Monday, 18 May 2009


So in essence I think we can pretty much sum up Chelsea Press Day with this charming epithet. It resulted from me trying to spell Martyn Cox's celebrity BINGO on my phone and repeatedly mistyping, but to be honest, celebrity BINGE is probably more accurate. 

I dunno. I mean, it's extremely good fun. I saw many of my fellow bloggers. I experienced the joy of Chelsea Flower Show Gadgets and Tat:

I even saw some super Chelsea Gorgeous Things I May Copy (yes! that's an actual colander!):

I twittered like mad. I got a grin out of Stephen Fry (looking surprisingly slim and trim actually):

I fell for one of dem fatal flower show offers (and then had to carry a huge green enamel watering can all the way home on the tube): 

I saw a grown and beautiful woman dressed as an, err, bee?

But of course the real joy of the day isn't exactly the gardens, or the plants, or the piles of catalogues I now have to look at, or anything else, it's the people I spent the day with that will make me remember it. 

I had a chat with Marina Christopher, amazing nurserywoman, and Lady Tollemache, distinguished judge, about the way the judging happens. Did you know you can get points deducted for planting something where it couldn't grow in nature (a bronze fennel under a tree in one case)? Or, that you can also get done for 'cramming' - stuffing your flowerbeds too full. Eek. 

I had a chat with David from The Children's Society about what they get out of doing a Chelsea garden, and how they make the numbers add up. They justify their expense by inviting many potential donors to the Gala Reception which can persuade big money to part with large sums. 

I walked round the pavilion with Lara Jewitt, team leader from the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew, talking about what she wants to get at Kew for next year (outdoor pitcher plants) and hearing about her own garden: she lives with two photographers, but she is completely in charge. 

I went to the pub with Alys Fowler who I now just totally love. For her fold-up bike, elegant 1950s fashions, and just, Alysness. She wants to get an allotment. GET ALYS AN ALLOTMENT. 

I had a number of chats with a number of delicious gardening people. And I met some new ones, like the political editor of our paper, with whom I had an in-depth think about growing carrots. Martyn Cox's sage advice: try the round-ended baby ones. 

I had a funny time with the film crew from QVC and I did a bit of stuff about their garden which they might use on their shopping channel. (!) I said it was sexy and the kind of garden I'd like in real life - a fountain and a built-in barbecue. Just put in a Tiki bar and I'll give you a downpayment. 

I waved to Matthew Wilson, who looked as handsome as ever, and had to restrain myself from chasing Joe "He To Whom This Blog is Devoted" Swift down the Main Avenue yelling "I LOVE YOU". 

I saw Victoria, to whom I am also devoted, and moaned enviously about how Jane Perrone and the Guardian had a CAMERAMAN for like FILMING. I am no Fanny Price, suffering my poor relationhood in silence. 

I found out how Which? go about rating compost and growbags, with the deliciously-named Veronica Peerless (from Which?). Extremely intensive testing. 

I kissed Mr James Alexander-Sinclair which is always a pleasure as he is award-winning. 

And as the photo would indicate, I had some more good times with Lila and Cleve. 

Honestly it was a pretty random day. I think I saw some gardens in there, somewhere, too. And if there was just one thing I could have changed about today, it's that I wish all of you could have been there too. 


Zoƫ said...

I better start looking for a job as a garden writer, and get myself a press pass, sounds like HUGE fun, Now I am totally GREEN!

Victoria said...

I saw Lila on the telly last night, talking to Alan Titchmarsh. She was very good. They ought to give her a job as a presenter.

patientgardener said...

Like Zoe I'm jealous as well. But I have enjoyed all the twitters which made me feel like I was nearly there.

Also want a job as a garden journalist.

Esther Montgomery said...

I've played the top video three times now trying to make out what's happening.

Is that lady charging £8:00 for a piece of string?


HappyMouffetard said...

Oh, I'm so envious. Glad you had a wonderful time.

emmat said...

Esther - well, it's very fine steel wire. But essentially it does come to the same thing, £8 for a piece of wire. But you get three for £20!

Would just like to point out that of all the 'gardening journalists' i know including myself, every single one has another job to support their lavish dabbling in horticultural prose. I'm a little bit joking, because for most of us the journalism income is an extremely welcome addition to their pocket. But whether its TV, garden design, teaching or running courses, in almost every case I can think of, there's not enough money in it to just write full-time. I'm trying to think of exceptions: Martyn Cox & Matthew Appleby are [hopefully] managing to pay mortgages doing it.

For the rest of us, 'Mortgage Lifter' is just a [fine] tomato.

Weeping Sore said...

Your picture of the lady in the bee costume is lovely, but what if that was a real bee? Have you no fear?

Joanne said...

I have browsed your site randomly before but being more interested in actual gardening and plants I don't always make time to read.

Your post on Chelsea summed up the many things I dislike about RHS shows and many gardening programs, however I do still go to Hampton Court and occassionally Kew as my post on VP's site said about my recent trip with Zion from The Gambia.

Much of the affectation and hype makes me shudder and rush to the tranqility of my cottage garden, bindweed and all.

From what I have briefly read on your blog I would be interested to hear if during your experiences you have been made aware of the dangers of tick borne illness Lyme Disease. I understand that many in Forestry and Horticulture are warned of the dangers of this devastating illness. Sadly not the general public.

I would like you to read my personal story on the right of my blog. My 6 years of debilitating Lyme Arthritis which could have been cured in 6 weeks but for more awareness.

It is time that a good investagative journalist looked into what is happening. The recent hype over MP's expenses pauls into insignificane by comparison.

The controversay over Lyme Disease has been described to me, by one Doctor I met, whose son after months of chronic ill health and being bed ridden but now fully recovered, as a Medical Scandal but one which will take years for medicine to accept. She had to take her son to doctors in USA to treat.

What is happening in UK is a disgrace as HPA follow IDSA guidelines which are being reviewed because of legal action taken against the authors. There are thousands of research papers that support ILADS which say long term antibiotics are helping thousands of people but still HPA as in my case are advising doctors to stop antibiotic treatment.

Charity have written their response to IDSA review body pointing out the many different strains that affect people in Europe that makes IDSA and HPA guidlines in appropriate.

The spokes person for HPA no names, co authored articles with IDSA members. this is somewhat the nub of our problem in UK despite many representations to her to look at all the research.

Sorry but rant over. You can understand why after my experience and being in touch with nearly 2000 people in UK I am so cynical. However the joy to feel so much better to be able to walk upstairs again after being unable to do for 3 1/2 years but most of all to be able to garden again is indescribable.

emmat said...

Hey Joanne

yes i had a friend at university with Lyme disease and also I grew up near to Richmond Park, and had dogs, so we were aware of the dangers. But I feel for you terribly and am so glad to hear that you are now able to have your life back a little bit. Please I hope anyone reading this who doesn't know about ticks will look at Joanne's site.

Joanne said...

Thank you for your kind words.

I now know that Richmond Park and other London Parks have been known endemic areas for some years although on my many visits there I never saw any warnings.

I am in touch with several people who are still struggling with chronic ill health following tick bites in the London Parks.

Martyn Cox said...

Alas, even I've had to diversify from writing to pay the bills. The only reason I can continue living in swanky Walthamstow is because I launched my own chi chi garden mail order company, Cox & Cox (I didn't? Damn!).

VP said...

I love this post! I come back from Chelsea positively bursting with questions to find you've answered a lot of them already :D

And it was so lovely to see you too - such a delicious treat - the tippity top topping to the day :D :D :D :D

And I forgot to say congratulations on your Fork n' Monkey award yesterday!