Chelsea mornings (and afternoons and evenings)

It’s been Chelsea Flower Show week, in case you hadn’t noticed (or have been late to wake from hibernation). Every gardening medium has been full of Chelsea for at least a month of ‘run up’ – and will doubtless be so for another month (at least) of post-show reporting and commenting. The BBC, not content with extensive coverage during the show week itself, has run a week-long series of pre-show programmes.

Even ‘Gardeners World’ was in on the act, with an extensive item last week whose only point, as far as I could tell, was to address the questions over one of the (new) Chelsea presenters’ lack of gardening expertise or experience. I hold nothing against Sophie Raworth, and her parents’ garden is lovely enough, but the whole thing smacked of nervousness on the part of the producers.

And that’s not to mention the ‘is Alan in a huff or not?’ non-story – again, covered extensively in the gardening and non-gardening press.

Let me put my cards on the table: I have never been to the Chelsea Flower Show. I am sure that, were I to be offered a ticket, I would seize the opportunity to go. I am equally sure that I would dislike the crowds and the flummery, and the whole corporate trade show razzamatazz of the thing. I like to think I’d find some gardens, some plants, some people I’d not encountered before, and would come away having enjoyed myself, picked up some new ideas, not spent too much money. But I am not falling over myself to get there.

So much of Chelsea, as I experience it through newspapers, television and magazines, seems to be little or nothing to do with gardening as most of us actually experience it throughout the year. I search for a suitable analogy from other spheres – but I suppose the reduction of all lawn tennis to ‘Wimbledon’ is not that far removed. 

Just imagine if the media resources put into Chelsea were used to represent actual gardening, across the whole year? 

When did ‘Chelsea’ become the focal point of the entire gardening year? It would be interesting to know if there was a single moment (an ‘Italia 90’ in football terms) when this happened – but happened it certainly has.

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