Extravaganza was a great success

Extravaganza was a great success

The Snowdrop and Hellebore Extravaganza held at Goodnestone on Sunday 22 February was a great success. At one time, the forecast promised 30mph winds and rain but the day dawned with bright sunshine and no wind and, although the weather deteriorated over the day, the rain held off until we were on our way home. We considered ourselves very lucky.

Members staged a delightful display so visitors could see the wide variety of different snowdrop forms available and some other plants to grow with them. And they didn’t have to look far to see where they could obtain some for their own gardens. The nurseries all arrived with lots of lovely plants including rare and unusual snowdrops. The Kent Group plant stall was particularly well stocked with plants including some very pretty hellebores and unusual snowdrops – at very reasonable prices!

At noon many of us were able to go indoors – but not the nurserymen, who had to continue braving the elements to sell to the visitors. We went in to listen to our speaker, award-winning journalist Val Bourne, who gave an excellent talk explaining the history, not of snowdrops but of her interest in them. Her talk included information together with many anecdotes given in a most entertaining and amusing way making the hour just fly by. The name snowdrop didn’t appear until the seventeenth century and is thought to be a corruption of  ‘Schneetropfen’ the German word used to describe the pearl earrings that were so fashionable then. The bulbs have been used in medicine and modern science has found that they contain a chemical, galanthamine, now used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. She told us about some of the characters she has met, sometimes quite fortuitously, who have been influential in the growing of snowdrops, and some of the best places to go to see them.

By the afternoon the wind had got up and the sun disappeared but a brisk walk round the gardens on dry, bark-covered paths provided a pleasant end to the day. Camellias, witch hazel and early blossom (I haven’t yet found out what that pink blossom is) provided colour and daphnes and sarcococca the perfume.

A ‘host’ of daffodils just starting into bloom reminded us that spring is on the way.

 

Chelsea 2015 – The fine details

Chelsea 2015 – The fine details

On a rather miserable January day the Chelsea team met at Mike and Linda’s to discuss the details. These ranged from practicalities such as transport for the plants, to height of a fence and gate.

The transport has been a worry for us. When doing previous Chelseas we had the able help of a trusty van driver who was used to handling plants. However, since then he has retired. (more…)

Chelsea 2015 – So why ARE we doing this?!

Chelsea 2015 – So why ARE we doing this?!

Several of us were involved in previous Chelseas. Tim Ingram, Jeremy Spon and Sue Martin have probably got the most experience of Chelsea exhibiting, but others of us have been involved in at least one Chelsea exhibit before.

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Chelsea 2015 – The mock ups – so far!

Chelsea 2015 – The mock ups – so far!

mock ups

So far we have had two of these. We use a friendly, open, lawn space and start marking out the size of the proposed stand with line paint and stakes. We then use whatever we can lay our hands on to symbolise (more…)

Chelsea 2015 – The Planning

Chelsea 2015 – The Planning

The Planning!

We knew that we would have to start actually growing plants for Chelsea well before we knew if we were potentially exhibiting. This gave us all the wonderful excuse to purchase possible Chelsea plants which we ourselves coveted.

Nearly all the plants on the stand will be grown and owned by members. Very few are purchased explicitly for the Show alone and these we hope will be sold on to keep costs down. The main Hardy Plant Society have given us a budget which must also include travel, sundries e.g. chipped bark, van hire and numerous other expenses.
The main exceptional plant purchases are the structure trees. We are hoping to have two different trees on the stand and have been to see Tom Wood of Oakover Nurseries. Tom has always been very supportive and extremely helpful with our previous Chelsea exhibits and goes well and truly beyond the call of duty helping us.

A group of us visited Tom in May 2014 to walk round, firstly his own garden which has a huge, varied range of plants and then once we had honed in on possible trees, the growing fields of the nursery.

We walked up and down rows of the chosen varieties in the field and picked out possibilities. These were then marked with twine. A smaller group of us went back for a second visit at the end of October 2014 to reassess our previous selections, now we had a more fixed idea of the stand. We have marked up three of one variety of flowering tree and half a dozen of an acer, which we hope will be the pivot of the whole stand. Bright fluorescent pink tags are now attached to the selected plants. Tom is arranging for these to be lifted with the rootball machine and then potted up back at the potting shed. They will be put onto pallets and can then be manoeuvred in and out depending on the weather conditions. With this manipulation we are hoping that we will have a choice of trees which will be at the peak of their display for Chelsea 2015.

Back to the structure of the stand. The RHS build a basic stand to our specification within their specifications! The heights are in 18″ steps and the stand is like orange boxes with plywood on top. We have to work on this and have to hide any pots and deal with step changes resulting from pots. To this end we have been collecting packing material e.g. newspaper, polystyrene packaging, bubble wrap. This will be used between pots and then once packed it will be top dressed with bark, leaves or gravel or whatever we think is appropriate for the area. Weight has to be considered so we try to keep the fillers as light as possible. The potted plants are heavy enough! Pot rims tend to be cut down when staging to decrease the height of pot.

The actual physical structures on the stand were decided on fairly early on and Mike Belton has been hard at work building these, making excellent use of his design skills and ingenuity. He deals with any suggested modifications with good cheer and is a lynch pin in the construction. 

A group if us also went to visit John Waller, the underwoodsman at Bore Place, near Chiddingstone, to discuss fencing and a gate. We wanted this to be well weathered before Chelsea so John started weathering the materials immediately and will be constructing these soon.

The plants!

Plants are obviously a huge part of the display. As a rough estimate we have to grow 3 to 4 times the number which will eventually be used at the Show. The plants also need to be of good size or at least give that impression by using several to seem like one. We have limited resources for altering the growth of various plants, except for moving them in and out of shade and/or temperature depending on the actual season. From previous shows we have a rough idea of plants which can be used so use this list as a base. Since we have known about the possibility of Chelsea we have paid particular attention to what plants are looking good around that time. We also have, for example, staggered planting of bulbs so that we will hopefully have at least some coming to their peak at the correct time.

A holding place for plants has been organised. Anne knows a nursery man, in a fairly central location, who has very kindly offered to lend us poly tunnel space. This is vital as a central point for collecting plants together and also means we can do a bit of jiggling to try and get them at peak performance. We will have this space from April 2015.

A hiccough just now is the transport. Our ‘Man with a Van’ who we have used for previous Chelsea Shows has retired so we have to find a person used to handling plants and Danish trolleys on and off a Luton-type van, preferably with a tail lift – that is the van, not the man, with the tail lift! Any suggestions to Colin please.

Chelsea 2015 – The Theme

Chelsea 2015 – The Theme

‘Over The Garden Gate’

 

Colin first proposed applying for Chelsea again several years ago but as a Group we were committed to other events. Having had experience of exhibiting at Chelsea Flower Show (more…)

Chelsea 2015 – The first post

Chelsea 2015 – The first post

The Chelsea 2015 Blog has just started!

Here is the first post. 

As of Wednesday 19th November, when Colin received official confirmation from the RHS, the HPS Kent group are definitely exhibiting at Chelsea next year.

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