You can't see the flowers for celebs

The rot has set in at the Chelsea show, says Michael Leapman

Where tomorrow will you find Gaby Roslin, Rosemary Ford, Jonathan Dimbleby, Kim Wilde, the Bishop of Norwich, Betty Boothroyd, Hannah Gordon, Lady Solti, Esther Rantzen, Miss England, Suzanne Charlton, George Cole, Judi Dench, June Whitfield, Jane Asher, Prunella Scales, Sir Michael Grylls MP, Hello! magazine, Sky TV and the stars of Men Behaving Badly?

At the party to open a happening new club? On the set of the movie Nightmare at Central Casting? Wrong and wrong.

They will be at the preview day of the Chelsea Flower Show, mugging for the cameras in the hope - seldom fulfilled - of getting into Tuesday's papers.

Their eager presence proves that Chelsea, once a rarefied social occasion for the upper crust, has fallen victim to modern Celeb Culture.

It has been a gradual process. Until 10 years or so ago, the people invited to open exhibits were the kind who usually had roses named after them - dames, such as Vera Lynn and Anna Neagle, and one or two game duchesses. Some believe that the rot set in when a pink-and-cream sweet pea was named after Terry Wogan in 1983.

It is not that Chelsea is attracting more visitors: the capacity of the grounds of the Royal Hospital means that attendance is always limited to 180,000 on the four members' and public days, Tuesday to Friday.

The reason for the mounting hype is that growers who spend all year preparing their exhibits, and firms which invest up to pounds 200,000 in sponsoring show gardens, insist that their publicity reaches the masses who, in their pocket-handkerchief back yards, make gardening Britain's most popular leisure pastime.

The result is that press day at Chelsea becomes every year more and more like press day at the Motor Show; and it is no coincidence that cars will figure in several of tomorrow's stunts. A 1928 Morgan Super Sports Aero three-wheeler will sputter into one of the show gardens, sponsored by an insurance company to celebrate the 66th anniversary of the introduction of compulsory motor insurance. Nearby, a Model-T Ford will be on view in a so-called Globetrotters' Garden, while two classic cars will feature in the Garden of Honesty, part sponsored by Skoda.

In the marquee, Birmingham City Council will present a life-size model of the new Jaguar XJ220 in carpet bedding - already a firm favourite for the title of the most seriously naff exhibit in the show.

Betty Boothroyd and Lady Solti will be first in front of the cameras, bravely trying to look their best at 8.30am. Madam Speaker, who had a rose named after her last week, will be introducing a white pea called Elegance, while Lady Solti will launch the Lilian Baylis rose, honouring the founder of the Old Vic theatre.

Esther Rantzen appears at 10am with an orchid called Childline Caritas, clashing with weather forecaster Suzanne Charlton and the rose Bobby's Girl.

Jonathan Dimbleby and his wife, Bel Mooney, will launch the rose Scepter'd Isle, honouring the Council for the Protection of Rural England - but to catch them you must miss Rosemary Ford, statuesque presenter of Come Dancing, fondling a rose called Sweet Memories and handing a cheque to Great Ormond Street hospital. The Bishop of Norwich will celebrate the rose Norwich Cathedral, but the reverent tone will not last. Martin Clunes, Leslie Ash and Neil Morrissey, from Men Behaving Badly, will get up to rude mischief in You magazine's kitchen garden.

Hello! magazine sponsors the Positive Retirement Garden for Help the Aged, while British Sky Broadcasting, in its first appearance at Chelsea, is represented by a New England Cottage Garden, "a mix of spontaneity, whimsy and good old-fashioned common sense".

If more proof were needed of Chelsea's plunge down-market, Miss England, Angie Bowness, will launch the Toro Wheel Horse Classic rose, "a compact floribunda with pointed buds" named after a lawnmower. Bring back Dame Vera.

The second part of Michael Leapman's "Gardening in the Landscape" is in the Sunday Review.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence