Competitions like Chelsea Flower Show are ‘meaningless’, says Monty Don

Monty Don said that spending money goes a long way in gardening
Monty Don said that spending money goes a long way in gardening - YUI MOK/PA

Monty Don has said British gardeners shouldn’t adopt the “medal mentality” of competitions like the Chelsea Flower Show because they are a “game” and are “completely meaningless” in real life.

Writing in Gardeners’ World magazine, Don, 68, said: “The small gardens filled with a personal passion might be joyously inspiring but are they good?

“To be honest I have given up thinking like that.

“To enjoy a garden you have to let the flower-show medal mentality take a hike.”

The Gardeners’ World presenter added: “I do not disapprove of the competitive, judgemental aspect of a flower show because that is all part of the game – albeit a game that has very high stakes and is taken desperately seriously.

“But it is a game nevertheless.

“In our real-life gardens, however grand, however expensive, it is completely meaningless.”

The Chelsea Flower Show, which takes place every May, is one of the UK’s most popular gardening events.

Don, who has helmed the BBC’s flagship gardening show for 18 years, added that spending money goes a long way in gardening.

Really expensive

“That might seem a statement of the obvious but underlying it is the fact that a really expansive garden is really expensive,” he said.

The broadcaster explained the sums spent on Capability Brown landscapes in the 18th century, or glasshouses and buildings in the 19th, quickly ran into the millions.

“However the second thing l am now sure of is that no amount of money in the world is enough to make a truly wonderful garden,” he said.

“This is because the more money you spend on a garden, the further it tends to take you personally from it.

“Gardens are about people, not plants.

“You can buy the rarest plants, hire the best gardeners to tend and nurture them, and arrange plants on the grandest of scales but that will only take you so far.

“All the best gardens in Britain – and perhaps the world – have had one or at most two people who have given their heart and soul to its creation.”

He added: “The real magic comes from the interaction between the people and plants.

“Every garden is most alive in the space between gardener and garden.”

Don said Britain is made up of a “nation or gardeners” and to create a garden it should not demand money, space, rare plants or special skill.

He said: “This is reassuring for those of us who are unlikely to amass sufficient millions to make a garden on a scale to measure to our inner sense of grandeur, but have had to make assessments along the way.”