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
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
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.