While my main focus on Press Day is shooting the pick of the show gardens on Main Avenue, each year I venture into the huge marquee that is the Great Pavilion to see if any floral displays take my fancy.
In previous years, I tended to be drawn to tulips and in particular, the display by Britain’s leading grower, Bloms Bulbs. This time, nothing on their stand really caught my eye and as their display looked exactly the same as it always does, I decided to give it a miss.
Chrysanths are another favourite of mine. Like tulips, they’re wonderful to shoot as there are so many varieties and colours. Given a choice, I like to photograph them two ways: close up on a single bloom and en masse when the same varieties are arranged tightly together.
If you didn’t know, chrysanthemums are part of the daisy family, which also includes zinnias and marigolds.
The flower of Japan’s exotic looks have been admired for years. They were painted by the great masters, more often even than water lilies, indeed, the National Chrysanthemum Society was formed as long ago as 1846.
The society is a regular exhibitor at Chelsea, where they showcase the very best examples. This year, their display was inspired by the solar system, with a different variety depicting each of the planets. To be honest, it wasn’t the most creative of ideas or displays, but the flowers looked good regardless – good enough for the RHS to award it a gold medal.
The chrysanth that really stood out was Baltazar, a relatively new spider variety that I believe was introduced in 2016. It’s a fabulously exotic flower, with a big head of pink and lime green frond-like petals. It actually looks like it belongs on a coral reef, rather than in a bouquet.
Spider chrysanths have many rows of long, narrow petals which completely cover the centre of the flower. The inner petals are shorter and curve themselves around the centre.
As the individual displays were circular, I was able to get a good variety of compositions, including some which included the black background. I have to say Baltazar is one of the most stunning flowers I’ve seen.
Adjacent to Baltazar was a display of pure lime green chrysanths – Green Mist, I think – which are another favourite of mine. Having shot this variety last year on the Interflora installation, I looked for another chrysanthemum to shoot.
The one I settled on was Cocoon, which I learned was actually a brand new variety, having only been introduced earlier this year.
Far smaller than Baltazar and less exotic looking, Cocoon is another spider chrysanthemum. It is a pale yellow/green flower with a more vibrant green centre. As it was positioned at the very top of the display, it was more difficult to get a variety of shots.
The third chrysanth I photographed was on Marks & Spencer’s wonderful display of British cut flowers: The Floral Market. Called Ludo, it was almost bronze in colour.
I’ve struggled to find anything about Ludo beyond that it may have been cultivated in Belgium. Ironically, when searching on Google, my own photo was one of just five images returned!
While chrysanthemums come in many shades, they are usually pink, yellow or red. Recent years have seen the introduction of several new varieties, often in not seen before colours such as green and bronze.
However, the one colour that has eluded breeders has been blue. Until now, for 2017 saw Japanese scientists genetically engineer the first true blue chrysanth – one that passes the Royal Horticultural Society’s strict colour standards.
Who knows? It may even be on display at next year’s Chelsea!
Behind the image: All these images were shot handheld with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and either the 12–40 2.8 Pro or the 75 1.8 lens using available light only. Shot in London on 21 May 2018.
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