24th 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

2017 – CHW

A boiling hot day where working on the stand was a form of torture unknown to those who have not worked here and ‘enjoyed’ Chelsea.

We get a visit from Carol Klein who is looking a bit parched herself and offer her the job of manning the stand while we go and chill out in some shade.

Visit from Carol Klein
Visit from Carol Klein

Several potential new landscape customers emerge and the show seems more crowded than for several years. The RHS must have let in more than the 20,000 permitted at any one time?Meanwhile at home Jaimie is preparing a batch of Magnolia grandiflora bark to be sent off to a perfume manufacturer. A slow tedious job but another use for a magnolia!

Magnolia grandiflora bark
Magnolia grandiflora bark
Magnolia grandiflora bark
Magnolia grandiflora bark
Magnolia grandiflora bark
Magnolia grandiflora bark
Magnolia grandiflora bark
Magnolia grandiflora bark
Magnolia grandiflora bark
Magnolia grandiflora bark

2016 – CHW
Arrived at Chelsea this morning to find we had been awarded another Gold medal.
Unlike last year, but understandably, I get to the stand before Justin and discover that the judges have been impressed by the theme of the centenary as well as the stand and given both Burncoose and Millais gold medals, while the group got a silver gilt medal for their stand. (Read details of gold award for Burncoose.) Everyone is very happy. In the main marquee it turns out there are 67 gold medals which is an all-time record and probably well-deserved when you look around. The judges have been less generous with the outdoor gardens which strikes us as pretty fair.Meanwhile consternation on the hosta/railway stand with the boss saying to me ‘Yes, Charlie, I know about plants not railway carriages’. The plants are pretty crap though and they have been awarded a silver medal (note, not the same as a silver gilt). But then the skulduggery starts with the RHS clearly feeling embarrassed that the key note monument stand failed to win gold for the first time in living memory. The RHS want to give it an upgrade but the judges are not having it and a frightful row is starting behind the scenes. After much debate the silver medal remains silver and the queues to come aboard the train are 200 yards long which obscures the hostas which do not sell at all. Bowdens put out special offers signs which the RHS then demand are to be removed although no one quite knows what the rules say about special offers. Bowdens refuse to remove the special offer signs so a standoff is achieved by evening with the prospect of much more fun and rows to come.

Naomie Harris on the Burncoose Stand Chelsea 2016
Naomie Harris on the Burncoose Stand Chelsea 2016

Wolfgang Bopp returns to the stand as he is obliged to do as head judge to tell us what the judges thought. Last year we were told that although we got gold our stand was far from perfect and had room for improvement. This year he is much politer and really not finding much fault despite our drooping ‘Ruby Hart’. He did however state that the judges did not like the black and white steps but were impressed we had removed the hard edges by using skeletal magnolia leaves. So it really is the last minute details. Well done Gerry who produced the leaves from her handbag late on Sunday night.

Lizzy and I attend the president’s buffet lunch which is pretty dull apart from the Yorkshireman who receives the best in marquee trophy for his stand of January flowering hepaticas. It has taken him three years of trialling to hold back the small flowers in cold store for the show. Amazingly the RHS had banned him from entering as they considered his entry not interesting enough. A degree of egg on face as the chairman announced the award. The award winner is overcome with tears and the BBC roll up to capture the moment.

We also attend the president’s drinks where there are no chairs for the tired exhibitors and I complain to the chairman who agrees and the catering manager gets a bollocking. The president’s young sons are there – an interesting combination. One of them has a palm oil business in Sierra Leone. We stagger back to Paultons Square where Sir Brian is having an impromptu dinner party with Martin Lewis, the former news presenter. I survive two courses hopefully without saying anything too silly and, obviously plastered, retire thankfully to bed.

2015 – CHW

Recovering from the wedding revelry which went on on the lawn until 2.30am.  Good income but a lot of hassle too and absolutely no photos for security reasons as the groom is ‘one of those’.   Two military drunks require Mary and the bouncers in the early hours.

Magnolia ‘Summer Solstice’
Magnolia ‘Summer Solstice’

Magnolia ‘Summer Solstice’ is going over and I have missed the exquisite pink tinge to the opening buds.  Fair mess still to clear up from the fallen beech here and Ross’ fire has scorched the acer.

R Species unamed
R Species unamed
R Species unamed
R Species unamed

Rhododendron species in flower at the top of Hovel Cart Road.  I thought at first Rhododendron facetum but it is not when I look it up.  Any offers.  Nice layers below the plant and I find two more in the 1932 species planting above the big quarry.

Rhododendron decorums
Rhododendron decorums
Rhododendron decorums
Rhododendron decorums

Several self sown but true to name Rhododendron decorums on the bank above the old Lower Quarry Nursery bed.  Wonderful bark on this species.

Rhus ambigua
Rhus ambigua
Rhus ambigua
Rhus ambigua

Rhus ambigua (ex Crug Farm) is a real oddity.  It’s a climber for one and its flowers do not look even faintly like a rhus to me.  Tom Hudson was puzzled too.  It is certainly very vigorous and doing well on this old yew trunk.  It did set seed last autumn but we missed them.  I suspect a labelling cock up as I can find no reference to this species in ‘New Trees’ nor in the new Hillier’s.

Azalea kaempferi
Azalea kaempferi
Azalea kaempferi
Azalea kaempferi

Azalea kaempferi – a variable evergreen azalea species.  Here with slightly double or hose in hose flowers.  I once judged Nigel Holman’s exhibit at the Cornwall Garden Society show as ‘Not According to Schedule’ and he was lapel grabbing cross. Lady Falmouth separated us!

Syringa microphylla ‘Superba’
Syringa microphylla ‘Superba’
Syringa microphylla ‘Superba’
Syringa microphylla ‘Superba’

Outside the front door and 20 to 30 years old is Syringa microphylla ‘Superba’.  I suppose one can tolerate fairly miniature lilacs in this case with little scent, when they look like this.

1996 – FJW
Bangers died. Very late year. Flowers still on Veitchii – not all Beeches yet in leaf – flowers on Horse Chestnuts. Azaleas excellent.

1954 – CW
First really wet day for a long time. 8 young swans.

1927 – JCW
The Azaleas red pink and white would beat their best now but for the sun and want of rain. Mag parviflora and nicholsiana are the best flowering shrubs now and like the sun in season.

1919 – JCW
The Auklandii’s go back, Azaleas are coming on. A few roses. Standish rhodo’s are very good and so Sappho hybrids. Calendulaceum is about opening.

1910 – JCW
Just as in 1908. Viburnum just starting – C montana rubra gone. Maples over ripe. P pulverulenta very good, R gibsoni open.

1908 – JCW
Primula Cockburniana open. Azaleas at their best.

1906 – JCW
Auklandii, fragrantissima, Mrs Butler etc going back. Viburnum, Laburnum, R roylei, R gibsoni opening.

1898 – JCW
Picked some ripe G Spur and H Irving.

1897 – JCW
Moved Jacko and some seedling daffs. Ponticums in full flower.

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