Monday, 19 May 2014

Titchmarsh Toppled at Chelsea by Monty Don

North vs South at Chelsea Flower Show

 YORKSHIREMAN, gardener and TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh, has been shown the door by the BBC as the presenter for this year's Chelsea Flower Show and is to be replaced by southerner, Monty Don, as the show kicks off this week with the special guests attending the first day today.  Mr Titchmarsh, when asked, said he wouldn't describe it as 'being dumped'.  
Ought a political and cultural blog such a Northern Voices to trouble itself about the goings on at the Chelsea Flower Show?  I went to my first Chelsea in 1979 when I took a day off from my job as a maintenance electrician at Holcroft Casting & Forgings in Rochdale to travel down on the overnight train to turn up at the last day of the Show the first thing on a Friday morning, and was charmed and excited by it.  And, I need hardly say that George Orwell, no less, wrote for Tribune about his experience of buying some rambling from F.W. Woolworths, and his then friend the old Italian anarchist editor of Freedom, Vernon Richards, actually cultivated rare vegetables for the London restaurant trade.   

As Chelsea begins it's worth mentioning that this year has been extraordinary in that last winter was so mild and in my window boxes in the northern town where I live the Geraniums have been in bloom virtually throughout the winter.  It has been such a strange sequences of seasons that Robin Lane Fox in last Saturday's Financial Times wrote: 

'It will be hard, even for the Chelsea Flower Show, to compete with our own gardens and the natural world next week' and '[w]e are having such a superb spring, three weeks ahead of the usual schedule, and as a result, the show will not have the traditional feel of an inauguration to the best of the British gardening year.'   

So much so that Mr. Lane Fox concludes: 
'When I go back to my own garden after my day's viewing, I don't expect to despair that it falls painfully below Chelsea's display  The weather has brought on the early irises,peonies and the best wisterias even before Chelsea will be showing them too.'  
The first of my peonies are about to burst into flower any day now, no I tell a lie they are opening today, and the early clematises are already in bloom.  We are almost wading through Icelandic poppies to our front door already.  

 At this year's Chelsea, Lane Fox urges us to seek out the exhibit of Brighter Blooms from Preston in Lancashire (site no. GPD21), this firm specialises in Zantedeschias, a family that includes the well known white-flowered arum lilies.  It is expected that this year the Zantedeschias should be in splendid form after the wet winter and very little frost to challenge them.  Mr. Fox further writes:  'Exhibitors from the north are almost always worth a visit as their nurseries specialise in plants we southerners can use less easily.  I like the sound of the Himalayan meconopses, or poppies, on show from Harper Hall Farm Nurseries near Durham (site no. GPF8).  This small nursery is trying to grow unusual items, a niche magnificently occupied by Kevoch Garden Plants from Midlothian, gold medallists in recent years who are continuing to show fabulous rarities and well-grown alpines suited to the wetter, shadier conditions in Scotland and much of the north (site no. GPD9).'  
With the triumph of the posh-speaking sleek southerner,Monty Don, over the Yorkshire lad Alan Titchmash for the presentation of the Chelsea Flower Show it only demonstrates that politics, regionalism and identity has relevance even in the realm of gardening, or perhaps I should say especially in the realm of gardening. 

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