Tuesday, 3 June 2003

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show, Alan Titchmarsh, Monty Don and Peat,

BBC TV's presentation of the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show last week was thorough, and for most gardeners one of the highlights of the viewing year. I was particularly impressed with Messers Titmarsh and Don tackling the thorny issue of the use of peat. But as usual the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) are doing too little too late. In fact they are doing virtually nothing, which, as the leading horticultural organisation, is appalling. Peat extraction for the gardening trade is destroying thousands of acres of unique habitat. David Bellamy, and most high profile TV gardeners have spoken out against the trade, but it continues unabated.

Many years ago, when I was Executive Secretary of the Fauna Preservation Society, we managed to extend the Society's remit to include plants, and it became the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society (now Fauna & Flora International); and one of our first campaigns related to the import of hundreds of tonnes of wild collected bulbs. But I could not get the RHS to take a strong stance against the trade - banning the exhibition of wild collected orchids and bulbs for instance. Twenty years on the RHS is still being weak-kneed over conservation issues. There is absolutely no reason why they should not ban the use of peat in any form at the Chelsea Flower Show. But will they? No. A spokesman for the RHS when tackled on the issue by Alan and Monty gave very unsatisfactory answers. I was a member of the RHS for many years, but I resigned over their failure to take action over the bulb trade. It is time RHS members took a firm stance over the use of peat. Geoff Hamilton, one of the most popular gardeners of the last century, was a strong advocate of peat-free gardening - and he died in 1996. How is it the RHS has not taken action nearly eight years after his death?

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