Posts Tagged ‘chelsea flower show’

Winter and summer at Chelsea

May 23rd, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Hellebores at The 2018 Chelsea Flower Show!

One of perennial challenges for Chelsea exhibitors is to hold back early flowering plants so they come to their peak at the Show, weeks or months later than normal, and to force late flowering plants into an early display.

The past master of all this is Johnny Walkers with his regular display of daffodils, held back in a cold store for the big day. Staged at the last possible moment, and the massed ranks of perfection completely replaced half way through the show as they wilt in the heat, it’s always a treat. Awarded a Gold Medal, of course.

But this year we have an even more amazing display: a whole exhibit of hellebores (above). Hold on, don’t they flower in January and February? Well, yes! Three months after their peak in the garden, Ashwood Nurseries from the West Midlands are staging a whole exhibit of their own amazing varieties in a huge range of colours and bicolours, single and double.

The plants had been in a cold store since October and removing them at the right time and bringing them on to ensure that they look their best – and look natural – at the Show is a real art. The display won a Gold Medal, of course, plus a special award from the President of the RHS.

And then, at the other extreme, there are the dahlias (below). I’ll be planting mine, grown from Mr F’s tubers in pots, later this week. But the Plant Heritage National Dahlia Collection, from Cornwall, have these summer and autumn specialities at their peak in full flower for the Show – now!

Again, they don’t look forced, they look natural… And at three months before they’ll be at their best in the garden, huge credit goes to Jon Wheatley for bringing them forward to perfection on the day and winning a Gold Medal.

This is what’s special about Chelsea. Exhibitors devote vast amounts of time, energy, expertise, ingenuity – not to mention expense – to bring us something special. And they inspire us all.

* The Chelsea Flower Show on TV today: BBC1, 3.45pm, Angellica Bell. BBC2, 8.00pm, Monty Don and Joe Swift.

Dahlias at The 2018 Chelsea Flower Show.

Foxgloves in the Chapel and at Chelsea

May 21st, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Foxgloves at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show in the exhibit staged by The Botanic Nursery.

Foxgloves were an integral feature of the floral displays in St George’s Chapel on Saturday and they make quite an impact here at Chelsea where two entirely different exhibits featuring foxgloves stand out.

For many years we’ve enjoyed the displays staged by Terry Baker of The Botanic Nursery in Wiltshire, holder of the Plant Heritage National Collection of Digitalis (foxgloves). This year (above) Terry has combined traditional varieties and old favourites with recent introductions alongside some varieties that are only just coming on to the market. Intermingling them with the slender spires of the related verbascums works very well.

Then, in a dramatic contrast, on the Skin Deep garden (below) designed by Robert Parker, full flowered white foxgloves are set amongst large square silvered cement blocks. The overall effect is both rather stark and at the same time, positive and uplifting.

But not all foxgloves are good, I’m sorry to say. Without pointing the finger at specific exhibitors, I also came across some of the ugliest foxgloves I’ve ever seen! The unnaturally large and broad mouthed flowers glared up towards me and in an especially sickly purple, their throats spotted not with delicate speckles but with large, almost warty blotches. It takes hard work to make a foxglove ugly but someone has achieved exactly that.

But don’t let these horrors put you off. Give me the supremely elegant, white foxgloves used in St George’s Chapel and especially the pure white and angelically spotted form of our wild native foxglove, the flowers artfully poised on one side of the gently arching spike as nature intended.

Seeds sown in the next few weeks will make fine plants to go out in the garden in autumn to flower this time next year.

Pure white foxgloves set against silvered concrete blocks on the Skin Deep garden disgned by Robert Parker.

Chelsea Flower Show marks The Wedding

May 20th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

"A Royal Celebration" by Hillier Nurseries greets vistors as they enter the Great Pavilion.

I’ve been here at the Chelsea Flower Show, on Saturday!, taking an early look, and yesterday’s Royal Wedding has made an impact here. Well, after all, the Show is run by the Royal Horticultural Society so it’s to be expected that the exhibitors, and especially the Royal Warrant holders, will be making the most of the occasion.

And, to be honest, most of the exhibitors who are making connections with the wedding are doing so in a legitimate way. Perhaps the most impressive evocation of the Wedding is the special display entitled Royal Celebration staged by Royal Warrant holder Hillier Nurseries. They’re the most successful Chelsea exhibitor or all time and have won seventy two (72!) consecutive Gold Medals at the Show. Their Royal Celebration greets visitors as they enter the Grand Pavilion.

Two pairs of corten-steel staircases with their dark coppery colouring provide an unexpectedly complimentary background for the display focused on flowers and foliage plants with royal connections.

Foxgloves, both the traditional white that featured in the flowers in St George’s Chapel for the wedding, and modern types (above), are set against a background of other flowers in bridal white: pinks, viburnums, roses and the lovely ‘Bridal Bouquet’ agapanthus (below). If only those staircases and their display was larger!

In a complimentary display, as visitors enter the London Gate from the direction of Sloane Square station, Kitten Grayson Flowers have staged another welcome. An English oak on one side and a Californian cedar on the other symbolically link together overhead and the plantings below again feature the white foxgloves from St George’s Chapel.

There are more Chelsea Flower Show Royal Wedding connections and tomorrow I’ll take a look at some of the other flowers from the Chapel and those in the wedding bouquet and how they’re featured at the Show.

* The Chelsea Flower Show on TV: BBC1, 6pm tonight, with Sophie Raworth and Joe Swift.

Nation of Gardeners on tour: RHS Chelsea, 50 years of Britain in Bloom

May 30th, 2014 | Nation of Gardeners, The flower garden | 0 Comments

After two of our gang of Nation of Gardeners visited RHS Cardiff in April, and RHS Malvern in May, next up was our gardener Jonathan, who is based in Pontypridd and who went along to RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014.

Jonathan’s a seasoned RHS Chelsea attendee and a veteran of this busy event in the garden shows’ calendar and so he set off with a determination to get the most out of his day there.


Our traveller’s journey started from his local train station in Pontypridd at 6.30am on a dull, wet day.  He arrived at Paddington Station, transferring to the London Underground and finishing the rest of his journey by foot through the leafy streets of Chelsea to the show ground by mid-morning.  Arrival at the show ground was plain sailing to gain admission and by the time he had arrived, the weather had brightened leaving Jonathan in a quandary of what to do first.

‘”My ticket in hand, I bought a Catalogue for £8 and in I went.  I didn’t get stopped for a bag search this year, so they must have liked the look of me!  The weather had brightened up and so I now needed to decide on a plan of attack, show gardens first or the Great Pavilion?”

The forecast for the day was not great, with showers and thunder forecast for the afternoon, and so Jonathan decided to make his way down Main Avenue, making stops at all the show gardens along the way.

“There were big crowds around the Royal Bank of Canada Waterscape Garden where Andy Sturgeon was filming.  At the end of Main Avenue next to the RHS stand was the Alan Titchmarsh garden ‘From the Moors to the Sea’.   Built by Alan for the RHS to commemorate 50 years of Britain in Bloom, this garden was not being judged along with the others, although it got a Gold from me,” said Jonathan.

Alan Titchmarsh RHS Chelsea garden

A great start made, Jonathan continued his roving, “I had already decided this year not to take a leaflet from every garden as I have done in the past as they just gather dust once back home.  However, I was stopped in my tracks by the Homebase garden who were giving free poppy seeds away with their leaflets, and so I collected this booty from them.

With this resolve, Jonathan proceeded on from Main Avenue and over to the Artisan Gardens in Ranelagh Gardens. There he passed the many stalls selling their wares.  This was a busy area with large crowds assembled around the bandstand and eating areas, sipping champagne and Pimms.  Leaving Ranelagh Gardens and making his way back over to the other side of the show ground, Jonathan found the Fresh Gardens around Royal Hospital Way and a large Food Court area down Western Avenue.

“There were some amazing smells with a huge range of food from fish and chips, a hog roast, posh burgers, hot dogs, pizza, baguettes, sandwiches, pastries and cakes with a few more champagne and Pimms tents thrown in for good measure. I didn’t stop for food though and instead ate sandwiches as I walked.”

Jonathan and David on the Mr Fothergill's StandJonathan had arranged to meet David Turner from Mr Fothergills at their stand in Eastern Avenue at around 2pm.  Eastern Avenue is a long straight avenue lined with over 110 trade stands, selling all sorts of gardening related products; from sculptors, garden clothing sellers, artists, magazines and publications, craft stalls, to organisations such as the RSPB and seed companies.

“Upon arriving at the Mr Fothergill’s stand, it was very busy,” said Jonathan.  “There were plenty of people buying seed at the special show prices of £1 per packet and £1.50 for the large packets like beans and peas.”

This year, Mr Fothergill’s Seed Cubes were finalists as Garden Product of the Year. Although they didn’t win, the public voted with their purses and as Jonathan observed, “I could see that the Seed Cubes were selling like hot cakes.  It was all hands to the decks to keep the racks stocked.”

Jonathan and David had a good chat at the Mr Fothergill’s stand – seen here in this photo of them in a sunny spell within the day – and Jonathan purchased one of the Seed Cubes before heading on his way again.

“It was noticeable that there was a lack of seed companies attending the show this year compared to previous years,” said Jonathan.  “Mr Fothergill’s was the biggest stand by a seed company at the show, Franchi Seeds had a stand that was very small, Jekka’s Herb Farm had a herb seeds-only stand and Suttons had just a table in the Great Pavilion.  So Mr Fothergill’s had the biggest selection by far.”

DSC_0357The sight that met Jonathan’s eyes when he finally made it to the Great Pavilion was stunning.  “What a spectacle.  So many stunning displays and plants grown to perfection,” he commented.  The smell of damp bark dowsed his senses and deeper into the tent he went taking in everything on display in there and seeking out old favourites too.

“Always one of my favourites is the W & S Lockyer  display of Ariculas and I actually found a variety on their stand called Jonathan.  I also love to see the roses.  The scent from the roses was stunning and I particularly liked a new rose launched this year by David Austin called Poet’s Wife – a stunning yellow rose with a lovely scent – and this was, for me, my plant of the show.”

A brief brush with fame,  Jonathan came across Carol Klein filming on the Trewidden Nursery Stand, and after pausing to watch for a while he was eventually approached by the director.  But fame, fortune and a new television career were not to be for Jonathan as the director just wanted to ask him to move across slightly as his white shirt was interfering with their filming!

Thunderstorms soon had the Great Pavilion filling up with people rushing to shelter from the rains.  The crowds ebbed away as the storms passed leaving Jonathan discovering the Marks and Spencer stand Nature’s Hidden Heroes with a stunning display of sunflowers.  Along with their leaflets, were a Butterfly identification chart and a free packet of seeds to attract butterflies and bees to the garden, samples of which were duly pocketed.

Time soon ran out for our journeying gardener though and so Jonathan made a final wander back to the show gardens past Monty Don filming in the BBC studio to seek out the F A Bartlett Tree Co, where he came away with an oak and a wild pear sapling to add to his growing bag of freebies collected through the day.

With sore feet, bulging bags and a camera full of amazing pictures Jonathan left Chelsea Flower Show 2014 to make the long journey back to Pontypridd.

Jonathan summed up the show, “What a fantastic but tiring day.  Chelsea never fails to impress all the show Gardens are amazing. I didn’t agree with the judge’s best in show choice, I would have given this to the Telegraph Garden or Alan Titchmarsh garden if it were to have been judged.  I can’t wait until the 2015 show now!”

RHS Chelsea montage

Mr Fothergill’s Victoria Cross award to the Chelsea Pensioners

January 29th, 2014 | News, The flower garden | 0 Comments

The world-famous Royal Hospital Chelsea is set to benefit from the sale of seed of an attractive poppy called Victoria Cross.  Suffolk seedsman Mr Fothergill’s has pledged 25p to the Royal Hospital’s charity from every packet of 250 seeds priced at £1.85 it sells via its retail stockists during 2014.

Mr Fothergill's support Royal Hospital Chelsea

Poppy Victoria Cross, already a popular variety with Britain’s gardeners, is remarkable for the bold white ‘cross’ it bears across its single red flowers, which are borne through the summer.

Easy to grow and quick to flower from a spring sowing, this form of Papaver somniferum is ideal for informal borders and cottage garden settings.  Its distinctive ‘pepper-pot’ seedheads are also useful in dried arrangements when flowering ends.

Established in 1682 by Charles II to provide a safe home for military veterans ‘broken by age or war’, the Christopher Wren-designed Royal Hospital admitted its first pensioners in 1692.  The scarlet tunics and black tricorns of its residents and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Flower Show held in the Royal Hospital grounds every May are equally well known and respected around the world.

Poppy Victoria Cross

Mr Fothergill’s joint managing director David Carey said he was proud his company was to recognise and aid the support and care the Royal Hospital Chelsea offers to today’s military veterans.  “The imminent centenary of the start of World War One brings into focus the debt we continue to owe to those who defend us,” said David.

The Royal Hospital’s fundraising manager Kate Marsh explained “The Royal Hospital, and the famous scarlet-coated Chelsea Pensioners who live within it, stand as the very embodiment of the military covenant made between the nation and those who serve in its army so selflessly, willing if necessary to make the ultimate sacrifice.  Donations from the sale of Mr Fothergill’s Victoria Cross Poppy will enable us to improve the facilities and living conditions of the Chelsea Pensioners as well as helping us to secure a future for those young soldiers serving in the British Army today.”

Pictured from left to right above: Tim Jeffries (Mr Fothergill’s), Gordon Sanders,  James Anderson, David Carey (Mr Fothergill’s)