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28 October 2014
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Keep up-to-date with all of the latest news from the showground.

Build-up week Chelsea, 2006
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Sunday, 20 May

Last-minute panics

Many of the gardens the assessors will see aren’t quite finished, so they will be looking out for any tiny flaws which might be hidden by crafty planting on judging day. They comment on how well the garden fits the brief and matches the designer’s description, and point out any particular strengths or weaknesses.

It’s a nerve-wracking time for the designers, apprehensively watching the small group of clipboard-wielding officials.

"It’s a bit like taking an exam," says Robert Myers, designer of the Fortnum and Mason Garden. "You’ve done all you can, and now you just have to wait for the results."

Most of the gardens are now finished, though some have had a tense day as schedules slipped. At mid-afternoon, The Fleming’s and Trailfinders Australian Garden is still frantic with activity, for example, with the construction team still finishing the complex hard landscaping, while others wash the black stonework which will give this garden its modernist, uncompromising final touches. But all the last-minute panics must be over by the end of the day - for dawn tomorrow brings the opening day of the show, when the gardens are unveiled for the first time.

Countdown to showtime

With 24 hours to go until judging day at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the pressure is reaching fever pitch. Designers, plant suppliers and contractors have been working around the clock, and time is starting to run out. About 157,000 people - including the Queen - will file through the gates from tomorrow morning, and gardens have to be picture-perfect from day one.

This year has seen something of a shake-up in the way the show is run. First of all, there’s a new face at the top: Alex Baulkwill has taken over as show organiser, and has the daunting task of co-ordinating the thousands of elements that make up this mammoth event.

“I never thought it would be this exciting,” she says. “Rather than feeling nervous, I’m just loving the challenge of it.”

The layout has changed - the Rock Bank no longer has show gardens, as the pathway alongside it was too narrow for the crowds; instead, a marquee has been removed along the Main Avenue, which is now the location for almost all the main show gardens.

There’s a new category for small gardens - the Roof Garden category; and a new event, the Garden Design Forum, where some of the UK’s best gardeners and garden designers will give talks and answer questions. It all promises to offer a spectacular week for visitors.

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