Ok, so it's a couple of days till the biggest horticultural show on the planet kicks off, Chelsea Flower Show. The exhibitors have been hard at it all year, but now they are all at the show ground frantically battling the elements to put together a show-stopping, jaw-dropping, rooting-tooting, all-singing-all-dancing horticultural extravaganza. Plants have been chilled or warmed to be in tip-top shape for the big day, gargantuan trees have been hauled from everywhere on fleets of flatbed lorries, a caravan named Doris has been polished and preened and gently placed on site, paths have been laid, walls built, hey even buildings constructed in this relatively small field in the centre of SW1.
My first visit was in the early 90's a the Publisher of Elle Decoration, back then I was bowled over by the extravant and what I thought at the time, somewhat false nature of the show. In the last 10 years, I have worked there as a photographer arriving on press day in anticipation of the judges arrival and watched as last minute nervous tweeks were made.
Each time I go I ask myself the same questions: is it gardening gone mad or, the greatest horticultural show on the planet? Is it all worthwhile or just a waste of money in our cash-strapped, food scarce world?
Last year, one of the gardening editors described her feelings about the event like this, 'It's a show, a piece of theatre, it wow's us with it's exhuberance, and excites us with surprises.'
I understand Chelsea, thanks to one of my favourite films, The Devil Wears Prada. The best scene ever (on this planet) is when Miranda Priestly explains the importance of a seemingly trivial choice of fashion items.
So this for me is Chelsea - it's not just 'stuff' - the flowers and plants, or who can build the show-stopping exhibits. No, it's taking design to the next level, challenging the boundaries, finding the plants that matter to our environment, creating beautiful 3-dimensional paintings with flowers, plants and landscaping. Then, one day somewhere in Westbury, West Bromich or Weston-Super-Mare someone will pick up a spade, dig a hole, plant something and change the way their world is for the better.
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