Chelsea Champions?

The Tomato House at Chartwell, full of Chelsea-bound bounty!

The gardens of Chartwell will be represented on the Main Avenue at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show! As part of their 50th Anniversary, Alitex, makers of bespoke Victorian greenhouses and conservatories, will have a National Trust greenhouse at the RHS show full of stunning vegetable plants grown right here at Chartwell. Donna and her team have taken over our Tomato House in the potting shed area this year to grow an amazing selection of beautiful tasty herbs and vegetables, some of which can be seen above. In all, there will be over 300 plants provided by Chartwell at Chelsea this year, which runs from May 22nd to the 26th. More information on the Alitex range of National Trust greenhouses can be found here:

Salads, purple basil and much more basking under our new grow lights

To get all of these plants ready in time for Chelsea has proven to be a tricky experience. As many of you will know, many vegetables will be not usually be in a position to be cropped and harvested by the end of May, especially with the weather we have been having recently! To get around this, we have sown everything much earlier than usual and then given the germinating plants as optimum growing conditions as possible. This includes heating their growing environment, providing extra light (see above picture) and feeding the plants with organic foliar feeds and slow release nutrients. We have also has to be on our toes when it comes to spotting any pests or diseases on the Chelsea plants. Losing all of our lettuce seedlings to slugs overnight would be a disaster!

Some of the courgettes are already on their way!

The plants we fill the Alitex glasshouse with will represent all stages of vegetable growing from seedlings to plants in flower and also plants already fruiting. The plants will be on show in grow bags and containers in a display that is intended to be both functional and decorative. Donna wants to have lots of colour on view as well, from the lime green salad leaves to the purple sage foliage. There is also an emphasis on scented plants, especially aromatic herbs. The display will have a pottager style to it too, with flowers such as sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) also used. Companion plants such as Marigolds will also be prominent.

Donna and her team of Chelsea Volunteers, Alison, Clare and Julie, show off their wares!

Don’t worry if you don’t get a chance to see our display at the 2012 Chelsea Flower Show. Once the show is finished we will be bringing the plants back to Chartwell where they will form part of a new arrangement here in the Kitchen Garden. Some of them will also be available to purchase if you get here early enough! When I worked at the Chelsea Flower Show last year, the Alitex greenhouse was filled with ornamental plants grown at National Trust Nymans and the display won an award. We hope that the Chartwell plants will help Alitex to do likewise this year.



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