Seabrook On... Refocus needed at Chelsea

The president of the RHS was wise to avoid the traditional comment at the Monday lunch that "this is the best Chelsea show ever".

Sadly it was not and the large gardens down the Main Avenue were not only halved in number but of little interest to the average home gardener.

Save the lovely Woodland Garden, with some of the plants grown and planted by Chris Beardshaw. Why the judges did not give this gold I will never know.

At least three large show gardens did not pass my test: "Would you want to look down on that every morning when you draw back the curtains?" S

tanding behind the rope on the HTA Back Garden in the Great Pavilion, the comments from exhibitors and visitors came thick and fast. Visitors wanted to know why lovely artisan gardens, especially two of Japanese design, had not been brought forward onto the Main Avenue. They did not see why Wedgwood China filled the huge monument site and had foot-high signage — a privilege not extended to the massive high-quality Hillier display and Guernsey clematis from Raymond Evison.

It was as well not to mention either food quality or the prices, or where so many traditional garden sundries people had gone from Eastern Avenue.

When is someone at Vincent Square going to get their eye back on the ball and put the horticulture and flowers back into the heart of what was once the world’s finest flower show?

I can tell all of those plant breeders, growers and manufacturers who generously supported the HTA Back Garden exhibit that the general public loved the perfect Rolawn Medallion lawn and the colourful bedding.

Kado pelargoniums from Syngenta were fantastic, as were the baskets and patio pots from the Kerley family, and made stunning bedding and container displays. Mint growing in teapots (for mint tea?) proved a good talking point and could well be a good retail line.

WonderWall vertical gardening became the talk of the show as the days passed and the wall of salad leafed out, while strawberries ripened.

These are the words of a sad old man who has seen more than 60 RHS Chelsea Flower shows and been actively involved for more than 50 years. Please take the emphasis off raising money, as important as this is, and give priority to maintaining the fine international standing this remarkable show has earned.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster

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