Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Wisley Flower Show, part 2

Enough of the moaning about the traffic (see previous post), what was the Wisley Flower Show like? Well, in true Victoria's Backyard tradition, I forgot to take my camera, but I can tell you it was a huge improvement on the old Wisley show, which used to be held in the last week of August.
The old show was held in a traditional canvas marquee, but for the new show, the Royal Horticultural Society had given each exhibitor their own little white stand, like a pavilion from a medieval jousting tournament. These were strung out along the path that leads from the restaurant, through the area planted with grasses and along to the new glasshouse.
Most had a little display area set well to the front of the stand, so there was plenty of room to walk round and look at the plants. Instead of shuffling round a marquee, you could amble along, alternately admiring the displays and being inspired by the Wisley planting. Luckily, it was a lovely day with warm sunshine and a gentle breeze.
Lots of Chelsea exhibitors were there, including Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants, Pennard Plants and Highdown nursery. One of the best displays was from Plantagogo, the heuchera specialists based in Cheshire, who had a selection of brightly coloured heucheras laid out beneath a jewel-like spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus 'Red Cascade') and a Cornus kousa chinensis, with its raspberry-like fruits.
I hadn't intended to buy anything. The wonderful thing about this time of year, for me, is that the garden opening is over, there's nothing much urgent that I need to do, but the garden still looks quite good. It's a time to relax and just enjoy it.
Of course, this resolution lasted about a nanosecond - indeed, until I spotted a Heuchera 'Southern Comfort' which I'd lusted after ever since seeing one at the Hampton Court show. And I also bought a little polyresin lizard, who is already sunning himself on the edge of my pond. The heuchera was £6 and the lizard cost £5. Entry to the show was free to RHS members, so all in all, I returned home reasonably unscathed in the wallet department.
I said at the beginning of this post that I wouldn't moan any more about the traffic. But I'm still musing about the RHS's apparent determination to turn Wisley into a theme-park style attraction. I know I've always been a bit of an old fogey about this: it seems to me that in the rush to attract more and more visitors, the RHS has forgotten that its members see its show gardens as places of inspiration and research, rather than somewhere to meet for a coffee and let the kids run wild.
On the other hand, would the Wisley show have attracted so many good nurseries if it wasn't expected to attract huge crowds?
The RHS is a charity, so I realise it has to move with the times and take every opportunity to make money. However, I was quite surprised to read in the Daily Telegraph this morning that membership has dropped over the past couple of years. Is this a case of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs? Or are huge visitor numbers the way forward? Read the article here and see what you think.

My little lizard, from The Garden Shop, who are based in the Columbia Road flower market in East London.

Above and below, Heuchera 'Southern Comfort' looking a bit bedraggled after spending the day in a carrier bag. Isn't it spectacular? The picture above gives you some idea of the size of the leaves.