THE Chelsea Flower Show is a spectacular annual showcase of gardening and floral design talent that attracts exhibitors and visitors from all over the world - and gardeners and flower experts from Gwent will be heading to London to take part. ANDY RUTHERFORD reports
ANYONE who paid a visit to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) show in Cardiff last month, will be keen to catch a glimpse of the botanical delights on offer at the society's showpiece Chelsea show next week.
Plenty will be heading to London for a first hand look, while many others will tune in to television coverage or read about the show in newspapers or online.
For a select few in Gwent however, Chelsea 2014 will provide a showcase for their talents, a fabulous opportunity to show off their skills and their wares to a knowledgeable and discerning audience.
The Chelsea Flower Show may no longer be the UK's biggest such event - that epithet is now the boast of the RHS' Hampton Court Palace Flower Show - but it still lays claim to the title of the most prestigious.
The show has been held in the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital in London since 1913, with the exception of years during the two world wars, and it has long been a stage for the exhibition of gardening and floral excellence.
More than 500 exhibitors will be there this year, and though the show runs from Tuesday May 20-Saturday May 24, the finished gardens, displays and other exhibits will be the product of 25 days of organisation and construction.
A handful of Gwent-based exhibitors make the trip along the M4 every year and in recent years some have been garlanded by the exacting show judges.
Garden designer Arne Maynard, who lives near Usk, is among the most recent to strike gold at Chelsea, for his design of the Laurent-Perrier Bicentenary Garden in 2012.
Heading back to Chelsea this year is award-winning florist Charlotte Cooke, from Abergavenny, who is one of five young florists chosen to help design the Interflora exhibition.
The 27-year-old, a senior wedding florist at Hilary’s Floral Design in Abergavenny, has worked with her mother Hilary at the family-run business on Cross Street since she was 19.
She has earned bronze and silver awards at Chelsea in recent years, the former for her entry in an Interflora Florist of the Future competition, the latter for a floral chandelier design, and she calls the show "the best of the best."
"I have been part of the competition before but never as a member of a team. It’s a big honour to be part of such a big exhibition. This is the first year they have showcased young florists and what we can do,” she said.
Ms Cooke and her fellow florists are being mentored by David Ragg, a RHS Chelsea gold medal-winning Interflora florist, to create this year’s design, and each has designed their own wire frames.
She said her trademark has become the use of craft material in her work, and wool banded hoops are forming part of her design - and while some of it is made ahead of the show, she and her fellow florists will have two days pre-opening to attach the flowers.
Also among the attractions at Chelsea this year will be Penhow Nurseries, a family-run company that has established itself over almost 30 years as the leading breeder and producer of diascias and nemesias. It sells millions of plants and seeds a year, all over the world.
The nursery is also a regular exhibitor and winner at Chelsea, with an incredible show gold medals an indication of the expertise developed at the nurseries since it was started in the mid-1980s. And once again, spectacular displays are set to show off their creators' hard work and dedication.
There is also a return to Chelsea this year for the eyecatching and intricate work of Border Sundials, based at Clytha, near Abergavenny.
If you are going to Chelsea next week, or are considering a trip, the best way of getting an idea of what to expect is by visiting the Royal Horticultural Society website at www.rhs.org.uk and following the 'shows and events' link. Tickets can also be bought through the website.