You have probably forgotten about this year’s Chelsea Flower Show by now, it having segued into all the other Chelseas you have ever seen. I, however, am still, if not haunted, then certainly preoccupied by it. It wasn’t, strangely, the show gardens, nor yet the plants, so much as the people who have stayed with me this year. The financial world may be crumbling around our ears, children may no longer require fathers, civil liberties may be under threat, but the old-fashioned, traditional virtues of disinterested endeavour, selflessness and hard work were still very evident at Chelsea.
I am thinking, in particular, of the many show exhibitors who toiled and did not count the cost, and laboured but asked for no reward. It is these people who gladden the heart rather more than the bankers at the Gala Evening (another cold evening this year to test the resilience of their glammed-up wives) or the celebrities who infest the place on Press Day.
There was, for example, the flower arrangers from the Kent branch of NAFAS (the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies), redoubtable ladies in pink suits. They organise 43 local clubs in that county, as well as overseeing a number of Junior Flower Clubs for youngsters. No one paid them to come, yet their stand was accomplished and imaginative, and won them a Silver-Gilt medal.
Even more colourful and engaging were the members of the horticultural societies of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados and Mauritius. All these people had travelled a long way, often at their own expense, to show off the tropical plants which grow on their islands. The Mauritians achieved a Gold with a very striking display of anthuriums (genteely known as ‘Flamingo Flowers’), including some new hybrids with small and dainty spathes.