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July 2014

Monet's garden at Giverny

12 July 2014

Monet’s garden appears to have become the latest battlefield of Anglo-Franco discord.  An interesting article in the Sunday Times last week described the challenge faced by the new Head Gardener at Giverny.

James Priest was born in Liverpool and trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.  For the last thirty years he has been living in France and working at some prestigious French properties, including the estate of the Baron de Rothschild, before being headhunted by Giverny.

His vision is to return the garden to the way it looked when it inspired Monet’s paintings.

After Monet died, the garden fell into disrepair and was abandoned.  It was restored and reopened in 1980 and, since then, has been attracting more than half a million visitors a year.

James’s problem is that the gardeners who have worked at Giverny since 1980 don’t want change, especially if it is initiated by someone from abroad.  These gardeners are local people who have learnt their skills on the job, but Priest reckons they haven’t been taught much.  He is struggling to get them to understand the value of succession planting, and of getting the garden to look exciting and appealing for twelve months of the year.

It is interesting to consider how resistance to change and notions of “Not Invented Here” is enacted not only in the offices of the corporate world, or the shopfloor, but also under the archways, through the iris avenues, and in the water garden of Monet’s garden.

I wonder if change management and the management of people are included in the curriculum of the Kew Diploma?


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Hampton Court Flower Show

9 July 2014

Whilst not as internationally famous as Chelsea, Hampton Court Flower Show is the world’s largest flower show.  It covers an area of 34 acres set inside the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, one of Britain’s oldest and most notable royal palaces.

But the Show itself is not old at all.  It was created in 1990 by Historic Royal Palaces in collaboration with the rail company Network Southeast and taken over by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993.  The first show had 265 exhibitors, rising to 600 in 2012.

Taunton Flower Show is the oldest and longest running flower show in Britain, held for the first time in 1831.  However, even this one is not the oldest in the world.  That accolade is given to the Philadelphia Flower Show, run by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, which opened its doors in 1829.

I’ve been trying to find out exactly how many flower shows there are in the UK, but there doesn’t seem to be a definitive guide anywhere. Wikipedia lists 39 shows around the world, (Category:Horticultural exhibitions), but organizes them alphabetically, so you don’t know which country they’re held in unless you go to the website of each one.

Flower shows and horticultural exhibitions do seem to be a particularly English preoccupation, consistent, I suppose, with our national obsession with gardening.

Hampton Court Flower Show this year was as wonderful as ever.  In the words of the Show Catalogue, the gardens “…are both inspiring and realistic.  They unite design and planting ideas for all types of gardeners, whether you live in the middle of a city or in the countryside.”  We were especially moved by the feature garden in the Grow zone, called the Lest We Forget Garden, inspired by the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914.

If you didn’t go this year, try to go in 2015.  It’s well worth a visit.

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