Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Chelsea 2012 ...and another thing (splutter)

I've spent two days now at the Chelsea Flower Show and as VP (who has been staying with me) can tell you, there are a number of subjects that really rattle my cage. Unfortunately, VP has gone home now, so she missed my latest explosion, which followed the item on BBC Radio Four Woman's Hour this morning.
I'd made a point of listening in order because Anne Wareham was joining a discussion on gardening. This was billed thus:
"The Chelsea Flower Show is a highligh in the calendar for gardeners. But while the designs exhibited may be beautiful, how environmentally friendly are they? Should we even be concerned about how green gardening is, or should we just enjoy the showcase of talent? And in our own backyards. And what efforts could we make to limit the impact our efforts have on the environment?" (Their words, not mine, which is possibly why they don't quite make sense.)
I was even more delighted when I heard that the other person on the discussion was the Irish garden designer Mary Reynolds, because I loved her garden at Chelsea years ago.
So. It started off with an item about the QR code garden at Chelsea, one of the conceptual gardens. Then the discussion came back to the studio. It was almost a self-parody. The BBC feels compelled (because it is the state broadcaster) always to give both sides of the "argument". This means that it is forever teeing up "adversaries" who are expected to debate a subject in less than two seconds. They usually end with the presenter butting in and saying: "Well, we really must leave it there as we've run out of time." This leaves the listener none the wiser, but the BBC thinks it is "good radio".
Basically, the discussion went along the lines of: "Should all our gardens look like the QR garden?"
Mary Reynolds seemed to be saying (I'm paraphrasing): "No, we have lost touch with Nature, because we're stopped growing our own food."
Anne Wareham (I'm paraphrasing again): "Any kind of garden can be a haven for wildlife, so long as it isn't solid concrete. We shouldn't feel compelled to stick to some sentimental template just because that is what everyone is familiar with."
There are two annoying things about this. First, there was loads of naturalistic planting at Chelsea this year. Wildflowers and trees were sprouting everywhere. The QR garden was making a specific point about QR codes - which as VP pointed out, are incredibly useful for gardeners, since you can click on the QR code and get lots more information about a plant that you want to buy. It beats those irritating V-VII plus half a sun symbols. So by taking it as a starting point for the discussion, the BBC was just being mischievous. Actually, stupid was the word that sprang to mind.
Second, why was Woman's Hour the forum for a discussion about gardening? Is it seen by the BBC as "women's interest"? Why not have a discussion about whether there will ever be a point when there are more female designers than male at Chelsea? Or why it is that men, on the whole, tend to do better than women in the medals league? Or why there aren't more women judges at the RHS shows? There ARE women judges, but having seen the judging teams go round at more Chelseas than I care to remember, I can tell you that the majority are men.