First James found he couldn't get sponsors last year, then Cleve West withdrew his show garden recently. Now it's official: Chelsea has been pruned into a much smaller affair. Instead of the 22 show gardens seen in 2008, there will be just 13 or 15* on offer in May. In view of the usual sponsors attracted to the show - investment companies, banks etc. - I suppose there was an inevitability about it all, but a 30-40% drop rams home how tough times really are.
It looks like visitor numbers will also be down. Last week I had an email from the RHS offering me the opportunity as a member to buy 4 tickets instead of the usual 2. Perhaps this year, there won't be the usual complaints about overcrowding. I do hope that's the case. However, a friend of mine went to a Chris Beardshaw talk recently where he told the audience the space usually reserved for the show gardens will probably include some of the smaller designs. If that happens, I'm concerned the organisers might have missed an opportunity to stand back from the show's usual format and redesign it to be a more comfortable place for both exhibitor and visitor alike.
Are you going to Chelsea? What do you think about the recent announcements? Does a pared down show make you more inclined to attend? The RHS at least are being upbeat about how great this year's event will be. Perhaps a pruned Chelsea will prove this hybrid's vigour: let's hope it sees a focus on good, achievable design ideas shining through instead of some of the overblown excess found in recent years. After all, a tighter budget doesn't necessarily mean an end to the innovation Chelsea is famous for.