Powell and McVicar in at Chelsea as equality issue flares again

The RHS has released details of the 'RHS Greening Grey Britain Garden for Health, Happiness and Horticulture' designed by leading garden designer and BBC presenter, Ann-Marie Powell.

Greening Grey Britain is an RHS call to action to get the nation to transform hard, cold grey areas into living planted-up beautiful places, to improve lives and help the environment. To date, more than 1,300 people have pledged to plant up an area of grey to green, helping the RHS reach its target of 6,000 pledges by the end of 2017.

Powell’s front-garden design celebrates the health and wellbeing benefits of Greening Grey Britain. The garden includes a bee-friendly perennial meadow, edible plants in pots and a kitchen garden.

Powell said: "Gardens and gardening do more good to heart and soul than they are ever given credit for, and I’m delighted to be helping the RHS shout about this at the world-famous flower show. It’s important that my take on a front-garden theme is full of take-home ideas both for individuals and for communities, and I hope it will inspire visitors and viewers to get involved in Greening Grey Britain. Too many people are paving over their front gardens but anybody can have a beautiful front garden."

Following along the same theme, Jekka McVicar, author, broadcaster and organic gardening expert – who Jamie Oliver nicknamed ‘Queen of Herbs’ – is creating Show Garden ‘A Modern Apothecary’ for St John’s Hospice. Jekka uses plants selected for their medical practices, which will later be recycled to a hospital or care home in the UK.

The inspiration for her garden came from conversations with doctors and care professionals about what we can do to improve our own health within the context of gardens and plants, as well as the healing power of plants and the quote by Hippocrates, ‘Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.’

McVicar's garden means seven women are designing show gardens this year, up from two in 2015, a statistic that Hort Week initially highlighted. RHS director general Sue Biggs said the change was down to media pressure.

McVicar and Jamie Butterworth were named RHS ambassadors, to join previous appointees Nick Knowles, Mary Berry, Adam Frost, Alan Titchmarsh and George Hassall.

But TV gardener Joe Swift criticised the RHS for appointing five men but just two women.

He said numbers weren't "50-50" and the RHS can "control" appointments where they cannot control numbers of women show garden applicants. 

Biggs said: "Our ambassadors tend to arrive rather than be appointed." She added: "But if ever the time comes when it doesn't arise then we would look at [it]."
She said the increase in female garden designer numbers was not "positive discrimination".
Swift added: "People don't apply to become an ambassador.  They must be approached to become an ambassdor."

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