Seabrook On ... Floral opportunity wasted at Olympics?

Am I alone in feeling that gardeners and the garden trade have been shortchanged by the London Olympics? Beijing four years ago had 200 million plants in beds of Olympic proportions filled with such free flowering cultivars as rich gold, hybrid French marigold 'Taishan', massed displays of SunPatiens that cooled the air and floral bouquets of masculine size for every medal winner.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, a reader complained about presenters, camera crews and children walking through the Olympic village flower beds. If we plant great drifts of wild flower meadows, what do we expect? Surely meadows are for walking through.

Britain was famous for its colourful gardens and formal planting, so why was a little space not made available for what we are good at - fragrant rose gardens and colourful traditional summer bedding? Ill-disciplined camera crews and youngsters do not trample through roses with sharp thorns.

When it comes to bunches of flowers, why give a weightlifter a small posy better suited to a child bridesmaid? Several years ago, the organising committee was repeatedly asked what arrangements were being made for the floral presentation. At that time, recommendations included home-grown sunflowers such as Helios Flame, which has appropriately coloured petals in gold and bronze rings. Given weighty bunches of sunflowers, our macho medal winners might have been more prepared to hold them aloft.

The place to teach children how to grow plants and respect gardens is at school and in the home. Visiting the RHS Hyde Hall Flower Show, it was disappointing to see two children, under the eyes of their parents, strip ripe berries off a tub of blueberries at the entrance to the fruit and vegetable plots.

Sidmouth in Devon has consistently won awards in the Britain in Bloom competitions and I was pleased to see it has involved six local schools in designing and planting beds in Connaught Gardens. It could teach the Olympic organisers a thing or two about dazzling the public with floral displays.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.


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