I had a fascinating 3 days at Chelsea earlier this week, courtesy of Hilliers. What lovely folk – and while I’m on the subject, congratulations on your 66th consecutive gold medal, a record which makes you the horticultural equivalent of Don Bradman. Hilliers have been fantastic partners for our Meadow Anywhere seed project, and fingers crossed my hopeless attempts at helping on the exhibit haven’t persuaded them I’m bloody useless…
I’ve been known to grumble in curmudgeonly fashion at shows, but it seems churlish to here as I had such a rewarding and entertaining time. Let’s just say I really liked Nigel Dunnett’s show garden and really didn’t Diarmuid Gavin’s. ‘Nuff said. I got a huge amount of the show personally, and not just in terms of my own education (I can now recognize the beautiful Sinocalycalycanthus, even though I still can’t spell it). As a networking opportunity it was fantastic, and I’m looking at a whole bunch of new ideas, tie-ups and projects as a result of just wandering around and chatting to people.
For the outside world Chelsea is a great marketing opportunity for one of our best and, seemingly, most undervalued industries. I still don’t understand its economics at all; we regularly sell trees which cost more to get to the customer than they do themselves. The value and quality we get from our top nurseries is as extraordinary as the choice, and events like this are a rare opportunity to showcase them.
The show’s diversity isn’t just restricted to the exhibits and exhibitors, but it also attracts visitors from all over the planet. I was reminded of Jane Owen’s FT article on Taipei’s massive flower show earlier this year:
Michael Balston, a member of the RHS Council (governing body), created the garden to “remind the world through the quiet diplomacy of horticulture that the UK still exists”.