Whatever is it about us? Here we are, gardeners, engaged in possibly one of the most basic, simple, inexpensive, democratic, delightful activities which feed and please body, mind and eye, yet we muddle it up with exclusivity, social status, envy, ambition, and the rest of the seven deadlies.
These dark thoughts have been stirred by a recent press release, and a trip to London where, escaping from the work needed by the garden there, I made an escapist dash into Chelsea, and thence along to a fascinating establishment called ‘The Chelsea Gardener’.
Press release first: did i know (did you know?) that there is a newish line in seriously posh garden equipment under the banner of Prince Louis Albert de Broglie. The range covers garden tools, watering cans, perfumes, foodstuffs, but also garden pots. If you want to read more about him, his chateau, etc go to http://www.labourdaisiere.com/jardin/en/prince-louis-albert-de-broglie.
Each of the products bears a coat of arms that the press release says is ‘inspired’ by that of the De Broglie family. OK, that’s fine if you happen to be a De Broglie, but why on earth should the rest of us pay a premium price for stuff decorated with theirs, when even if we had our own armorials, would be much too embarrassed to have them on our secateurs and geranium pots? In fact, on close inspection ‘inspired’ is a bit of a cheek – the blue cross being substituted by crossed trowel and handfork.
OK, I love a nice pot, but such things aren’t necessary for a thrilling garden – after all, geraniums or even smartypants camellias grow perfectly in old tin cans, and can be pruned, watered, and fed by the produce of the local garden centre. They can look totally wonderful too.
Right: back to posh pots. ‘The Chelsea Gardener’ has dozens of seriously lovely pots, many in earthenware, but also in more modern materials. Many are expensive – it is, after all, in Chelsea. But there seems to something of a vogue to have them signed (well, to be more precise, stamped with the signature of XYZ), giving them the imprimatur of some gardening grandee. Last time I was there, some beauties were marked by Arabella Lennox-Boyd (an aristocratic designer). This time, those presumably having sold, the replacements were by… well, I couldn’t actually read the signature.
So we gardeners seem to need our things splattered with coats of arms and signatures, our roses named after endless aristocrats, plutocrats, telly presenters, and National Trust Gardens. Oh, and a collection of muddy ‘Highgrove’ shopping bags hanging prominently in the garden room.
What has become of us?