Just a little bit frantic on our last day at the Chelsea Flower Show yesterday. Dashing around getting the final details and final pictures for my Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog – and taking a last look at the one genuinely controversial feature of the show – the garden with no plants. The whole garden, yes even the soil - was made of Plasticine, the British more-or-less equivalent of Play Doh.
Created by James May, presenter of the enormously popular BBC TV motoring show Top Gear, as part of an ongoing project to use toys in new ways, it was a great hit with the public. Mind you, I asked a number of members of the Royal Horticultural Society’s governing Council what they thought of it and the most I could get out of them was a sideways look and raised eyebrows.
James May told the Daily Telegraph, whose elegant garden combining Swedish modernism and English cottage style, won Best in Show that no-one is "too posh for Plasticine". "They [the RHS] had to admit it is a nice idea and people like it but they cannot give me a medal alongside the other proper gardens otherwise that would open the flood gates to all sorts of ideas like gardens made of balsa-wood or something. So, they decided to give me a Plasticine medal for taking part without compromising the judging process.”
He was also rewarded by excessive muttering under the breath “disgraceful, “it shouldn’t be allowed”, “how was he allowed to get away with it” – that sort of thing – and he also received a “Special Letter’ – which is usually code for a bollocking scowl and a stern wag of the RHS’s schoolmasterly finger.
There was the usual contrived nonsense about gnomes at Chelsea, set up specifically to generate a headline in the tabloid press, but the Plasticine garden was the only genuine controversy.
I thought it was great and an amazing achievement by the schoolkids, war veterans and animators from the studio that created Wallace and Gromit. Especially in the rainy run up the opening. But not exactly a Chelsea show garden. And I don’t think the RHS guided the Queen that way on her visit.