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I notice the Australian garden features a large Xanthorrhoea (grass tree).

I'm very disappointed as these plants are not grown, but ripped out of forrests.  What makes this sadder is that this plant would be many hundreds of years old (definitely before white people arrived) and once they are removed from there natural landscape, die a very slow death.  

I think it's disgraceful that a garden exhibition can just rip the plants out of the native forrests - the RHS should have a critea that the plants on display should be grown.



I agree wholeheartedly. Its perverse, rather obscene. 


Exactly, if you or I were to go and commit such a crime, we would be in deep trouble - and rightly so - but just because it is Chelsea, they seem to be abe to do what they like.  Disgusting.  I wasn't going anyway, but this would be one of the many reasons why I wouldn't. 


Judging from programmes and articles I've seen on preparing for Chelsea, trees and plants for the displays have to be sustainably sourced from nurseries or borrowed from gardens and then either sold or put back at huge expense.   If the Oz garden is indeed ripping stuff out of the wild it needs to be censured and the RHS needs to be made aware that there is a problem.

Instead of having a go on here, why not send them a mail with your concerns.

I have to say I've never liked the Oz gardens at Chelsea, purely because they are so far removed in style and content form anything that can happily be grown or usefully used in the usual British or north European climate. You'd spend 50 weeks of the year unable to use the expensive outside sitting rooms and dining rooms and cooking facilities and the swimming pool they're wrapped around.   They're not exactly filled with plantsmanship.

That said, there is so much of of interest and excellence at Chelsea that can fill a whole day - looking at the other show gardens, big and small plus the chance to see great plants in the floral pavillion and talk to their growers without lingering in Oz.    I love it and will be there on Thursday with 6 Belgian scientists on their annual English immersion trip and my wheelchair cos my feet aren't quite ready for a whole day at Chelsea on their own.


Are you sure it's been ripped out?. I spent some time in Perth helping a friend plant her new garden with native plants. There are specialist nurseries growing lots of native australian plants for people to plant a sustainable garden in very dry sandy soil. The "English garden" with roses  and a lawn is no use because of the heat, and high water needs.  The grass trees are often lifted when an area is cleared for housing, but often they try and build around them. There are lots by wayside verges. When a bush fire goes through, they burn, but then sprout again from the top. They are are often known by the non pc name of "black boys". Every garden centre in Perth will have them for sale.


Thanks all for your comments and agreements. 

The Xanthorrhoea seed is readily available at many nursarys, however, they take approximately 1 year to germinate, and then grow at approximately 2cm per year. Any plants that are nursary grown, are therefore very small.

The plants in the Australian exhibition are clearly very big, and very old (a few hundred years), I would guess they began life before any white people were in Australia, let alone any nursery's to propagate this beautiful plant.  The only way to obtain such large specimins, is to dig them up from there natural habitat.

Many nursary's do sell these larger Xanthorrhoea's as potted plants, under the claim that they are 'rescued from imminent destruction' - ie private land owner's, digging them up, selling them on, for easy money. I personally consider this as disgraceful, as clearing sections of the amazon for farm land, and digging out the prize plants.


I  am always impressed by Australian conservation. Huge tracts are declared national parks. Even Kings Park in Perth has a good chunk of untouched bushland.

They are however a rapidly expanding nation and there will always be pressure on land for building.  Better that the grass trees are dug up and transplanted to gardens than just burnt in a mass clearance.


Hmmmm! You may be right, Fidgetbones, though  I can see that argument being used by unscrupulous dealers digging up threatened plants all over the world - "These rare crocus bulbs come from Turkey - I know they are not supposed to be dug up but they were growing in a field that was being dug up to build a local hospital and my supplier rescued them so they might find a good home". I just don't think that a prestigious organisation like the RHS should allow it, as it sends out a bad message - it's ok so long as you can explain it - no need to show certification. 

Thanks Gold1locks, I completely agree. It's often used as an excuse to simply harvest these plants from the wild, and I think the RHS and the Chelsea Flower Show, as the world leaders for gardening, could have a major impact in stopping this activity. They need to set an example, and prohibit exhibitors from using such plants. 

Wikipedia has some information on the Xanthorrhoea, it's age and slow growth rate, and the activity of nursaries to aquire these plants from bushland.


The link makes sobering reading. Very low survival rate of uprooted plants unless 1 cubic metre of rootball is extracted with it. Plants take 3 to 4 years to die.

But they live long enough to put on a good show for Chelsea 


have a look at the transport of the 750 yr old boab tree to kings park.

If you look up Kings Park Perth wa websit and the "the Boab journey"

The boab was in the way of a road so it was transplanted to Kings Park.

It's quite a remarkable sight. There are other boabs in the park but none as old or as big.

A quick search of the internet also brings up many sites detailing the advances made in survival rates of these plants (80% plus ) the licensing and licence details of the Australian government bodies that regulate extraction of wild flora, the success in replanting some of these plants following development or road building or pipeline laying.

It would seem to me, that the Australians in general are taking the preservation of their indiginous flora at least as seriously as we do in the UK and possibly more so.

If plants that would otherwise have been destroyed by developement can be given a second chance then where is the problem? in much the same way that tree ferns from New Zealand were brought into cultivation when they were cleared from the forests.

I would ask people to read further on the subject before making some of the more sensationalist claims and emotive comments.  Words such as perverse, disgusting obscene and crime are unnecessary.


Perhaps my language was a bit strong, and a bit emotive, but my reaction was to do with using such a plant for a two week exhibition. I don't like the way Chelsea has developed. some exhibits get more and more extravagant by the year, and some rather ridiculous,but then I am a boring traditionalist. I imagined this plant being used as a wow element, only  to be moved again when the show finishes.  They used to argue something similar to justify zoos,high minded arguments about saving the rescued   baby tiger from misery in the wild, educational arguments etc. I know there are arguments for and against. It just doesnt fit with my gardening philosophy and I told it as I felt it.

I completley agree. The process of moving a plant within a city in Australia, with the intention of it prospering in a park, is completely different to transporting it halfway around the world, for a 2 week exhibition. I highly doubt they included the (minimum) 1 cubic meter of root ball (probably more for larger plants), considered necessary for the plants long term survival, let alone how the plant from an arid region, will continue to survive if it is left in the UK (once they have there award I doubt they will be shipping it back).

Tootsietim, please provide the source of your data. I'm not sure where you are getting the 80% survival rate from, and I doubt there is any research group, investigating the survival rate of these plants which are sold in nursarys, to home growers, especially over the long term (often they do not die quickly).

The information I've seen (from the Australian Native Plants Society), has indicated the complete opposite.

My admitedly brief search encompassed the New South Wales Government's Native Vegetation Act of 2003 and a number of Australian commercial horticultural suppliers.

For instance Grasstrees Australia, who were finalists in the Western Australia Environmental Awards for Small Business Leading by Example.

In response to the specific point of your original statement, which I misconstrued, regarding the removal of an originally wild plant from Australia and bringing it to London for a garden show, I should be very interested to see if we can find out what is going to happen to the plants involved. If it is to be wasted then I share your unease.

The designer, Phillip Johnson appears to be entirely rooted in sustainable gardening and so one would be worried if he were condoning the death of a grass tree for chelsea, but I don't think we can necessarily judge on the information that we have.

Perhaps Mr Titchmarsh could be contacted to see if he can determine the origin and destination of this plant.



So sorry to hear it. I think exhibition's are so over-rated,we just don't need them,unless it is to do with our own flora and fauna.It's just another modern day way of making money and i'm afraid the world's economy will always come before the bird's,the bee's,the flower's and the tree's!!! Keep it native people. I might be a little out-spoken but i care about what makes this world tick and it certainly aint us and money!!!

Pippin2, you may be interested in the following reply I have recently received from Flemmings Nursery as to the provinance of their dsiplay plants used at Chelsea this year.

Hi Tim, 

Thanks for taking the time to check the facts about the trees that we used at Chelsea. We have heard of a number of negative messages out there, but not many people have bothered to check what the story really is. It is pleasing to see though that there are people who care enough about the plants to be outraged at the concept of them being illegally harvested and treated as disposable items - we would be similarly horrified if this was happening.   All of the plants that were used in the 2013 Trailfinders Australian Garden presented by Fleming's were sourced from nurseries in Italy, Spain and England. Some of them, particularly the Xanthorrhoea and Dicksonia would originally have been exported from Australia to Europe. The Australian government at state and federal levels have a very strict licensing system that governs the harvesting of Australian native plants from both public and private land. There are also very strict export regulations associated with exporting Australian native plants to ensure that only those that have been legally harvested can be exported.    In the vast majority of cases it is only possible to harvest plants from areas that will be cleared for other approved purposes. We had initially hoped that we would be able to use some boabs (Adansonia gregorii) that were to be cleared in Western Australia as part of the expansion of an irrigation scheme, but despite months of negotiations we were unable to finalise the licence to take these within our timeframe, even though the approval for clearing them had been granted. The harvest of Australian native plants is very strictly controlled and it is not possible to simply 'rip things from the wild'.   Like all plants the long term survivability of the Xanthorrhoea is dependent on a number of factors. Once a plant has been shipped from the Southern hemisphere to the Northern hemisphere it can take several seasons for them to adjust to the change in seasons. In order for Australian native plants to be of a standard suitable for display at Chelsea they need to have been growing in the northern hemisphere for a number of years. Given that all of the trees that we used have been growing in pots in Europe for an extended period of time there is no reason to suggest that they will in any way suffer from being displayed at Chelsea. The Xanthorrhoea that were used in our garden were all still in their pots, so suffered no disturbance to their root system.   Post Chelsea all plants were either sold, returned to a nursery or donated to a garden project. As a nursery who specialise in trees we well aware of the importance and environmental value of all plants, but particularly trees -  it would not sit at all comfortably with us to have these items destroyed.   Perhaps this answers some of your concerns?    

Additionally, if you go to the website for, you can find a little more about what happens to Chelsea show gardens after the gates close.

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