Judge and Jury: Celebrities still rake in the column inches for Chelsea - The inevitable cast of actors, politicians, supermodels and Royals who attend the Chelsea Flower show guarantee its media success, says Colin Hambidge, PR manager Unwins Seeds

Love it or loathe it, but another Chelsea Flower Show has come and gone, eliciting the usual superlatives from the gardening press. To some, it is the acme of horticultural excellence, to others a festival of garishness and bad taste. What began in 1913 as an event visited by the owners of grand houses, accompanied by their head gardeners, has in recent years become more of a media bash, with each exhibitor or garden sponsor trying to outdo the rest in a game of ’spot the celebrity’.

Love it or loathe it, but another Chelsea Flower Show has come and

gone, eliciting the usual superlatives from the gardening press. To

some, it is the acme of horticultural excellence, to others a festival

of garishness and bad taste. What began in 1913 as an event visited by

the owners of grand houses, accompanied by their head gardeners, has in

recent years become more of a media bash, with each exhibitor or garden

sponsor trying to outdo the rest in a game of ’spot the celebrity’.



This year, we saw the launch of two perfumes, both linked to gardens,

and promoted by supermodel Linda Evangelista and actress Catherine

Deneuve.



Miss Evangelista is the new face of Yardley, and also posed with a new

rose named for the company. On another stand the unlikely triumvirate of

Sir Roy Strong, Sir Bob Geldof and David Hockney were busy extolling how

native wild plants benefit insects and birds.



Add to the mix a host of actors and actresses, a few of yesterday’s men,

including John Major who assured a well-wisher he would not be back

(politically) and 13 members of the Royal Family, including the Queen

and the Duke of Edinburgh, and you have a formula guaranteed to get the

camera shutters clicking and the diarists clamouring for a closer

look.



Of course, Chelsea has always been vaunted as the start of ’the season’,

if such an on-going event can still be said to exist, and it must be

said it still retains much of its magic in spite of certain attempts to

turn it into a circus. In spite of the somewhat cramped conditions of

the exhibition grounds and the attendant difficulties in actually

getting to the place from the provinces it is still worth a visit for

anyone with even the vaguest interest in gardening.



Whatever your views on the razzamatazz which surrounds the show, the

increased publicity which it now receives in the media, and particularly

on television, means the world of gardening is being brought before a

bigger audience than ever before. For those of us in the horticultural

industry that must be good news.



When all is said and done, however many household names appear, and

however much gimmickry is used in the promotion, it is still the

magnificent plants and the efforts of the gardeners which are the true

stars of the show.



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