1. Chelsea favourites update. Bradley-Hole now odds on. Ulf evens. They are next door to each other on the main avenue (see pic). Balston’s is thought to be too similar to his last one (Telegraph in 1999 ‘old school’). Kate Gould is an each-way bet. Adam Frost’s is blossomy.
2. The Fleming’s Australian garden looks amazing on the rock bank (see pics). Some others lack leaves and flowers.
3. Original Chelsea Flower Show exhibitor Blackmore & Langdon insist they have shown at all the RHS shows. In the Chelsea Centenary Celebration book by Brent Elliott the RHS historian says B&L haven;t been at all the shows. So I rang up RHS. BE says he was wrong in the book and B&L are the only ever-presents.
4. In the marquee, I wonder why Hillier use the same obelisk every year (see pic)? There’s a lot of 100th memorabilia. The security guard, Chris, is quite droll if you’re ever at the London gate. Nigel Dunnett is the first to be allowed a backdrop (London citscape) against the marquee.
5. Royals: As well as Zara Phillips at John Deere’s stand and Harry at Sentabale’s (in the afternoon post 3pm with the Queen and Prince Philip) Camilla’s younger brother Mark Shand with London charities Elephant Family and Habitat for Humanity will launch their Animal Ark initiative on Chelsea’s Sloane Street at The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant, Jumeirah Carlton Tower, by unveiling a life-sized pair of elephant structures beautifully decorated by local award-winning florists Nikki Tibbles Wild at Heart.
6. Rock royalty Liam Gallagher, Rod Stewart, Ringo Starr and Lily Allen are also going. B&Q will have an A-lister but I’m told it’s not Harry (during the morning anyway). They got Gwyneth Paltrow a couple of years ago.
It’s not Emily Lloyd, who I last saw a few years ago at the insalubrious Orwell in north London. But she’s is at SeeAbility’s Chelsea garden. Joanna Lumley is opening two gardens inc one for M&S, while Helen Mirren is launching a plant. Pensioners will have a cream tea at Nicholsons. Deborah Meaden will launch product of the year. The First Touch garden will feature Martine McCutcheon and Ortis Deeley. Stockton Drilling will have Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Vaughan on the stand. Owen Paterson might launch bars on bringing plant material into the UK.
Ringo will be at the WaterAid garden.
7. Owen Paterson (who might be unpopular after his stance on keeping neonic pesticides in the face of bee-loving gardeners) is set to announce some plant health restrictions at CFS. Maybe not being able to stick plants in your luggage? A good tale I think. Tree imports is great story too. But too difficult for wider media to get I think.
8. A few Chelsea invites, to Andrew Wilson lunch at Bluebird and some fringe things. Also Hort Matters launch at Parliament.
I’ve written dozens of Chelsea stories for a wider audience over the last few years. This year, Harry, touts, Diarmuid etc. The gardening press tends to stick to the enormous amounts of PR created so doesn’t need writers. It’s the one event when you know all the mag staff will turn up at.
8. Did a car boot the other day, selling stuff from under the stairs. Arrived early-6am -24 hour economy etc. No-one was there. Left, and called organisers. They said come back at 7.30am. It was getting busy. First up are African guys looking for old mobiles. One bloke told me he bought new stuff as prizes for the British Legion (who were knocked back for a show garden slot at Chelsea 2012) raffle. Lots of old guys bought gardening stuff from me. They grew there own – not so interested in flowers. Lots of East Europeans bought baby stuff. Lots of old guys bought second hand books, hoping to Ebay them on for a profit. Some used their phones to check prices East European men bought clothes. Mostly poor people, bartering hard. With the odd richer mummy I could hold my price. I wondered where the ‘thrifty’ generation of young skip-divers and grow your owners were. Then I realised. They were at the farmers’ market.
One bloke to me as I packed up. ‘Must have been shit then eh? Me: ‘No I sold out.’ Bloke. ‘Not that shit then, eh?’
One of my last sales was a sack the old toys were in – 50p to a Middle Eastern guy. When I got home my wife asked what had happened to the Mamas and Papas toy bag. Did I know how much it cost? I bought it when William was born. How much did you sell it for? Two hours mourning. The rub: ‘Well I’ll have to get a new one then.’
9. The spring bedding story was a bit of a lesson on how the media works. You remember, the story about mass dumping of spring bedding by Blue Ribbon with the blame going to…Monty Don? This originated in a story I wrote months ago about MD saying on the One Show that you should hold off seed sowing. Then on Gardeners’ World first programme of 2013 no-one planted anything much. GCA criticised him a bit. A month (of cold weather) later NFU/BPOA did a press release on spring bedding growers suffering poor sales and having to chuck plants, in response to lots of stories about farmers losing lambs. BNPS stuck the two together and it ran in a few papers. None of the hacks talked to MD/GCA, but they did get reaction to BNPS story, which said that MD was to blame for spring bedding being thrown away, which no-one had ever said.
10. Soilman’s latest.
11. The Sun on Sunday has had it’s first gardening mention since launch. A voucher for free geranium (worth £3.99) from the Garden Centre Group when another purchase is made. Did very well I hear.
12. Latest gardening pages: Stephen Lacey homage to Arne Maynard. Tom Stuart-Smith lauds Piet Oudolf. Former ‘grow your own’ and now ‘food’ writers on each other.
13. Mail has issued Chelsea Flower Show ’100 years in pictures’. Mail has no involvement in CFS and pulled out of Hampton Court three years ago.
14. Recent Monty tweets.
‘BBC insist on refering to garden centres because that’s where most people shop…’
‘Obviously GW has no responsibility to the trade be they individual nurseries or vast garden centres, save in aiding the gardener’
‘I am personally very keen that we help small, idosyncratic nurseries wherever possible.’
I heard that MD’s garden got a makeover with some new planting prior to his most recent return to Gardeners’ World.
15. For the team at Durstons Garden Products cricket is part of everyday life. It’s officially the company’s favourite sport, so-much-so that Wes Durston (son of Director Steve and brother to Director Dan Durston), plays cricket for Derbyshire’s County Cricket Club, where Durstons is also a regular sponsor.
So its not surprising that the sales team at Durstons was left a little astonished this month when they discovered that Durstons growing media is a firm favourite for the flying variety of crickets too!
Steve Evans, general manager of Sheffield based Livefoods Direct sent through an email to the Durstons team to let them know how much his breeding colony of crickets was enjoying the superior quality of Durstons Seed & Cutting Compost and its Growbags.
“They’re not interested in anything else” said Steve. “Excuse the pun!, but they appear to be ‘bowled over’ by the blend of rich growing media, and I’d be completely ‘stumped’ without it. They really are very particular, and like most of us appreciate a little luxury, and the superior quality of Durstons is exactly what they enjoy.”
16. Spotted: Olly Smith at Chessington World of Adventures.