Every year, so much controversy surrounds the medals awarded to expectant designers and their diversely pigeonholed exhibits.
Chelsea is THE most prestigious, acclaimed garden show on Earth - although some dissenters will no doubt disagree - and the winning of a Gold Medal is held in the highest esteem.
Beware this hunting of the Snark however, for it is fraught with pitfalls that undoubtedly distort the purity of creative expression we would all aspire to.
Don't get me wrong - receiving one of these golden accolades IS life changing - but truly, is a garden, with so much blood, sweat and tears (literally), often a year's worth of effort, hung on a collective decision of the 'peers' of our profession? Modern, contemporary gardens lumped in with the most traditional of offerings, are evaluated by the same, select exemplars - and we all crowd round to see what has been pronounced on every garden exhibit - Gold! It must be brilliant, Bronze - ah well, hmm... ! Judged and pitted against fellow designers, all whom have invested their hearts and souls into creating their visions.
Every, but every year, the judges face the critical tightrope of public and media scrutiny - never, ever pitching a balance of approval - so often there are conflicting criticisms one way and the other. It's an impossible and unenviable task - only the most brave and resilient amongst the ranks can stand the tsunami of opinions!
I think it's time to sub-divide the categories for judging the show gardens into traditional and contemporary or modern, with judges from both within our profession - peers with experience in their fields of passionate dedication - and those of critical expertise, without - architects, interior designers, artists - who will bring a breath of fresh air to the critical evaluation of the exhibits.
No-one should have to sign up for the formulaic show garden mantra - it is after all, an exhibition, a gallery , an opportunity to show on a world stage, your individual visions, passion and artistic expressions of what a garden can be, to those that are interested around the world. Accolades have their importance, but let's not forget, it's always subjective, and, history does support this, the brightest, the best, are not always recognised in the moment - most often, they are appreciated and recognised after their passing - ( except by the few !!)
Never lose sight of the vision and the passion that so drives one to be so exposed, so vulnerable, and burns so brightly, yet can be so easily extinguished by those who cannot see!!
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