Local growers bloom at Chelsea

RACHEL BULLER As the Chelsea Flower Show comes into full bloom, Norfolk's green fingered experts are celebrating again after winning another crop of medals. Rachel Buller talked to some of the winners.

RACHEL BULLER

As the Chelsea Flower Show comes into full bloom, Norfolk's green fingered experts are celebrating again after winning another crop of medals. RACHEL BULLER talked to some of the winners.

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It has certainly been an interesting week at the Chelsea Flower Show. With this year's best show garden modelled on an astronaut's trip to Mars, and another of the key winners receiving complaints from Chinese visitors for flouting basic feng-shui principles, there's been a hint of change at one of the world's most famous horticultural events.

But for the hardworking plant and flower growers in Norfolk and Suffolk, it was very much business as usual as they celebrated yet more success showcasing their talents.

t Peter Beales Roses at Attleborough were celebrating yet again after scooping a fantastic 15th gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS).

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The award-winning stand showed a glorious rose garden featuring three new, specially named roses: the 'Norwich Theatre Royal', to celebrate the venue's 250th birthday and to help raise funds for the refurbishment appeal; 'Faithful Friend' in honour of the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People organisation and 'Rachel's Delight', named after Rachel Flood, a friend of the company and past president of the Canadian Rose Society.

t It was a case of the magnificent seven for The Romantic Garden Nursery in Swannington, near Norwich. It won its seventh gold medal in a row for its dramatic garden made out of clipped topiary with three lead obelisk fountains running through the middle.

Owner John Powles said: “Each year there is quite a bit more pressure to keep up that gold standard but it is thanks to a very good team of people who we have always had working on the stand.

“This includes George Carter, from North Elmham, designing, and Brian Turner, of Thornham, creating the lead statues.”

t Harveys Garden Plants, at Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, clinched gold at Chelsea for the second year running, winning the top honour in the Woodland and Shade-loving plants category.

Their display was a particular favourite of Gardeners' World presenter Rachel de Thame, who described it as a “breath of fresh air”.

But unlike those seasoned winners, the staff at Thorncroft Clematis Nursery were basking in the glow of a gold medal for the first time.

The nursery at Reymerston won the top award for their colourful display of more than 50 different plants. Jonathon Gooch, who runs the nursery with his wife Ruth, said they were absolutely thrilled after coming close for the past seven years with silver and silver-gilt awards.

“You can never second guess the judges, but we did something slightly different this year. We had always stuck to quite regimented symmetrical designs but we went for a much more relaxed, curved shape garden this year with a lovely, shaped kissing gate.”

He said the award was a reflection of the hard work the couple and their team had put in, adding: “We are planning next year already and when we get back to Norfolk we will begin potting the flowers up and thinking about 2008.”

t Howard Nurseries, based at Wortham, near Diss, not only won a silver-gilt award at Chelsea for their display of perennials but also had a hand in several other winning displays, providing plants for nine other exhibitors.

Spokesman Christine Howard said: “It is fantastic that this small nursery has grown all these plants that go to Chelsea to help so many other displays and it is something that often goes unnoticed. Winning an award for our own stand is recognition for our staff who put in so much work; it is a big thank you.”

t Other local winners included Blooms of Bressingham, who won a silver-gilt flora, Rougham Hall Nurseries, near Bury St Edmunds, which won a silver flora, Brian and Pearl Sulman Pelargoniums, at Mildenhall which won gold, and Thrive Florists, from Coney Weston, near Thetford, who were awarded a bronze.

This year's Chelsea Flower Show marked a definite change from years gone by, with a step away from the more traditional gardening displays and some more daring modern pieces - some of which provoked great debate among the horticultural fraternity.

This year's Best Show Garden called '600 Days with Bradstone' aimed to show the psychological effects of a long-term stay in space. It contained a hanging chair and a “rest pod where an astronaut can relax”. The colour scheme was burnt orange, coppers and greys.

The entry beat designs by TV gardeners Diarmuid Gavin and Chris Beardshaw, both of which scooped silver awards.

But the biggest controversy was sparked by the bronze award winner, called “Through The Moongate”. The Chinese garden was intended to draw visitors through a series of sensual experiences, but instead it drew complaints from several Chinese students who claimed that it flouted basic feng shui principles.

The Royal Horticultural Society said the visitors claimed to be “shocked by serious flaws” - the dragon statue, which was facing north rather than east, and the positioning of a carving of Buddha's name was disrespectful. However, the RHS said that while it took the complaints seriously, all gardens were assessed on horticultural merit.

There was also an emphasis on environmental issues and sustainability at this year's show, and yesterday a survey was carried out among visitors and exhibitors to see just how green as gardeners we really are. The green audit will test how much gardeners know and care about how to make their gardens more sustainable and how many people are putting it into practice. The RHS hopes to use the results to help advise people on how to make their gardens even greener in years to come.

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