Here at Cartmel, we spend the Winter months germinating our ideas and planning our displays. Like young seedlings, some projects develop stronger shoots than others as we nurture them throughout the Spring. And then, as the Summer season approaches, we keep our fingers crossed that all our plans will come together, while praying that the whole blooming show doesn’t get spoilt by the rain.
Most racecourses have their share of hardy perennials - races or events which attract an admiring audience year after year. Some events are bigger than others, but even at the highest level, the perennials need care and attention – the Cheltenham Festival has been lifted and divided to create four days, while the Epsom Derby Meeting has been pruned to create two days of concentrated quality. Some events have been transplanted – Champions Day to Ascot; Saints & Sinners from Hamilton Park to Ayr – and back again.
And then there are the cuttings: snippets taken from one racecourse which are propagated in the hot-house and distributed across multiple sites. Ladies Days, for example, are now as common as petunias – without being any less cheerful.
For every seed sown by racecourse management teams, there’ll be a thousand more that blow in from outside – parties of racegoers with their own agendas: smart dress, fancy dress, picnics in the car park, dances by the bandstand or singing in the bar. The perfect race-day allows space for all of these wild-flowers to co-exist in a concert of colour and to continue growing organically for years to come.
One of the best things about British racing is that no two racecourses are the same: different climates, different topography, different outlooks. It’s no wonder that, when submitting our show-gardens to the RCA for judging, there is so much variety. The award categories recognise excellence in various disciplines, from community engagement and catering to marketing and logistics. At Cartmel, we’ve been fortunate enough to be shortlisted in the categories for ground-maintenance and special events.
There isn’t an award for the top racecourse tipster, which is a shame because we’ve enjoyed an exceedingly fortunate year. There's always a risk that this weekend’s selection, Upsilon Bleu, who is due to make the lengthy journey down from Northumberland to Ascot on Saturday, won’t improve our record further – we can't get it right all the time.
But as Anne Bronte observed: He that dares not grasp the thorn, should never crave the rose.