Sunday, 29 May 2011

Just for show?

I'm going to go slightly off piste with this post and just offer an opinion on that celebration of gardening that is the Chelsea flower show.

Gardening stirs every emotion possible from slug rage to intangible new seedling joy. If the recent BBC coverage is to be believed, then gardening elicits nothing but positivity, awe, enlightenment, passion and pride.

From what I've seen and heard people put an immense amount of work and pin a lot of personal hope on their Chelsea gardens. And a lot of people go with genuine excitement, or miss out with proper disappointment.

Yet watching some of the coverage the whole thing fills me with a slightly uncomfortable feeling that I just can't express, but I'll try.

Part of it feels like the horizon - in sight, real, but so far away that reaching it can only ever be in the imagination. I accept it's there, and there are people on the horizon sailing happily and luxuriously, but it's just not for me.

The other part is borne of experience. One of the gardens this year was a concept between an architect and a garden designer to create a vertical food garden on London Bridge to supply Borough Market with local food.  It was explained as a wholesome, world saving concept embedded with decency and a desire to produce for the common and greater good.

I lived behind the market for 2 years. The foodie worshiping of it, which has gone from a market of quality raw ingredients to a cash cow for premium artisan products and ready grilled lunches more quickly than you can say Jamie's Italian, also smacks of people not willing to question what they're being sold at what price. Not using their eyes or taste buds. Although I hear Jamie's Italian is rather good...and maybe this concept would arrest the runaway gravy train? Or maybe rocket would hit £5 a barrel, er I mean packet.

Yet, it was the virtuous warbling that got me the most. I actually met the architect years ago, directly across the table at a tense meeting involving a large proposed development. In these libelous times where a tweet could land you on a precarious branch or two, I shall keep my experience of that meeting personal. That the tv screen remains in one piece is simply my bad aim.

What fascinates me most about gardening is the mess, the tension, the mistakes, the failures, the battles, the reality.

I sense I'm probably wrong about Chelsea and that the place is a buzz of ideas and inspiration that fuel people for the year ahead. But right now, I'd rather ditch the glitz and glamour of the show, forget the characters parading themselves for the cameras and judges and stick to the integrity fighting the failures just to get magic out of a seed, some soil, a slosh of water and a burst of sun. Now who's being virtuous..?!


Hanzy said...

What makes me sad is that the gardens aren't really "grown" thorugh love blood and sweat like "real" gardens, they are "put together" before the show and taken apart afterwards, I know people get teh opportunity to purchase the plants etc but there is so much waste even so. I love to look at the final results but I'd much prefer to visit an ancient, established garden for ideas.

Hapless kitchen gardener said...

I actually never thought about how they get there and where they go afterwards. There must be a vast amount of waste. Disposable gardens, blimey.

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

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I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.