Chelsea Flower Show hotter than Cold Play?

May 16, 2012

cold play flower show

I read this morning that Chelsea Flower Show tickets are selling on Ebay for over 300 GBP (that is on the order of $500USD).

The unimaginable has happened….A flower show has outstripped demand for Cold Play Tickets.

The idea of this both shocks and frustrates me.  Much as I love the show….whoa….that is 6 times the RHS price!!!

But the show will wow and awe and inspire me like no place else.  It will bring together gardeners and garden lovers, the chic and the earthy, and simply the best in the business for 4 days, and it will be extraordinary.  And when I am not there, I can’t help but follow every minute online.  I would pay more than the ticket price…but what I don’t understand  is why this can all be so wonderful, when in other places (like here in the US) we are stuck with ho hum or even downright terrible events.  No one would dream of paying this kind of money for one of our shows….not that they should.

Here are some of my thoughts about how to start righting that wrong….

1) Organize a group of industry and event leaders — those that might be able to pull off organizing a show like this, to actually go and visit Chelsea.  We Americans need to know that Philly and Chelsea simply are not the same….not even close… and we need to understand that the bar can and should be set way higher.

2) Designers need to get better at selling themselves as the unique individuals that they are.  They need to be designers — creative, intense, interesting, challenging and celebrated people.   Much as TV makeover shows have a tendency to make me cringe –  primarily because they aren’t usually done in an engaging way –  (I think that  the designs are often benign, the personalities aren’t shiny, and the shows are all formatted in a too similar and formulaic way)  – we need more of them.  We need a few celebrity designers, growers, and gardeners that aren’t Australian or British imports…that are real, homegrown kick-ass cool people who inspire others to want to be the same.

3) More individual garden makers need to start to seeing garden making as a wonderful form of personal expression in the same way that they might see that in interior decor, art making, crafting, theater, fashion and a whole host of other ways that we express ourselves.   We need to stop talking about landscaping…but rather real personal garden making.

I know these are all tall orders…and I’m not sure how to begin to tackle them.  But I would love to start the conversation….and maybe together we can raise the discourse in the USA about garden making and design and we can start to evolve our shows and events.

I am curious, what do you think we need to do to raise the excitement bar and evolve events that are much more inspiring and interesting.   I think a population that has a greater interest in plants and the natural world and the industry surrounding it would serve our country well.   If you understand what it means to cultivate the land, you also grow a greater understanding of the importance of the uncultivated, the wild and the natural.  I think more people need to have a greater connection to our land and I think that from that we will have huge benefits in our health, our environment, our economy, and a knock on to many other areas as well.

So, what do you think we need to do as an industry and a population to inspire, grow and evolve the garden industry in the US? 


p.s. I am headed to London tomorrow to cover The Chelsea Flower Show and the Chelsea Fringe Festival!  I can’t  wait….it will be all Chelsea here for a while as I bring you along with me….


image from the Telegraph.

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  1. Cynthia says:

    It is good to see the gardeners are taking over the entertainment in Chelsea! I would love to go and experience the beauty of the show and talk to other gardeners!

    I think people are living out in their gardens more and more, so they are interested in really designing an impressive area.

    I am sure the show had many great design ideas for all gardening skill levels.

    I am curious to know if they showcased a hydroponic garden or talked about that during the event.

  2. Erin Frost says:

    I have waited 20 years for the industry to evolve into something I could be really engaged in. So far, I have been largely disappointed in what’s going on in the horticulture/landscape industry.
    I don’t even know where to start…

  3. Kaveh says:

    I had so much fun at Chelsea last year. Have fun!

    It just isn’t possible for the US to have that type of show. Gardening just doesn’t play as integral a role in our history and culture as it does in England.

  4. Ann of Monona says:

    I think 20 years ago Chicago had a fantastic Garden Show, when people like Craig Bergmann designed fantasy gardens – a Wind in the Willows themed one was amazing. People stood in line for a significant time to be able to walk through it. Maybe what is wrong in this country is the quality of the exhibits. At Chelsea you know that the quality of the exhibits will knock your socks off. How do we encourage designers here to spend the money to make the exhibits exceptional? If people know they will see amazing shows, they will spend the money to come. So its a bit of a catch 22, if the designers invest more, the people will pay more, but how do the designers gamble on a large investment if the attendance at the shows has been so-so?

  5. Gregory Smaus says:

    Interesting question. I’ve thought a bit on this. O’Laughlin Trade Shows, owners of the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, do a great deal of research into just this question. It seems to me that the attendance is already there, the skill is already there and now they are trying to figure out how to tie the pieces together. I see a lack of funding incentives for the small designers. As you know, it takes a great deal of time to create a show garden. The more parties involved the more financial backing, however this also brings in more complications and logistical issues.
    The plant material is a huge factor also. Photos I saw of the Philadelphia show had huge, mature vegetable gardens. They did not use the weather as an excuse for less than fabulous plant material.
    When it comes down to it I do think it is more of a cultural issue than any thing else. Americans (generally, of course) are such suckers in a market place. Designers need to sell and get leads through a show garden. Americans tend to the common or standard before taking on a new bold idea. The visionary get shunned. In my talks with garden media they consistently remind me not to use latin names, to speak simply, basically to dumb it down!

    I look forward to the rest of your Chelsea posts. Someday, perhaps, I’ll go see it myself!
    thanks, Gregory

  6. Aansy Stone says:

    i wish i would have been there, i saw the tickets on ebay and i wish i had vacations to go to Chelsea.
    I would really appreciate if you kindly share some pictures of the show, i would love to see them. Thanks!

    ~Garden Designers

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