Monday, 10 May 2010

A ransom note to the RHS: clean up your act or Wisley Garden gets it

As sure as policeman are getting younger, old people are getting ruder. And the proof – were it needed – is as abundant as the mobility vehicles at the Royal Horticultural Society’s flagship garden at Wisley.
Wisley Garden is an amazing place. Occupying a site much smaller than Kew, it packs in an astonishing amount of stuff.

There are the trial fields and shrubberies thick with camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons (rhododendra?) astounding in Spring bloom; waterways packed with carp, Alpine slopes over which waterfalls play in the sunlight, Japanese gravel gardens of bonsai, and much more.

But it also boasts an impressive collection of peremptory hubris in its admissions staff.

And if that sounds rude, they started it.

I'd got used to being condescended to by the superannuated cashiers on the gates during many visits beforehand. It was almost one of the highlights of the trip, for me.

Not so much for the missus. She'd mentioned her suspicion of a rather ugly motive behind the reaction of the septuagenarian admission monkeys, but I must admit I'd never taken this as seriously as perhaps I should. Until I took my in-laws as guests to visit the gardens.

This time, there was something of a mix-up over how many guests my wife and I were allowed to take in. Anywhere apart from Wisley, this would have been resolved in seconds.

By contrast, however – this being Wisley – the elderly lady behind the counter told us some of us should go away and come back another day.

As I was trying to straighten things out, our antediluvian gatekeeper broke off mid-sentence in exasperation, to lament to her colleague her Herculean efforts in dealing with these slack-jawed idiots.

We stood in silence as she vented her spleen.

RHS, this will not do.

Of course the sub-retirement group probably doesn’t comprise a large part of the sum of Wisley’s visitors and you might feel you can afford to treat it as you wish.

But consider the plight of the Telegraph: at present it can do little to change its format to attract a younger audience without alienating existing readers. But in ten or twenty years or so, those readers will be in a happier place - no longer reading the front-page news of the drop in home-made jam production - and the Telegraph will be left with no-one.

Is that the future the Royal Horticultural Society wishes for itself?

But just in case that isn’t enough to persuade you of the benefits of treating your visitors with good grace, let’s raise the game a little…

Even as I type this, a crack squad of hand-picked saboteurs - organised in small, autonomous cells - is poised to potter off down the A3 in RAC badge bedecked Rovers to Wisley. You will not know who they are – indeed they will not know (or can’t remember) who they are – could one of them be the person wearing sensible shoes and quilted clothing in the queue right now?

All you need know is that each is equipped with a thermos flask containing enough Fallopia japonica to strangle a cat. And each is prepared to release it on the promise of a nice cup of tea.

Yep, you read it right. Japanese knotweed, Britain’s horticultural answer to Australia’s Cane toad.

You want to play dirty? Methuselah can play dirty.

So here’s the deal. The RHS has a month to clean up its act. If, after that time, the cordial staff treatment one would expect of such an august institution is forthcoming, the saboteurs will be stood down, vaccuum flasks withdrawn and Japanese knotweed consigned to the flames.

If not, you have only yourselves to blame for the consequences.

No comments:

Post a Comment