Abalone sunrise

What future for Urban Gardens: Eden or Extinction ? This was the subject of this year’s RHS debate held at the Festival Hall last night.  I believe that the essence of the argument is that gardens in towns are designated as brown-field sites (like disused factories and bus garages) and, therefore, it is easier to obtain planning permission and therefore developers are seeking to build extra houses in larger back gardens. The other problem is that (due to the rise in car ownership) more and more people are paving over their front gardens to provide off street parking. All this against the government’s decree that lots of new houses should be built.

More details from http://www.rhs.org.uk/whatson/events/gardenforum.asp

I have missed previous such events so was determined to get there without fail to listen enraptured to soaring oratory and passionately expressed opinions. So, hair brushed and socks clean I settled myself into my (surprisingly comfortable) seat in the erudite company of the sparkling intelligentsia of the horticultural world (and Ann Marie Powell and Joe Swift representing the tabloid end of things).

The speakers were fluent and convincing (especially Ken Thompson who spoke about wildlife gardening) but in very quickly dawned on me that this was a completely pointless debate.

Every single person in the audience agreed with everything that everyone on the panel said.  There was no debate just a gentle evening of preaching to the converted. Of course all these assembled gardeners agree that we should preserve urban gardens and of course everybody agrees that we should all have room to grow plants and wildlife should be allowed to frolic unfettered throughout suburbia.

On the other hand…………..

the problem was that there was no other hand. There was nobody from the government or any property developers to argue that people are more important than plants and this is really the simplest, least obtrusive way to let as many people as possible enjoy a decent standard of housing.

What is the point of a one sided debate? it was so woolly that by the end it was making me very cross. We ended up with diversions about urban foxes digging holes in people’s gardens which really had even less to do with the price of parsnips than anything else.

Apparently (according to Hayley Monckton from the RHS – upon whom I vented my spleen later and to whom I apologise as it was perhaps a bit much on first acquaintance) the RHS had tried to get property developers and politicans but nobody would consent to appearing. In which case perhaps the subject should have been changed so that there could have been a proper debate and discussion.

At the end Stephen Anderton made the interesting point that the media is partly to blame for the fact that gardening issues are never taken seriously but are just an “and finally” item on news programmes. If we are to have futile debates without opposition or satisfactory conclusion then it is no wonder that gardening is down there with the vulgar vegetables and escaping lemurs.

The whole experience was akin to tootling along to the Circus Maximus in eager anticipation of a few skewered Gladiators and chewed Christians only to discover them all sitting on the sand hugging each other.

The evening got better but I will tackle that in another episode – this one is getting too long.

I am listening to Over and Over Again by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The picture is of Kirengeshoma palmata.