The Chelsea Flower Show was once seen as the opening event of the summer social season. Its other prime function was as a showcase for prize plants and floral specimens, rather than for the exhibition gardens and merchandise offered now. This year’s addition of gnomes – had there been no hint of irony – might have supplied conclusive proof that the country’s premier horticultural show had ditched an outdated elitism for the more democratic tastes of today.
But upmarket or downmarket is neither here nor there. As the show celebrates its centenary, the greatest danger to its continued flourishing stems from its success. You don’t need to be a purist to fear that the TV-fuelled appeal of gardening may be tempting the Royal Horticultural Society to pack too many visitors into this corner of south-west London. At 100, Chelsea has no need to look to its laurels, but it might ask itself whether 92 gold medals are really necessary to pull in the crowds?