Chelsea: chop, squish and waste

It’s May and Britain’s Chelsea Flower Show season approaches. Yes, it’s the nutty season of manufacturing completely fake little gardens in just three weeks of preparation.

Such impressive fakery comes at a cost.

Abundance: An exhibitor amid clematis and delphiniums at the Chelsea Flower Show 2011, in London. Credit: REUTERS

Walking around the Chelsea showground during build-up you could be forgiven for slightly wanting to cry at the truly astonishing levels of waste. Peer into any of the huge wheelie bins on site and you will see plants going straight to landfill that you’d have happily paid good money for elsewhere. This is especially irritating when you can see they have just been chucked out by the staff of the Garden for Self-Aware Transcendental Recycling designed and built by celebrity vegans.

Nonetheless, there are a few things normal gardeners can learn from the Chelsea process, and they begin with the power of a good tidy-up. Go to the grounds of the Royal Hospital 12 hours before showtime then again on the first day, and marvel at how a few hours of picking up tools, putting away hoses and arranging furniture can change your impression of a garden. Swept paths, trimmed shrubs, trailing shoots tied back: it all adds up.

Even more important is the Chelsea Squish. (Following the lately fashionable Chelsea Chop, a horticultural manoeuvre that involves cutting back certain plants in late May around showtime to encourage them to flower later in the summer.) The Chelsea Squish is the artful last-minute stuffing of flowerbeds to suggest many growing seasons of plentiful ease. (Especially important after spring bulbs die back, leaving apparent acres of browning stem.) – The Independent on Sunday