Regular readers of this blog will remember a post we did a couple of weeks ago about the vegetables and herbs that we have been growing here at Chartwell for use in a display for Alitex Glasshouses at the 2012 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. For those of you that haven’t seen it, you can play catch up here.
Well, it cannot have escaped your attention that Chelsea has finally arrived! Watching the coverage on the BBC every year is enough of a treat for most of us but some of our gardeners have been lucky enough to get to check the show out for themselves. Donna and Alastair were charged with transporting our precious plants from Kent up to London last Friday (May 18th) to create the arrangement on site. Here’s is Alastair’s report on the day:
“After one or two last minute concerns (some of the tomatoes had started wilting – was it terminal?), the plants were ready for taking to Chelsea. Nelly and Eric arrived in Alitex’s van bright and early so that the plants and Donna could be carefully loaded up and taken to Chelsea, where they were met by Alastair, who had bravely volunteered his help for the day.
The scene at Chelsea was one that the public rarely get to see: controlled chaos, noise, exhaust fumes, dust, huge lorries unloading tens of thousands of plants and all manner of horticultural equipment of all shapes and sizes. And hundreds of workmen and women in hi-vis vests and jackets, every one with a focussed and rather worried, sometimes panic stricken, look on their face, desperate to get their display absolutely pristine in time for judging on Monday morning.
Our own Alitex National Trust greenhouse had just been prepared and was ready to fill with plants, so off from the van came tomatoes in growbags, sweet peas, peppers, Marigolds, kale, courgettes, and all sorts of herbs, both culinary and decorative. We wondered if we would have enough room for everything!
The plants had all survived the journey but Donna and Alastair were starting to show signs of stress and were wilting dangerously, so a liberal dose of fish and chips was called for, then – down to work. Position the specimen tomatoes first, then veg such as kale with a different leaf texture for a bit of contrast. Let’s put that variegated basil in next, that looks good. What about a marigold or two for a bit of colour? It’s companion planting, so it’s logical with veg. Hey, let’s get the growbags in, the courgettes look stunning! Mind your back, they’re heavy!”
The hard work wasn’t finished yet though. The following Monday, Donna returned to Chelsea, this time with Rhiannon, our Academy trainee. They made a few last minute improvements and final touches to the display so that Alitex’s glasshouse was looking at it’s best before the serious job of judging began.
It was a media frenzy at the Chelsea Flower Show that day. The Alitex/Chartwell greenhouse was a hot ticket on the Main Avenue:
They even had time to do a spot of hobb-nobbing with the celebs! Alice Fowler, who incidentally introduced me to the joy of eating young Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ leaves via a Twitter conversation recently (tastes like rocket crossed with cucumber if you’re interested!) was all too happy to pose with the girls from Chartwell…
Once the dust had settled, it was time for the important business of judging and the giving out of awards to begin. I am very pleased to report that our Alitex exhibit won the RHS Chelsea Tradestand Trophy for excellence of exhibition! Donna and her team have put a huge amount of work into this project and so we are thoroughly chuffed to have contributed to this award. We even raised a glass of champagne to the fact in the bothy at tea break today!
If you are visiting the Chelsea Flower Show for the rest of its run, then I really hope you can find the time to check out our fantastic herbs and vegetables in the Alitex glasshouse. And if you can’t, as I said in the previous Chelsea blog post, we will be bringing our plants back to Chartwell where they will form part of a new display in the Kitchen Garden.