A red admiral taking a rest on Tawny Pipit’s back – but click here to see one my lovely roses…
And check out our every growing family of foxes having breakfast!
Food allergy and food intolerance, freefrom foods, electrosensitivity, this and that...
So, another Chelsea Flower Show is nearly over – and even though we did not get a low-allergen show garden, we did get an excellent display from the Royal College of Pathologists in the RHS Environmental Zone in the Grand Pavilion: Urban Greening – Not to be Sneezed at! Plants for a Low Allergen Garden. So excellent, in fact that it got a Silver Gilt Medal and some words of praise from HM….
The RCP team exhibit was organised by ex-vice president Dr Tim Wreghitt with assistance from staff at Cambridge University Botanic Garden and Phillip Ball from the University of Cambridge Medical Graphics Department who provided some great graphic displays. The display was a mock up of an apartment roof garden in London focusing on low allergen plants such as choisya, geraniums, hydrangeas, acers and periwinkle – and provided lots of help and advice for respiratory allergy sufferers wanting to go all Alan Titchmarsh. Even if you didn’t see it, you can still access their information via their website right here.
I am really pleased that the RCP have once again taken up the cause of allergy, and organised such a great exhibit but….. I still want to see a low allergen garden out there amongst the show gardens.
In writing earlier today about the FreeFrom Skincare Awards, Alex Gazzola commented that many entrants to the awards treated them purely as beauty awards so could not see that the products’ health profile and freefrom credentials were relevant. But to me – and to the various awards that we run – you cannot separate the beautifying qualities of a skincare product, the taste of a food or the glories of a garden from its ‘healthiness’ and, if you are allergic or intolerant, its ‘freefrom-ness’.
Just as, from an architectural point of view, incorporating accessibility for disabled people into an inspiring design should be part of your skill and your remit (see, for example, the lovely ramp and steps at Cromwell Road entrance to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London’s South Kensington), so devising a deliciously pampering ‘freefrom’ beauty product or a stunningly beautiful a low allergen garden should be an exciting and fulfilling challenge for its creator, the more satisfying because it has incorporated more than just the on-pack requirement. Well, I shall keep on wishing…
Meanwhile, there was another very low allergen visitor of importance to the show… Followers of my garden pages may remember the arrival, some months ago, of Tawny Pipit, all the way from Troon in Ayrshire. Just spool a little way down this page and you will meet him. (No fear of an allergic reaction here, unless to any pollen that gets caught in passing…)
Well, his progenitor, Laura Antebi of the Wire Studio has been exhibiting this week at Chelsea (and also going to visit the ‘Joey’ she made for the WarHorse exhibiton next door at the National Army Museum) and has been staying with us while she does so. And, as a little pre-thank you she brought us Tawny Pipit’s wee cousin, Tiny Pipit. Allow me to introduce you…
Fecundity has broken out all over the garden! Rose and clematis in full flower and new families of foxes and birds… Click here for more.
Yes!!! At last I have been able to mow the grass… for more luscious green detail click here!
The cherry tree rather regrets having been fooled by all that lovely warm weather in March – but the pieris is bearing up. See here.
Spurred on by our recent burst of unseasonally summer weather – and an email from from Laura Antebi who is coming to stay while she exhibits her wonderful horses, my mind has turned once more the Chelsea Flower Show.
Every year I set off on press day with my good friend Anne Davies who advises the RHS, among many others, on disabilty access, hoping that I am going to find at least one allergen free garden – and every year, I am disappointed.
Given that at a very conservative estimate, 25% of the population suffers from hay fever, not to mention allergic asthmatics and those who suffer from contact allergies triggered by plants – and given that there are loads of low-allergen plant options – why are there no low-allergen show gardens at Chelsea? Or, indeed, at any of the other RHS and local gardens shows around the country?
Several years ago, after yet another frustrated visit to Chelsea, I decided to try and do something about it. So I contacted the RHS. They were very friendly, and agreed that it would be a really good idea, but – the design of the show gardens, both large and small, was entirely up to the individual designers so it was entirely out of their hands.
So then I emailed all the designers who had been at that year’s show asking them if they might be interested in doing an allergy-free or low-allergen garden. I got about three responses, all from relatively small designers who said that possibly they could be, but… Unless I already had a sponsor they didn’t really think that they would be interested as they didn’t think anyone else would be…
I remember one particular conversation during which the designer admitted that he suffered from hay fever himself and that Chelsea was absolute torture as the pollen was dreadful. ‘So why not design an allergen-free garden?’ I said…… ‘Oh well, I just take lots of antihistamines and put up with it – that’s what everyone else does…… I don’t think that anyone would be interested in an allergy-free garden – it would be so boring….’
How negative can you be – and what rubbish anyhow! Anyone who takes antihistamines regularly knows that they may stop you sniffling but at the cost of feeling at the best dopey, at the worst, depressed, miserable and ill. And as for low-allergen gardens being boring…
OK, you may have to give up on swathes of grasses (which must surely have run their fashion course by now anyhow) but your garden could scarcely be dull if filled with aquilegias, azaleas, fuschias, heuchara, bizzy lizzies, Japanese quince, lobelia, narcissus, nasturtiums and wallflowers, not to mention glorious displays of begonias and clematis – and that is only a small selection of the low allergen plants that you could grow.
Come on, garden designers – and come on Royal Horticultural Society! Climb outside of your box and show some leadership here! We really do not need yet another sea-of-waving-grass-wild-flower-meadow show garden. Give us something that will allow allergic gardeners to enjoy their gardens without having to dope themselves up to the eyeballs or spend the whole summer with weeping eyes, blocked noses and itching hands!
If you need inspiration, there are a clutch of informative articles on the Foods Matter website including several by my good friend Tom Ogren who knows most of what there is to know about low-allergen gardening. Check his website or even go one further and buy one of his excellent books – Allergen-free Gardening, or Safe Sex in the Garden, both available from the site.
PS. I have just been reading about the Chelsea Fringe Festival – ‘a brand new initiative, entirely volunteer-run – entirely independent of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, though acting with its support…… The idea is to give people the freedom and opportunity to express themselves through the medium of plants and gardens. It will range from grassroots community garden projects to avant-garde art installations. Our open-access principle means that just about anything goes – as long as it’s interesting and on the subject of gardens, flowers, veg-growing or landscape.’ I can’t wait! the festival runs in May – both before and after Chelsea – but to find out more, log into their website.