Chelsea Flower Show 2007: 10 (Thursday) - Women on Top
Lettuce – the new dahlia!

Chelsea Flower Show 2007: 11 (Saturday) - Verbena and cannabis

Peterseabrook500 Well, the final sell-off of plants from the Chelsea exhibits is over and no sooner had the last visitor left the show than the exhibitors began the curious task of dismantling everything and heading for home. I only worked on one Show Garden at Chelsea, many many years ago: a naturalistic display of wild flowers staged by Kew – the first ever wild flower garden at Chelsea, I think. And tearing apart something so beautiful creates a very curious and depressing feeling – even when you know that it was never quite real.

But I leave with you with a couple of intriguing sights from the show. First of all, veteran gardening columnist and TV gardener Peter Seabrook, who recently celebrated thirty years writing for Britain’s top selling Sun newspaper (has anyone else worked for Rupert Murdoch for so long?) launched a new plant that he found in his own garden in Essex.

‘Seabrook’s Lavender’ is a seedling of the well known Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’, a really hardy and prolific ground covering variety. ‘Seabrook’s Lavender’ is a softer lavender shade but otherwise has the vigour, toughness and prolific flowering of its parent. It’s available in Britain now, and in North America, Peter hopes, next year.

Cannabissativa500 And finally: Marijuana, Cannabis sativa, has been on display at Chelsea for the first time ever. A number if these elegant plants were ranged across the back of an exhibit by the South East England  Development Agency which highlighted the value of plants for uses other than food and garden display. In fact, cannabis was widely grown in the 19th century as an ornamental foliage plant, and I remember the first time I visited Christopher Lloyd’s garden at Great Dixter: amongst a collection of summer annuals growing in pots outside the front door was a magnificent cannabis plant. However, when the local police heard about it they paid him a friendly visit and visitors could enjoy (the sight of) it no more.

Cannabis is used to make rope and fabric – and when I was a kid I remember using the boiled seeds as fishing bait. The plants were not sold off to the public on Saturday – although one or two disappointed exhibitors could perhaps have made use of them…

That's it for my Chelsea blog series for this year. I'll be adding one or two pictures over the next few days but otherwise, it's back to what you might call "normal".


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Mike Grant

Your story about Christopher Lloyd's cannabis reminds me of the occasions I used to encounter the plant when I worked as a botanist at RHS Wisley identifying plants for RHS members.

One day a lady brought in a specimen from her garden which had appeared under her bird table (the usual place, it's often in bird food). She suspected it was cannabis and had taken it to her local police station for confirmation. They assured her it wasn't cannabis so she was quite surprised when I told her it was. I suspect the police realised she wasn't a major grower and didn't fancy the paperwork.

If I ever needed to remind myself what cannabis looked like we had several dried specimens in the herbarium. One in particular had an unlikely provenance - it was from Percy Thrower's garden. [PT was a respected TV gardener from the 1970s and probably fed the birds too]


At long last most of the photographs that were taken on the 22nd have been sorted - there are still a few more to add. Hope they are of interest to some of you.

Graham Rice

For the benefit of North American readers, Percy Thrower was the first British TV gardener, the first of a long (since diluted) line of presenters of TV gardening programmes who had a rich horticultural expertise. In more recent years we've been "blessed" with ex-models, ex-popstars and the like presenting TV gardening shows. Sighhhh... He was also famous for reaching through where the glass should have been in his TV greenhouse to hang up his jacket!

And please check out William's impressive pictorial record of from this year's Chelsea Flower Show.

Philip Voice

Hi Graham

Some great coverage on Chelsea this year and interesting that Chelsea have let Cannabis into the show.

I find it a wonderfully attractive ornamental plant with real architectural grace and it is a real shame that it is stigmatised because of the shadier side of it's uses.

I worked for a client in Surrey who grew it quite openly in his hexagonal greenhouse without shame.

He was a recreational user but also a very keen gardener. I must say, on my visits to his garden I was drawn to them and it is sad that as gardeners we cannot use the Cannabis plant as a feature without the fear of being taken off to the slammer:-0))

I covered this with a picture on my site.

Graham Rice

Just as an aside... There always seem to be books on growing cannabis in the Top 20 gardening books on (though not on

Dorothy Murphy

Saw Peter Seabrook's article on Slug Fest Eel Worms. Where cn we can get them in Southern Ireland Please ?

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