21st May

FJ Williams Profile Picture
FJW 1955-2007
CH Williams Profile Picture
CHW 2015-
JC Williams Profile Picture
JCW 1897-1939
C Williams Profile Picture
CW 1940-1955

2018 – CHW (photos to follow)

2017 – CHW

The echiums have not made it so go into the skip which leaves rather a big empty hole. The Magnolia sieboldii has flopped and has to be cut down and rearranged. When we untie the loo paper from the buds of Magnolia ‘Summer Solstice’ one of them opens brown and bruised so it has to be cut off and binned and the three plants rearranged.

We end up with nearly every plant we have brought used up on the stand but still a big empty hole behind the cash point. So a hasty trip to Hillier’s to beg half a dozen big evergreen ‘things’ to fill the hole. Hillier’s have over 20 trollies full of plants spare from their stand so this is not a problem. The holes get filled.

Then the cut weigela decides to flop so we have to take out this corner of the stand and raise up the things in front of it so you can no longer see it properly. This all wastes an hour or so.

We are short of turf but Justin manages to scrounge some and he and Freddie Williams do the final brush up and turf laying around the stand.

Then we all look for hours at every angle of the stand for gaps and holes or droopy individual flowers. Worse still, pots which the judges might spy. This takes all of us most of the afternoon while Gerry writes the final plant labels. We cannot now reach some of the plants on the centre of the stand so much balancing and reaching with long bamboos.

The fountain has lost 3in of water in 24 hours so needs topping up. Where has the water gone? Clearly another Rayner leak but no evidence yet of a boggy patch around the stand.

At 4pm we have the group photo and Louisa and Rob go home.
Chelsea group photo
Chelsea group photo

2016 – CHW
It looks as though Louisa and Rob will need to stay on an extra night but we are well on course to be nearly finished by Saturday evening. The cut stuff is coming out much too quickly and it is extremely hot in the tent today. We end up shipping back about 12 trolleys of plants which are surplus to requirements including quite a few rhodos which have shot their bolt and gone over. Very different year to some in the past where we have had to go begging and borrowing from others to fill the last few holes. The great thing about the show this year is that we have five people who actually know what they are doing putting up a stand and can get on under Gerry’s guidance without any fuss or drama, and complete the last minute fiddling which Gerry and Louisa are so good at.

The emerging story of the show is the orient express railway carriage which sits resplendent on the Bowdens stand alongside us. Even on Saturday the top end of the stand has not even been started on and it is laughingly obvious to all that a cock up is emerging.Bowdens used to be simply a hosta company and now they have acquired a fern business as well. Quite what ferns and hostas have to do with the orient express is anyone’s guess and the two look entirely ridiculous together.

The Hillier’s stand which is not on the monument for the first time is already finished and they too are enjoying the increasing panic among the hosta fraternity. To cap it all Bowdens come cap in hand to buy all our remaining hostas and our last 300 litre bale of bark mulch which I make them pay for. In fact they admit to being 4.5 tonnes short of bark mulch. How is it possible to underestimate the amount of bark mulch needed by 4.5t?

The RHS have offered them physical support because they are at least 20 pair of hands short in having even the faintest change of finishing the stand on time.

It transpires that the owner in a previous existence ran a funeral business – astonishingly it went bankrupt.

His track record with other exhibitors has involved a number of fracas over the years, one requiring a police presence. To cap it all there are rumours of a certain amount of skulduggery by the RHS to get the train on board although many had countenanced caution. So it looks like the RHS may be partly to blame for the impending disaster.

2015 – CHW
An uneventful trip back and home by 1pm in time to write up the post Chelsea stand list of what sold best from the stand so that the website can now show the whole stand with key insets of:

Viburnum plicatum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’
Viburnum plicatum ‘Kilimanjaro Sunrise’
Salvia 'Love and Wishes'
Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’
Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’
Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’
Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Victoria’
Enkianthus campanulatus ‘Victoria’
Lupinus ‘Manhattan something – Lights?’
Lupinus ‘Manhattan Lights’
Decaisnea fargesi
Decaisnea fargesi
Disporum longistylum
Disporum longistylum
Zantedeschia 'Pink_Flamingo'
Zantedeschia ‘Pink_Flamingo’
Podophyllum persepele ‘Spotty Dotty’
Podophyllum persepele ‘Spotty Dotty’

I was quite wrong about the enkianthus and embothrium being too far out to use on the stand.  The Caerhays plants were but the Burncoose plants were excellent as was the cut embothrium.So now for the dreaded ‘thank you’ letters to staff,  sponsors and even, perhaps, the RHS! This will have to wait until I have recovered from six days at Chelsea.  Three of hard labour helping build the stand,  one of parties and celebrities and two killers with the public.

My least favourite week of the year is finally over.  Hooray! AND,  if anyone else says you must have had such a wonderful time I will throttle them even if Burncoose did,  this year, put up an unrepeatable performance at Chelsea 2015.

1988 – FJW
Dry spell continues – but not too hot – a normal good spring as we used to know it. M highdownensis good.

1929 – JCW
Magnolia wilsoni the early one is at its best. No Parviflora but several Nicholsiana are out on the big plant and very large flowers making 7 inches across. Double Avium is not fully open.

1916 – JCW
Azaleas near their best. Sappho seedlings nearly over. Very near 1912, it is hot and dry.

1912 – JCW
Now leaving for the International and Scotland, Bluebells over, Montana over, Azaleas going over, Auklandii nice. Mrs Butler and Falconeri over, Viburnum plicatum and Sappho the two best things. Thomsoni pink coming, white going, Waterer’s good.

1910 – JCW
A fair lot of May. Bluebells at their best. C montana rubra and Van Tubergens Iris well over. C montana ⅔ open. Azaleas opening. R auklandii over.

1908 – JCW
All the early tree ferns half grown, cold east wind has spoiled some.

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