Gardens Illustrated
Edibles expert Mark Diacono
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My Chelsea experience: Mark Diacono

Published: May 20, 2022 at 9:00 am

Edibles expert Mark Diacono shares his love for exploring the smaller stands and gardens for exciting foods to try at the Chelsea Flower Show

Everyone’s experience of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is slightly different. For most of us it’s a great day out – the opportunity to find inspiration in the show gardens, discover new plants from the country’s leading nurseries and partake in some serious retail therapy. But what does it mean for those who are involved in the show?

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Having built his career on encouraging people to grow unusual and forgotten foods, it is no surprise to discover that Mark Diacono’s Chelsea experiences tend to focus on exciting edibles. “I gravitate towards the nurseries, smaller gardens and trade stands. I love seeing who is doing something a bit different.”

RHS / Luke MacGregor

The man who helped popularise Sichuan pepper and Japanese wineberries admits that his tour of the show is largely fuelled by bacon rolls and ice cream, but this year he will be washing it down with a botanical cocktail or two.

The Alitex stand at Chelsea Flower Show
The Alitex stand at Chelsea Flower Show © Alitex

“I’ve got an ongoing relationship with Alitex, the greenhouse company, and I’ll be back on its stand again this year. I’ve been working with a young garden designer, Jake Curley, to conjure up a combination of a kitchen garden and a cocktail bar – ground to glass, you might say. Around the stand there will be little plant combinations that visitors can copy at home, including rhubarb growing with my new favourite herb, rosemary ‘Green Ginger’. It really does taste exactly how that sounds, and it is delicious but slightly mind blowing.

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“We want to show that edible plants can be attractive, and also to suggest a shift from annual to perennial food plants. If you don’t have to dig them up at the end of the season that means less soil disruption and more wildlife habitats, which is great for biodiversity. And if you get a good ecological balance in your garden you won’t get the problems that might tempt you to reach for the sprays. Your garden will be healthier, you will have less work to do on it, and you will have more time to drink cocktails. There’s no downside.”

RHS Chelsea Flower Show takes place 24-28 May 2022

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