How was it for you? I am about to ring my PR mate and ask her about yesterday’s Garden Press Event. Actually I tried to call her for directions as I blundered round windy walkways that skylined past St Giles Cripplegate church, urban lunchers and chunks of Roman Wall. The Barbican Exhibition hall was not easy to find. Three people confidently pointed me in completely the wrong direction.
Finally made it and plunged into a horticultural whirlpool; a kind of man-made heaven with astonishing cupcakes endorsed by the Bosch machinery people. Heaven because there are all too few places where an enthusiasm for the state of soil can be mulled over and talked about at any length.
I started with a man from a man from Bord Na Mona – an Irish company selling a pretty comprehensive range of peat reduced products – boxes of everything from lime to bonemeal. The next stand appeared to be selling dog food. Different bowls with every sort of compost, soil improver and mulch. I rolled potting bark through my fingers. Almost good enough to lick . It is a source of niche interest to me that garden compost mediums can be so variable in quality. Bales get piled high at the likes of Wyevale. You purchase and heave it into your greenhouse and find that the stuff compacts when wetted, is full of old coconut matting and twigs or is positively saline. These Melcourt products of sustainable growing media and bark-based ingredients were clearly top quality. I covet in particular the Reptile bark for our two tortoises. Tortoises and greenhouses apart, there is also that quest for the right medium for big planting jobs for clients.
Upstairs Charles Dowding was promoting his vegetable garden Diary and the delight of discussing soil continued. A mutual tutting broke out over the initial poor ground prep at Hauser and Worth. I know a bit about no dig. But like a very slow reptile, the conversion has not reached my motor control – yet. Anyway I’ve met the man, got the signed diary and am about to do what he says: “love your garden: start on Valentine’s day (well almost). I feel attendance at a lecture welling up slowly, cold blooded reptile speed.
I forgot my business cards, walked off with one exhibitors notes (so sorry, but you will know who you are and where to find me), spluttered cupcake all over Elaine Gotts from Miracle Gro. There was a lot to see and learn. I could have dawdled at the Leeds Castle stand to nobble the missing head gardener.
Alas time had run out and I left for a meeting at Tate Modern. This stopped me from exploring every cavern of exhibited space. Today I am clicking my fingers with annoyance. A shufti through the magazine-brochure of the event shows how many things I missed entirely. It is an echo of my relationship with Chelsea Flower Show. I visit, trawl the site up and down and then encounter a separate universe in the television reportage.
Next year will be the one for due diligence. Meanwhile, at the Tate and two exhibitions later, I was suffering from the Emperor’s new Clothes – come on Rauschenberg and Tillmans, you are having us on. Give me the excitement of soil any day.