These are just some of my own meandering thoughts as I approach trying to get some of my Cosmos to Hampton Court, which for me is an honour in itself.
I guess the question I have always had in the back of my mind is does showing a plant that is going to be judged on its aesthetics – with nothing wrong with it fit in with gardening for and with nature? What do I mean by that. Well for example, if we look at the Hollyhocks I grow, – they are renowned for getting rust. You would not dream of exhibiting a hollyhock with rust. But one of the ways to ensure this doesn’t happen would be to spray with fungicides that can have an impact on wildlife. So how does judging for perfection fit with growing for, and encouraging wildlife. Can it?
Plants in their natural state growing in the garden can look very different to plants grown in pots for showing (I assume). Do the better regarded plants have loads of flowers – so for example the cosmos I will be taking? I again assume so. And is one way to get those flowers to use lots of plant feed? So when on the one hand we talk about wildlife and the important role gardening has, do we reward using potassium and nitrogen rich bought in feed (which has its own sustainability issues)? Is this like rewarding a sprinter who uses steroids? They will be faster than someone who doesn’t…. But is it the right thing to do? We decided not in sports… but in plants added chemical intervention is fine. And all this is before we mention putting plants in fridges to hold them back so they are perfect on a specific date.
Will we look back and think what on earth were we doing back then? I don’t know the answers. But in my attempt to get some Cosmos to Hampton Court it has made me question a lot more of what I am doing.
I think this is a debate really worth exploring.