Chelsea Flower Show & The Hay Festival. Don't you love the start of summer proper? Always a treat to see you at both events.
You could be forgiven for developing a love hate relationship with the flower show though. There is so much to marvel at, (especially Cleve West's best in show garden. Proving that less is more, he made brilliant and subtle use of the space available, yes?),
and the post card from Wales garden, exquisite non?
and fantastic plants in the tent, and yet the circus suffers from its own success with cramped crowds, silly celebrity mania (is nothing sacred?) and horti-hype.
Institutional worship of attendance figures always seems to spoil the product. Just look at BBC1 and BBC2 TV, Henley and so on. No event appears safe from the relentless desire for more attendees. The Hay festival may well follow soon. Why don't the organisers recognise that, and conclude that there might be more to life than a bottom line?
If you venture into the hallowed ground before the dayglo jackets disappear, you also get the pleasure of being needlessly bossed around by a most humourless and rude crowd of health and safety officials, flexing their peaked caps. Not a dignified or gracious bunch. Before we were made to wear reflective vests many many people must have perished each year at the show. Did you hear about the health and safety officer complaining that there were no exit signs displayed in a tent that had no walls? Sad, but true. Oh how we laughed.
The dear old beeb are still advertising for 'citizen journalists' (it means unpaid) in the men's loo. How apt. Do they insult the ladies too? Could you ask 'her indoors'?
And photographers still photograph gardens from where you'll never see them.
Monty Don and Derry Moore presented a talk at the Hay festival this year, about their book on Italian Gardens, with all the photographs taken from a human, rather than a beanstalk perspective. I hope you were there. In the queue behind me were two gardeners who had met at Carol Klein's garden, and I was there with the lifestyle photographer, Janie Airey, who's just started up 'Shoot West' the location agency. The place was packed with fans of the Don.
The Hay Festival is sponsored by the Telegraph paper. Good for them, though if ever there was a 'Guardian' like event, it's that one. It's a shame the Telegraph paper doesn't lavish proper money on their contributors. Odd priorities. They even managed to turn away half their own guests at their Hay party. Oh dear. Guess who's been turning in his grave, Bill. Quite.
The good and thrilling news at Chelsea was that Crug Farm Plants won the President's award, proving that razzmatazz isn't everything, and deserving stands do sometimes get rewarded. And it was the first year that Sue and Bleddyn Wynn-Jones had been at the show. Dig the handbag (and forgive the pun).
I wish I had a summer house made from a shipping container, like the one in Nigel Dunnett's Garden. His effort was simply superb. How's your place coming on? I gather all the YBA lot have migrated your way recently.
For the gardening crowd, I suspect Chelsea is as much about seeing friends and colleagues as it is about looking at gardens and plants. That's the thing that's best in my mind. The 'gardening crowd' (writers, gardeners, designers, photographers and so on) are simply the nicest bunch from any industry you could ever hope to meet. For that reason alone, Chelsea is fab.
So Bill, summer is here, a chance to drive off and picnic somewhere, safe that you won't get wet in the rain that no longer falls. Bon appetit.