To be a visitor at the glossy end of flower shows is akin to watching those cookery programs on the telly. Inspiring at one level but at the same confidence-dissolving so that the watcher builds a reliance on the guru. Simply has to rush out and buy their latest recipe book before attempting to cook again.
At both Chelsea and the Hampton Court Flower Show there is an underlying mood of shiny expenditure. A desire to spend impetuously. The foment of huge leek-growing dreams. An improbable yearning for a greenhouse that, if you can afford it, will sit in the corner of your garden and sulk gathering white fly and mealy bug as it sinks into itself.
But treat them like the Milanese catwalk and ideas and trends can be read and garnered. The message of this month’s Hampton Court Show was make do and mend. Spelt out in slightly self conscious manner by washing line of pristine undies, carefully smashed up car artfully displayed on rubble within oh so tastefully graffitied walls.
To my delight I found myself back in the kindergarten or montessori classroom where anything goes on the recycling front. Beauty can be made out of the smashed remnants of nothing. We are talking urban regeneration and this was to be seen in spadefuls at the Edible Bus Stop Garden.
The Edible Bus Stop first broke out in Streatham where a patch of ground some 43m2 was derelict beside the bus station. When a developer threatened to redevelop the site, Will Sandy, local resident and a lecturer in landscape architecture got together with another resident and leafleted the nearby sreets. The invitation was to turn up the following Sunday with gardening tools any plants and packets of seeds and work over the ground. That first Sunday more than 40 gathered. Now the bus stop is as edible as suggested and the project has moved to other unloved patches in London. The remit: “Transforming neglected sites across London’s bus networks into valuable community growing spaces”. The Bus Stop garden has been put together without a big spend, on the basis of beg, steal or borrow and includes Will’s own design for a bench that has wandered away from its double yellow line.
Round the corner, the Conceptual Gardens. Daniel Shea, 27 was on the stand of his Uprising garden. The planting type is taken from native plants – yarrows, scabious, grasses and so on in the vibrant colours of oranges and reds. The theme is the regeneration of hope in the aftermath of last year’s riots. As a resident of Tottenham, Daniel knows about this first hand. The spend on this type of gardens is limited to £6,000. But Daniel, who also threw himself into the new Chelsea Flowershow Fringe has dipped into his own pocket to the tune of several K. He is championing natural planting styles in the urban environment. A community will love and protect a garden that they have made. Both the Uprising garden and the Edible Bus Stop gave me food for thought. I am expecting to hear a lot more about both of these designers. They have embraced the zeitgiest fully.