Janey Auchincloss contemplated the issue of sponsorship for the Chelsea 2013 thinkingardens competition.
Anne Wareham, editor
‘They are spraying gold medals around like confetti, ‘ by Jane Auchincloss.
Less than a year ago, such a comment would have aroused joy in the entire population of the United Kingdom. Our Olympians were triumphing over the rest of the world in so many disciplines – and on home turf. Coming instead from one of Britain’s foremost garden designers, Christopher Bradley – Hole, these words have, in 2013, fallen on stony ground.
But with 10 out of 15 show gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year being awarded the oh, so sought – after Gold Medal, should less in fact be more?
As a designer, achieving that once elusive Gold for your sponsor’s garden should be the pinnacle of your career. And here lies the nub, in my view, of the gilt- ridden controversy.
Hours, days or more likely weeks and months are spent trying to entice a potential backer. Time that a designer would prefer to be discussing plant choices with their chosen nurseries, or refining detail of architectural elements, not arming themselves with a balance sheet whilst traipsing the bastions of London’s financial institutions. Securing a sponsor for a show garden is, in all honesty, the most taxing element of the design process. Unless you are a proven ‘name’ in the landscape design world, there are only so many banks and insurers willing to put their neck on the line to the tune of at least £100k in the current economic drought, green shoots or no green shoot
The Show Gardens are now all about the sponsors, and propagating maximum media interest for their chosen cause. Since the BBC gained sole rights for television coverage in 2002, in excess of 15 hours of evening and daytime coverage are guaranteed for the duration of the Show, and that’s just here in Britain.
In sponsorship terms, Gold guarantees coverage. With more than 1,300 journalists, photographers and film crews in attendance, it becomes obvious why celebrities, old and new, flock to the grounds of the Royal Hospital on Press Day, and are willing to be pictured on a sponsors garden, sniffing a rose named after them or championing a charitable cause?
Later on that same Monday in late May, Her Majesty may just pause to ask a poignant question . Or this year, to have a bit of a family get-together on a garden her grandson helped pull together. Now there’s a dream PR opportunity that money really can buy?
Once the results have been announced, a Gold Medal means BBC’s Mr T and the film crews will be a virtually permanent fixture on the winning gardens and that the RHS hoards will swarm and swoon over your Cirsium and Mathiasella. Make no mistake, this years Gold Rush is a show stopping, money – making formula for designer, sponsor, charities, and the RHS alike.
To top it all, witness the great and good of the landscape design world, throwing their Rotring’s off the drawing board – old school I know – you couldn’t design it on CAD