Seabrook on ... cutting show costs

After a full Sunday at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show speaking to RHS members and the public, I worry that the society is taking its eye off the ball. It is dangerous in recessionary times to take core business for granted.

Paying £26 for a ticket to get in, plus the car park charge of £9, is getting top weight and I wonder who at the RHS on Vincent Square is looking to cut show costs.

Rupert Murdoch, my major employer, was in town recently, resulting in a reduction of senior management staff at News International by 65 and the closure of the magazine division.

Staff numbers at Vincent Square appear to steadily increase. I saw no sign of any of the RHS hierarchy at Hampton Court on the closing Sunday.

Checking the list of Floral Marquee exhibitors, I see there were 91; checking the list of judges for them, I calculate 32. Does it really take 32 people to judge exhibits by 91 firms?

I'd be happier with such large numbers if the judges did a better job. For example, the perfect grass lawns, two rills and quite magnificent parallel herbaceous borders in the Beyond the Garden Wall exhibit was one of the finest I've seen at a flower show in over 50 years. And that wasn't just my opinion, visitors and competing exhibitors thought the same, so why didn't it get Best in Show?

Similarly, Mundy's Cottage Garden had vegetables of higher quality than the Best in Show garden, so why did it get a silver gilt? Having watched the BBC's Hampton Court show programmes, I couldn't understand why several gardens were visited repeatedly, yet we hardly saw the two mentioned above. And sources tell me the Daily Mail and BBC have "fallen out" so viewers didn't get to see the excellent exhibits in the Daily Mail pavilion.

At the RHS AGM what few members attended wanted more London shows - if this is the case why was there no show to coincide with the AGM to attract more members to this important event?

- Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster.


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