Top 5 growers and their plants at RHS Chelsea
..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.’
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.
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.
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.
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