Seabrook on...Are 'garden' and 'gardener' becoming dirty words?

Steam was coming out of the ears of some well-informed and committed gardeners following Tim Clapp’s suggestion at GroSouth that gardening terms such as "ericaceous", "evergreen" and "herbaceous" should be banned. It is not a new point of view. I well remember Roger Dungey finding his Stevenage customers were much happier with "come-up-every-year flowers" rather than "perennial".

I cannot help but feel the simple words "garden" and "gardener" are also becoming dirty words in too many of our professional walks of life. The Garden Media Guild annual awards lunch at the Savoy Hotel last month was a remarkably successful event. I did more business there in six hours than I would do in a week travelling to meet people.

Sitting at lunch looking at the superb projected photographs provided by guild photographers, it was noticeable all were stately home/wide-scale landscape shots with no gardeners and no domestic-scale home gardens. What are gardens without people and why not show what small plots can look like with the very best, most skilled photography in perfect lighting?

It did not stop there. Among the 21 awards the word "garden" appeared in just two of the titles. I hope Dr David Hessayon was at least pleased to hear his name given to Garden Columnist of the Year. When it came to the actual winners, environment, wildlife and all the other politically correct fads of the day seem to take precedent over gardening on a small scale.

There was an award for Inspirational Book of the Year (no mention of "garden" in this title), won by a book about James Sowerby (£22.75 from Amazon). No, I am afraid I didn’t know who he was either until a check was made on the internet. If you want to see inspiration go to gardens or take some salad leaf seeds to a school and help five- to 11-year-olds sow them in damp soil.

They will germinate in a few days and will inspire great excitement. Then in six weeks or so there is more excitement with fresh green and red leaves to cut. Getting them scissored off, with stumps still in the ground to grow again, is something of a challenge.

Photographing such action is another matter and if you want anything other than backsides in the air and leaves flying everywhere it is easier to photograph cats in a sack. Perhaps, then, this is the reason professional garden photographers had their winning shots without the embarrassment of gardeners.

Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster


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