Each year I get inundated with emails and catalogs selling me the latest and greatest in horticultural wares, some new technologies, some pointless slug control ideas, some classic garden favorites and then the new plants. I’m not talking about a variety of sunflower that will grow taller than your house but of the Alstroemerias that are a different shade of orange or a series of poppies that have a growers rights restriction upon them. I like the variety of plants and flowers and I can understand that there are plant breeders that take great pleasure in doing this, but I just don’t see the point. Like many other industries, this one exists not on supply and demand but on products being created for the purpose of being pushed on the buying market. From what I read there seem to be few people crying out for trademarked Artemisia or a Potentilla with slightly more orange flowers. I may be very cynical as I’m impatient and aren’t inclined to give the time to hybridising plants, and I understand that there are others for whom this is an absorbing occupation. Propagation of plants is a pass time that I find unrivaled in the pleasure that I derive from it, and in its own way, unless I’m using F1 seed, I’m adding to that genetic diversity myself. But it’s not the intention and I go to no lengths to make sure that any plants I do produce are kept isolated from any others that might sully the purity of their unique genetics.
If I’m to plant up a garden or to augment my own with something to change the way that a bed looks then there are thousands upon thousands of options available to me, I don’t really care that I have a very specific variety or cultivar. Colour I admit is hugely important and plants are most often primarily selected for this, but the changes that are presented to you on a theme is so great across species that further classification will, on the most part, be wasted. There is a pleasure that is derived from collecting and that is another reason that I can understand people acquire a new plant or new cultivar to be precise but this again in the inverse of normal economics in that the demand is created by the supply.
Having recently been to Chelsea I was privy to some of the countries top nurseries and horticultural experts. To see the quality and skill that goes into the displays is quite amazing and I have the utmost respect the purveyors of the plants that were on display. Many of these I’m sure were specific hybrid plants though that were cultivated for the purpose of making them stand out from the crowd, this felt a little like Chelsea had become a giant trade show on one side and the Oscars of the horticultural world on the other. The Ideal Home Exhibition, but for gardens. I also visited RHS Rosemoor a few weeks later and was offered to get “The Chelsea Look”, that was the opportunity to purchase the plants that were on display in the show gardens this year. I know that fashions come and go and that in gardens as well as clothes there are themes that change over time, but really if I like something it because I like it, not because someone else told me that I should.
I’m far from complaining about this as it was the highlight of my year so far and I took away from it a huge amount of inspiration and knowledge, what I do fail to grasp though is the idea that for us to enjoy our gardens and for designers to make the beautiful spaces that they do, we need another variety of Aquilegia that has never been seen before.