War of the weeds! Row over wild gardens at RHS flower shows


War of the weeds! Row over wild gardens at RHS flower shows as one of its own experts blasts ‘disgraceful’ move which organisers brought in to be more eco-friendly

  • RHS giving awards to gardens featuring native wild plants at their flower shows 
  • It is expected that gardeners with weeds will be lauded at Chelsea Flower Show
  • Charles Quest-Ritson, author of RHS Gardener’s Year Book, called it ‘disgraceful’

The Royal Horticultural Society is at loggerheads with one of its most prestigious experts over weeds, after he lambasted the charity for celebrating them at its flower shows.

In a bid to be eco-friendly, the RHS has been giving awards to gardens featuring native wild plants at its annual flower shows, including Hampton Court and Tatton Park.

It is expected that gardeners with ‘messy’ displays containing weeds such as stinging nettles will be lauded for their eco credentials at the Chelsea Flower Show later this month.

In a bid to be eco-friendly, the RHS has been giving awards to gardens featuring native wild plants at its annual flower shows

But Charles Quest-Ritson, author of The RHS Gardener’s Year Book, has said this is ‘disgraceful’.

He said: ‘Something is going seriously wrong when the RHS gives a gold medal – at its Tatton show in July – to a garden full of weeds. 

‘The excuse for this disgraceful jumble of unwelcome plants is that “native plants are not just beautiful but essential to wildlife”. Yes, we know that. But the proper place for weeds is outside the garden.’

A spokesman for the RHS said the charity celebrates ‘plants and gardening in all its forms’. 

They added: ‘Our show gardens are intended to inform, educate and inspire but we appreciate that not all of them will be everyone’s cup of tea. 

‘Weeds, although an important food and habitat for wildlife and rarely problematic, are unlikely to be welcome in every garden.’And that’s OK. Our only advice would be to revert to digging and hoeing rather than chemical application to rid them from your plot.’

Charles Quest-Ritson, author of The RHS Gardener¿s Year Book, has said: said: ¿Something is going seriously wrong when the RHS gives a gold medal ¿ at its Tatton show in July ¿ to a garden full of weeds'

Charles Quest-Ritson, author of The RHS Gardener’s Year Book, has said: said: ‘Something is going seriously wrong when the RHS gives a gold medal – at its Tatton show in July – to a garden full of weeds’

The horticulture charity has moved away in recent years from its traditional roots of manicured gardens and perfect flowers, instead asking its members to stop mowing their lawns in order to help wildlife.

By coincidence, the change at the RHS has come under its president, Keith Weed, whose apt name made headlines when he got the job in 2020.

The RHS flagship garden at Hampton Court Flower Show featured a crop of stinging nettles, with experts encouraging visitors to grow them in their gardens to attract predatory insects to act as natural pesticides.

Chelsea is expected to give plenty of space to native wild-flower gardens. The Queen, who is a patron of RHS, has had native flowers including foxgloves planted in the borders of her Buckingham Palace garden.

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