Can Chelsea ever be truly sustainable?
I adore the RHS Chelsea Flower Show: I love the razzmatazz, the dressing up, the glamour. Most of all I love the breathtaking beauty of the plants on display in the Pavilion; the picture-perfect precision of the gardens, and the sheer excellence of horticulture on show. There is, quite simply, nothing else to match it anywhere in the world.
I have been coming to the show since 2006, though this year was the first time I’ve been there since 2019: it was cancelled in 2020, then became an autumn show in 2021, and last year I had just sort of fallen out of the habit.
But during those two or three years without Chelsea, I have also deepened my commitment to gardening sustainably, with a light touch on the earth. I have written books, penned articles, given talks urging people to garden differently, in tune with nature, drawing only on resources we already have around us and using our gardens to actively contribute to the richness and health of our ailing world.
And nowadays, when I look at Chelsea, gardening’s shop window to the world, I feel decidedly uncomfortable.
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