On Tuesday I went to the Tatton Park Flower Show. It is a show of which I am very fond as it seems laid back and often has some good stuff – especially amongst the Back-to-Back gardens. This year, however, I think the extreme heat (and it was darn hot) has affected the faculties of the judges as there was some extraordinarily erratic awards. For example a garden consisting mostly of a large treehouse surrounded by some acceptable – but not particularly special – planting (ragged in places) gets a Gold Medal. The point of medals is that there should be a consistency throughout all RHS shows: there is not. Another example: a garden called Fruity Crush (or something) got a Gold medal in spite of the fact that the planting was bad, the structure rough and there was an appalling vase with purply beads. The only redeeming feature was a line of swaying bullrushes.
At the same time a rather charming small garden by Penny Meadmore (I have to express an interest here as she is a friend of mine) was only awarded a Bronze medal. It wasn’t a Gold medal garden but at the very least silver/silver gilt. The explanation from the judges was that the water was too small ! There will always be stories like that.
There are three problems really: inconsistent, staid and occasionally shabby judging, a lack of transparency in the judging process and the importance attached by everybody to a Gold medal.
Encouraged by television and press the whole process has turned into part beauty pageant/part reality television show. It should not be so important – we have all seen rubbish Gold medal gardens and exquisite Bronze medal gardens. I have always tried to get disappointed garden designers to understand that it is more important that the public like it rather than the judges as the judges are never going to give you any work!
I speak from bitter experience as my Chelsea 1999 offering got a bronze – although it didn’t seem to make a lot of difference to the coverage it got or the work I gleaned from being there. I thought it was a good garden (judge for yourselves) with some interesting features. However, I made some pretty basic mistakes (sage next to the pond etc) and didn’t fill the forms in very well so I can live with it.
A real danger of this insistence on Gold Medals by sponsors is that if they do not get them then perhaps they will take their money elsewhere and give up on gardens which would be a great pity.
Enough ranting. I am listening to Black Holes and Revelations by Muse and the picture is of a truly magnificent (if a little garish) bedding display called Trafford through Mondrian Eyes.