dealing with a cold, anxiety or difficult flight delays and lost luggage etc.

Ferns and white foxgloves featured in Robert Barker's Chelsea design (56277187)
Ferns and white foxgloves featured in Robert Barker's Chelsea design (56277187)

For me, Chelsea is still fresh enough in the memory not to forget the whirlwind experience that it was. I can’t honestly say I loved every single minute of it. The midnight emergency car journeys up to Sheffield to make last minute key decisions and then being on a 10 o’clock train in Paddington heading to Somerset the following morning, for example, was testing, but what I can honestly say is that it was an incredible experience and at some point, in the future I am sure I will give in to the temptation to dip back into creating another show garden.

In the meantime, I will do my best to not look back too often, not to worry about the future but enjoy the moment - and this moment belongs to the month of May.

See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.


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