Once upon a time, a great many folk had a love affair with the Chelsea Flower Show. It really was the highlight in many peoples horticultural (if not social) calendar. But 2009 may be the year where cracks are beginning to show in that relationship.
Through no fault of the RHS, a credit crunch has swept the land, and the sort of money that was normally forthcoming, to sponsor many of the show gardens just wasn't visible this year. Even some of the parties were under attended:
This meant that the show felt a little empty or sparse.
Still we all duly rallied forth to take the photographs needed for the coverage of the show.
Lots of people have cameras these days.
Behind the scenes before the show opens an army of health & safety police are deployed. They mean well, but it often doesn't feel like it. We all have to wear High Visibility vests, not good for photography.
Sometimes one has nothing better to do than watch how others cope with getting ready for the big opening, or with the English summer.
Due to bad weather much time was spent in the Grand Pavilion, a place where I seem to gravitate towards after the jading experience of traipsing up and down the main show gardens.
There is much to admire under the canvas (plastic I expect) and it's nice to see family outfits like Lockyears. Simon on the left is the son, William the father. I love seeing small glimpses in the background of photographs, and proud Mrs Lockyear is just visible to the right.
I did fall in love with one garden The Fenland Alchemist Garden which was immaculate:
Chelsea is obviously deemed to showcase the excellent in the horticultural world. the RHS make sure that is absolutely clear. It says so on the tin!
So why is the plastercine garden of James May given space at the show?
One Chelsea Pensioner is not amused. He may not be alone.
The fact is, there are very very few places here in Britain that are not exempt from celebrity culture. I think it's a great shame, and a too easy trap to fall into. Celebrities are seen as cheaper and more effective than PR companies. Invite a few well know 'stars' then invite Fleet Street and the telly people, and you have all the publicity you want. This process now seems to permeate every walk of public life. It's so tacky, and I wish that flower shows could be brave and exempt themselves from it. (PS, well done on the Gurkha front Purdey).
You can't have one without the other, so a scrum ensues wherever a celebrity person stops to catch their breath.
Chelsea Flower show now ends on a Saturday, where the "sell off" begins at 4 pm. Coach loads of plant lovers descend and carry off what isn't nailed down. The whole jamboree is over for this year, though preparations have already begun for the next year.
Dear RHS Santa, Can we please have a decent press room so we don't have to squat on the floor, fewer celebrities (preferably none), polite health and safety guards, no silly hi vis vests; and then concentrate on gardens, plants, vegetables and flowers?