Top five nurseries at RHS Chelsea

Top 5 growers and their plants at RHS Chelsea

Eagles Sweet Peas

..have had a tough growing year to get enough sweet peas together but you would never know. Owner Derek Heathcote brought his usual quality display to Chelsea and added another gold medal to his collection.

New to his stand this year was Sweet Pea ‘Ballerina Blue’ described as ‘a must for exhibition and cut flowers.’ It has four large pale blue florets per stem, a good scent and has been awarded an AGM. It was good to see one of my favourite sweet peas Henry Thomas on his stand.

Swapping sweet pea stories with such an experienced grower was always going to be interesting and we nodded wisely together over his mantra: ‘It’s a good root system that produces the flowers.’

Derek Heathcote of Eagle Sweet Peas at RHS Chelsea Flower Show Richard and Heather Godard-Key from Fibrex Nurseries at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Fibrex Nurseries

Owned by Richard and Heather Godard-Key (see above in front of their gold medal winning stand), Fibrex Nurseries is the go-to place for heritage, modern, specie and scented pelargoniums (still known colloquially as geraniums). With over 2,500 varieties in their collection, pinning down a favourite was always going to be hard but we did discuss their top three scented geraniums: ‘Attar of Roses,’ ‘Lemon Fancy’ and ‘Lady Plymouth’. Surprisingly, I learnt that regal pelargoniums are particularly good for bees.

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants

Rosy Hardy is one of our plant heroes and if she recommends a herbaceous perennial it’s worth listening! In 2013, Hardy’s championed Nepeta grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’ and it was featured on their stand this year. It has gone straight onto my bucket list along with this year’s introduction Antirrhinum ‘Pretty in Pink’ – This is a perennial, rust resistant snapdragon with a long flowering period. Sounds perfect to us and well worth trialling next year.

Rosie Hardy at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015 Antirrhinum 'Pretty in Pink'

Trewidden Nurseries

The most south westerly nursery in the country specialising in exotic plants. The Aeonium display stopped me in my tracks. Most of us are familiar with A. ‘Schwarzkopf’ – often resembling a walking stick with black succulent leaves on rosettes sticking out of the top; this plant is really only suitable for big container schemes. Trewidden are offering homebred Aeoniums ‘Du Rozzen’ ‘Merry Maiden’ and ‘Poldark’ which are far more compact for low maintenance container plantings.

Intriguing Proteas and other exotics will make this nursery well worth visiting online when it rebrands as Penberth Plants in the autumn.

Robinsons Seeds and Vegetables

Susan Robinson is part of this legendary vegetable growing family. Many of their vegetables, forced over the winter in challenging conditions, are also good for a family garden. A small tender cabbage, Hisp F1, that can be used like lettuce early in the season, featured in the front of her display. Its size makes it a good choice for supper without leaving mountains of cabbage to lurk in the fridge.

Her comment to me that ‘Fruit and veg should hover between life and death’ (under stress the plant puts all its nutrients into the edible parts) was music to my ears. There is now an excellent excuse for deprived tomato plants.

Susan Robinson at RHS Chelsea Flower Show Tomato tower at RHS Chelsea Flower Show


You may also like: Top 5 things we learnt at RHS Chelsea.

Top five things we learnt at Chelsea

Inspiration for Gardeners.

The RHS Flower Show is the greatest flower show on earth. It takes 800 people 33 days to build the show in the grounds of the Royal Hospital. The show gardens are built in 19 days. 5 days later, the grounds are restored to grass and the Chelsea pensioners can enjoy their walks in peace again.

The Show features over 500 exhibitors from around the world. That’s a lot to take in, so here is my edit of the top 5 things that inspired us from this year’s show.

Top 5 things we learnt at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015:

  1. The plants:

Of course, the plants. I have picked 3 that stood out for me as being particularly worth adding to our collection at Easton.

  1. Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ available at Dyson’s Salvias
  • This is a new introduction and has been awarded 3rd prize in RHS plant of the year 2015. I loved the dark maroon stems and flowers the colour of Ribena. It makes a bushy plant 80cm x 80 cm, flowers for the whole summer and is loved by bees. In our garden we will keep it in pots so that it can overwinter in a cool greenhouse. (Photo Credit: Plants For Europe)

Salvia Love and Wishes - an amazing colour William Dyson - Chelsea exhibitor - with Salvia Love and Wishes

  1. Aeonium ‘Poldark’ at Trewidden Nursery
  • This homebred Aeonium really excited me. We grow A. arboreum ‘Shwarzkopf’ – a fabulous plant for large planting schemes but inclined to look like a walking stick with a black succulent on top. Aeonium ‘Poldark’ is a cross between A. ‘Shwarzkopf’ and A. arboreum and has all the qualities of its parents as well as a branching compact habit. Perfect for low maintenance summer containers.

Aeoniumpoldark.jpg-large Aeoniums at Chelsea

  1. Nepeta grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’ at Hardy’s Plants
  • First launched at Chelsea by Hardy’s in 2013, this compact catmint has stood the test of time as it weaved through the planting on this year’s display. Catmint flowers all summer but can flop about a bit – this new cultivar holds its shape better. Compact, weather resistant and a great alternative to lavender for those of us who have soil that lavender just doesn’t like. See this year’s introduction here.

Rosie Hardy at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015 Nepeta grandiflora 'Summer Magic'

  1. Alpines

As many of you will know, we have recently added a large alpine bed and troughs to the Pickery at Easton Walled Gardens. The clever ‘here’s-one-I-made earlier’ or ‘alpines for dummies’ approach by Rotherview Nursery made picking and mixing alpines in troughs a breeze. Zoom in to the pictures below to see their guides to each trough.

Alpine trough RHS Chelsea 2015 Alpine Trough RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015

  1. Plant Tunnels from Plant Belles

We are big fans of rusted metal at Easton Walled Gardens. Likely to have been made from recycled products, the burnt umber colour fades into the green landscape and provides support, rather than a clash, to your colour scheme.

plant belles plant tunnels

Rustic do-it-yourself plant tunnels in various heights protect your precious crops from pests and cold. The hoops hold bamboo canes which form a framework to take plastic or fleece. Green, easy and with no maintenance issues, we like the idea of trying out Plant Belles metal hoops in our vegetable garden.

  1. Tomato Conversations with Paolo Arrigo of Seeds of Italy and Susan Robinson from
    W. Robinson and Son.

One of the big draws of Chelsea Flower Show is meeting like minded people. Talking to vegetable specialists if you are a gardener and love food is an intensely pleasurable experience.

chelsea flower show 2015 269 Susan Robinson at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Here is the master of italian edibles, Paolo Arrigo (not quite a pensioner yet!) and Susan Robinson, part of a legendary dynasty of vegetable growers. In two 10 minute conversations I learnt some canny observations that could take a lifetime to discover. In fact, I learnt so much that I will be posting some of their tomato wisdom later in the year. In the meantime you can discover more plant recommendations and tips from the award winning nursery owners I spoke to here.

  1. Chatsworth and Dan Pearson. A winning combination.

Chatsworth sets the standard for country houses throughout the world and Dan Pearson has massive design credentials so it seemed fitting that these two giants should occupy a prime space in the show ground. (If you are unfamiliar with Dan Pearson’s work his site is well worth a browse.)

Laurent Perrier Chatsworth garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show Laurent Perrier Chatsworth Garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The design emulated Paxton’s monumental rockery and the Trout Stream in the grounds at Chatsworth. The attention to detail was so exact that I almost expected rabbit droppings on the ground in the meadow area. Orchids sprang from the sparse turf and dense mature clipped box added weight as the visitor approached the little stream before the ground rose towards the rockery.

Huge rocks gave height and drama and allowed for some interesting planting opportunities. On the east face of the rocks, Disporum longistylum ‘Green Giant’ nestled into the rock face providing just the right scale and balance to the hard landscaping.

A gold medal and the ‘Best in Show’ award seemed a foregone conclusion and the garden was an outstanding feature of a great show.

You may also like this post: Top 5 nurseries at RHS Chelsea.

So Alan doesn’t like twitter?

So, Alan Titchmarsh doesn’t like twitter? Then he is missing out on the friendliest gardening communication channel there is and he is missing out on one of the best ways to share the successes and failures of gardening.

A little gardening knowledge can be very hard won and 140 characters is often all it takes to spread nuggets of advice to other gardeners. A lot of time is saved by asking the fantastic gardening community on twitter to help with horticultural problems.

Fascinating images posted by world class photographers, entomologists, botanic gardens and wildlife enthusiasts means every day is richer. We retweet these often because we just can’t resist such beauty and want to share our own love of the natural world.

Naturally this means we are very keen tweeters and are grateful to everyone who shares their pictures, answers queries or is just up for a chat about our favourite subject. You can follow us on @ewgardens for Ursula’s thoughts or the gardening team on @ewgardeners

In the spirit of our twitter world and for our twitter and Facebook followers who do like to use social media or if you are just wandering around our website and stumbled across the blog, here are some of our late summer images and thoughts from the gardens which we hope you enjoy……

ripening pears

Beauty in the late summer garden has to be sought out. For sure, the rudbeckias, dahlias and gladiolus still look fresh in the Pickery, Our 80m long borders are designed to peak now with white phlox and asters (particularly this year when everything is so early) and the greenhouse is full of tomatoes and cucumbers but in the wider garden you might need to look a bit closer.

The Pickery

Take the two images below. The top one shows how flat the light has become and the grasses have taken on their familiar baked appearance. Gardening on limestone, this is an occupational hazard. As soon as the rain stops the colour drains from the grasses.The immediate impression is of a finished season but careful inspection reveals some surprising beauties. The violet colour of this late scabious is set off by the bleached grass behind. At any time of year, meadows benefit from this kind of close attention. Once the majority of the flowers have set seed all of this will be cut and harvested for hay.

meadows and verbascum
 meadow scabious summer terracesIn the Pickery, the sublety of the colours in this annual grass, Hordeum jubatum, reflects the changing season
hordeum jubatumAnd when the sun comes out, anything in the brown or beige spectrum, plants or not, look gorgeous backed by a deep blue sky. Here our sweet pea seed is drying in the greenhouse.
South Kesteven sweet pea harvest

Meanwhile, in the greenhouse next door, tender fruiting plants remind us that there is still plenty to look forward to in late August. We have been picking F1 cucumbers for the tearoom and the first of the tomatoes are now ripe. Our favourite is Tomato ‘Cuor di Bue’ or the Bull’s Heart Tomato. Big, heart-shaped and succulent, this is the ultimate tomato for  tomato and mozzarella salads marinated in oil infused with the basil grown here too.

EWG 12.8.12 (79) greenhouse low res