Monty Don sparks fury with 'disrespectful' and 'unprofessional' criticism of 'box-ticking' Chelsea Flower Show judges

Monty Don sparks fury with 'disrespectful' and 'unprofessional' criticism of 'box-ticking' Chelsea Flower Show judges

WATCH HERE: Monty Don blasts the judges of this year's Chelsea Flower Show over its 'box-ticking'

Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 22/05/2024

- 10:11

Updated: 22/05/2024

- 10:22

The horticulturalist openly disagreed with the judges' decision at this year's event

Gardeners' World legend Monty Don has come under fire from BBC viewers and RHS Chelsea Flower Show fans for comments made during Tuesday's show.

Alongside co-host Joe Swift, the gardening experts were on hand to congratulate and present the latest winners of this year's array of awards.

One such winner happened to be the young gardener and designer Ula Maria who'd created the Forest Bathing Garden for Muscular Dystrophy UK.

The creation bagged the Best Show Garden gong, much to the surprise of Don and Swift who'd both predicted different gardens among the nominees would win the award.

Don spoke with Maria about the achievement and while he described the victory as "thoroughly deserved", he soon changed his tune when he rejoined Swift to discuss the results.

"This is a difficult one because obviously, we got it wrong, and that is fine," Don began as he delivered his analysis. "I think Ula’s garden was fabulous and deserved a gold medal.

Chelsea Flower Show 2024: Monty Don and Joe Swift

Chelsea Flower Show 2024: Monty Don and Joe Swift both openly criticised the judges' decision


"The fact she is a young, brilliant designer is fantastic."

He then turned critical towards the judges' decision: "But, a lot of people I have spoken to are saying that they just don’t understand where the judges are going."

Swift agreed as he chipped in: "It feels like it's all become so technical.

"The boxes are being ticked and it’s about making a faultless garden rather than – well, we both made our predictions and for me, they were the stand-out gardens so I’m trying to understand why they didn’t win. We've seen hundreds of gardens!"

Don's critique of the judging system kept on going as he weighed back in: "We've done all of this and the one thing that the judges seem to be missing in their effort to be transparent and objective, they have lost that sense of delight that makes a garden.

"What we have is a procedure that is like passing a driving test. I mean, I think it is an interesting debate."

Swift concurred with Don before bringing the discussion to a close as he remarked: "There is an algorithm coming in, but listen, well done Ula Maria. Congratulations and fantastic garden!"

Soon after his comments were made on-air, Don found himself on the receiving end of an unimpressed reception from BBC viewers at home.

In the comments section of an Instagram post that Don had shared from the event, one person fumed: "Such disappointing and unprofessional comments right after announcing the young winner. You might disagree with the judges, but that was incredibly poor timing."

A second agreed: "Quite disrespectful to the winning garden there Monty. Mighty disappointing you thought it was appropriate to do that just because gardens you liked didn't win."

Chelsea Flower Show 2024: Monty Don

Chelsea Flower Show 2024: Monty Don has been slammed for his comments on the judges


Elsewhere, a third didn't hold back: "I was very disappointed at your comments on the best in-show award. Very unnecessary and ungracious. This is the first time I have ever lost respect for you. This was a huge deal for this lady and you cast a shadow on it which was quite undeserved and unnecessary."

"A bit shocked at your comments about best of show picking process! A bit cold?!" a fourth shared before a fifth hit out: "So sad to hear you criticising the judging process so soon after announcing the best in show. It was the highlight of her career and the timing was poor. I viewed all the gardens today and I thought the judges got it spot on!"

However, others did defend Don for speaking out against the judging procedure, including one who argued: "Totally agree with your comments today about Chelsea judging - there is a distinct lack of passion about the whole thing sadly. Winner was great, but def not the best!"

And a second said: "Loved you’re honest 100% opinion on the ill-advised box-ticking exercise that rules Chelsea Medals." (sic)

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