Postcards from Chelsea: part 4
This year at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, we were very pleased to be awarded five stars from the RHS judges for our trade stand on Main Avenue. Visitors to the show might not be aware that the trade stands at the show are judged, just like the gardens and the exhibitors in the Great Pavilion. After all, Chelsea is a very special flower show, and it’s important that trade stands have the highest levels of presentation, and an approach which goes beyond simply selling. Creativity, design and theatre all attract positive comment from the judges.
Well, it seems our stand opposite the Welcome to Yorkshire garden had all of that – in spades! Our fabulous fluorescent FloraBrite range danced in front of a backdrop of black planting, making a spectacular sight that stopped passers-by in their tracks.
The gorgeously dark heuchera which formed the dramatic backdrop were sourced from Cheshire-based Plantagogo, and to learn more about these black beauties, I went along to meet Vicky and Richard Fox on the Plantagogo stand in the Great Pavilion.
2017 is Plantagogo’s ninth year at Chelsea, and with eight consecutive gold medals under their belt, the pressure was on for the husband and wife team. Although the couple were busy with final preparations to bring their stand to the peak of perfection, they very kindly took some time to give me a crash course in heuchera – and I was very taken with what I had thought of as a rather inconspicuous foliage plant.
On the stand in front of me was a virtual firework display of heuchera, with spears of flowers shooting upwards from a huge variety of multi-coloured leaves. Inconspicuous? How wrong could I have been…?
There were around 35 varieties on the stand this year, and Vicky explained that since Plantagogo started specialising in heuchera back in 1990, the nursery has launched up to 10 new varieties a year. The couple hold three National Collections: of heuchera (with round leaves); of Tiarella (with star-shaped leaves); and Heucheralla (a cross between the two, with round but deeply serrated leaves).
Heuchera may be beautiful in their variety, but they’re very tough little plants. A North American woodland plant, they can cope with both sun and shade, are fully hardy, and even laugh off slugs, so Vicky claimed. I’ll be putting that to the test!
As a rule of thumb, the deeper colours tend to be happier in sun, while the paler colours cope better with shade. The only thing that’s a ‘must’ for heuchera is well-drained soil, as they don’t like sitting in water.
One of the stars of the display was the heuchera ‘Thomas’, developed by Plantagogo. It was by far the largest heuchera on the stand, and really caught the eye with its striking flower stems some two feet tall. Vicky told me that the variety was named for their very tall basketball-playing son, who earned 55 caps for England’s youth teams and then played in the States. One to be justly proud of – both son and plant.
On our Burgon & Ball stand at the show, we featured the varieties ‘Black Taffeta’ and ‘Slater’s Pink’, which is one of the Foxes’ own developments, launched just last year, with a dark leaf and bright pink flowers in summer. I’ve taken some home to try around my own garden, and I’m confident they’ll look wonderful.
Thanks to Vicky and Richard for their time on a very busy day – and congratulations on a ninth consecutive gold medal at Chelsea!