The Other Side of 50

England’s Chelsea Flower Show dazzles Fairfield woman

By From page OSF8 | June 12, 2014

FAIRFIELD — The Chelsea Flower Show presented by the Royal Horticultural Society in London is just as grand as it sounds, says a Fairfield woman who attended the event.

“As a gardener, that’s like going to Mecca,” said Mary Ellen Steiert.

Steiert visited the show May 20-24 through the travel program at the Fairfield Senior Center. She said it exceeded her expectations.

The queen of England attends the first day of the show and Steiert recounted the story of a horticultural society member that displays English royalty’s love of gardens. The society member had worked in the gardens at Buckingham Palace and recalled the late Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother asking him about a magnolia.

He explained about the plant’s pods and seeds, spurring the then 95-year-old former queen to suggest planting magnolias. Telling her that it would take about 20 years from seed to success with the plant, The Queen Mother replied, “That will give me something to look forward to.”

Gardening is of greater interest to older people, Steiert said. Not many teens are clamoring for time with geraniums. The retired registered nurse said that may reflect the time it takes to appreciate gardens.

“It’s just nurturing something – seeing something grow,” she said of the appeal.

Still, Steiert said, the very young are often fascinated by how plants grow.

Gardens, she said, have a timeless quality.

“Gardens are never done,” the Fairfield resident said.

The Chelsea Flower Show, which costs about $100 to see, displayed the benefits of age. “Old roses,” also known as heritage and historic roses, have a more powerful fragrance, Steiert said, and the flower show was rich in old roses.

“It would knock you over,” she said of the fragrance.

Modern hybrid roses lose something compared to old roses, Steiert said.

The Fairfield resident has gardened in Illinois and said while California has better weather, water here is an issue in a way it’s not in the Midwest.

Solano County garden clubs, she said, include Geranium City in Fairfield and the Vaca Valley Garden Club in Vacaville.

Lots of land isn’t necessary to garden. Steiert said one of the local visitors to the Chelsea Flower Show lives in a small apartment but still manages to pursue her love of gardening.

Steiert said the love of gardening, which so many older Americans possess, has deep roots in a person.

“I think it’s just born in you,” she said.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


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