A while ago Veddw Garden was declared one of the 100 best gardens in the UK. Even better, it was also one of the THREE best in Wales.
Then in 2023 Highfield Farm Garden was declared the nation’s (Wales and the Borders) favourite garden, by the English Garden Magazine/National Gardens Scheme and Sisley Tours (all together):
As you may have gathered by now, this is one of the favourite games in horticulture in the UK.
It starts with getting a notification from some organisation that you have (somehow) got shortlisted for an award and that people will be voting for the winners. We once wondered about thinkingardens doing a best gardens award. But we realised that there was no way that we could afford to send a panel of judges to every worthwhile and possible garden. Could we have asked people to volunteer their votes? Well – that would be a bit random? (We settled on one occasion to have people write and declare the best garden they had visited that year and why was it the best)
You’re usually invited to solicit votes to assist your chances.
We were notified and invited to do some soliciting, and I felt horribly uncomfortable about that. I imagined that if I appealed on social media for votes some people would vote who had never been to the garden, simply out of good will. But as Veddw’s publicist I decided I had to, and you see the result.
Our local garden society will also solicit votes for a local contender and perhaps people appeal to all their friends and relations to help. All other ideas gratefully received.
It’s a kind of British mania perhaps?
After all, everyone is aware of Chelsea and its awards. There are many more. Historic Houses in the UK take it in turns to be Garden of the Year:
There are various sort of random ones:
And we mustn’t forget the garden designers:
Maybe it all started with vegetables?
With vegetables we do generally learn how the prize has been earned – usually size.
It’s a total mystery what the gardens are shining at. There are no tick boxes to identify various merits, generally no specific declarations of what is worth the award or a visit. Having lots of plants or flowers may be mentioned.
Strangely, I think if anyone was found to be soliciting the judges of the largest veggie competition they would get banned for life.
I’m not sure how I feel or think about all this.
Clearly if we bully enough people into voting for us I feel chuffed. And also, if rival gardens (and that’s an interesting concept I must address another time) get an award I may feel horribly churned up and jealous. But I’m also uncomfortable about the soliciting, and the role and purpose of these things.
Because, while there is clearly a gain for the awarded garden – publicity which may bring much needed and welcome visitors to a garden, – the principal point is the gain for whatever organisation is making the award. If you’re not in that organisation you may be the favourite or the best in the world but you won’t win. The organisation name gets splashed around with media coverage – and these days, social media coverage – of the event. The award is announced. Awarding is filmed. Hopefully people gossip about it and cheer a lot on social media and in the garden societies. All useful publicity.
You know, gardeners do the sweating, making, opening, and then they get used. Willingly, I grant, mostly. But I guess that’s what it’s about.
Anything like it in America?