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Nurseries ready for centenary Chelsea show

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 17, 2013

Louisa Lazarowicz (left) and Gerry Hammond, of Burncoose Nurseries, prepare for the Chelsea Flower Show

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A Westcountry nursery which showed creations at the very first Chelsea Flower Show 100 years ago is putting the finishing touches to its display at this year's centenary show.

Kelways of Langport, which specialises in peonies, is one of just three exhibitors at the 2013 show, taking place next week in the Royal Hospital Grounds in Chelsea, with the same claim to fame.

The prestigious show, run by the Royal Horticultural Society, celebrates its 100th birthday this year.

Dave Root, from the Somerset nursery, said the display would be a "funky salute" to that very first one, using nursery-grown delphiniums and sweet peas as well as peonies and irises.

"We are doing a salute to what we were doing in 1913, with lots of sweet peas and delphiniums, but putting that together in a really contemporary way, using a really funky London florist called Rebel Rebel," he said.

As well as growing plants for the nursery's display in the Great Pavilion, he's also been growing thousands of plants for ten show gardens at the highlight of the horticultural calendar, from Tuesday to Saturday next week, including thousands of Australian wildflowers grown under plastic at the nursery close to the Somerset Levels.

Mr Root said that the cold and the late spring had proved a challenge to his Chelsea presentations.

"Every Chelsea is different – some years it is too hot, other years too cold – so we expect it to be difficult whatever we do , but this is certainly the coldest, latest spring we have ever had," said Mr Root.

"It has meant that some of the plants that we would want to use we can't use, while others which would usually be over are still flowering. We have had to be a bit flexible about what we use."

It is the same story down at Burncoose Nursery, near Redruth, where garden designers Gerry Hammond and Louisa Lazarowicz have been making last-minute substitutions to the plants planned for their "traditional plantsman's garden" in the Great Pavilion.

While this has caused them some headaches, there has been a silver lining, as their rhododendrons, that stalwart of Cornish spring gardens, are in peak condition for the show.

This is particularly apt, given that rhododendron displays were a big feature of the very first displays at the 1913 Chelsea Flower Show.

"The rhododendrons are looking absolutely spectacular," said Ms Hammond.

"Normally we are having to put them in cold stores to slow them down. This year, they are going to look their absolute best, so we are really happy about that.

"And we have several yellow magnolias we normally wouldn't still have flowering at this time of year."

The traditional plantsman's garden, in a style that might have been seen in the early years of Chelsea, is expecting a visit from Dame Helen Mirren, Prince's Trust Ambassador, on Monday's "celebrities, judges and royals" preview of the show. The Prince's Trust is supported by the garden's sponsor, Terra Firma Partners.

The medals that each show garden and nursery display has achieved will be announced on Tuesday morning, when the show opens to RHS members.

"The plan is to be finished by Saturday lunchtime, then it is just a question of picking over things and labelling things up," said Ms Hammond.

Nursery staff at Burncoose, part of the Caerhays estate owned by the Williams family, are hoping for a gold for their display in the Great Pavilion. "We have had silver gilts for the past two years, so it would be nice to get a gold this year," said Ms Hammond.

Other Westcountry nurseries taking part in this most prestigious show of the horticultural calendar include Varfell Farm near Penzance, home of the National Collection of dahlias, and Bowden Hostas, near Okehampton on Dartmoor.

The show is open to the public from Thursday to Saturday next week, with RHS members only on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Read more from Exeter Express and Echo

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