Bowden Hostas secures key site for next year's Chelsea

Next year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show will feature Bowden Hostas on the central monument site in the pavilion.

Main attraction: Bowden Hostas will be featured on the central monument at 2016’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Main attraction: Bowden Hostas will be featured on the central monument at 2016’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show

The Devon grower will exhibit a 600sq m planted-up train station complete with a train carriage from 1920s Belmond British Pullman, including liveried stewards in a garden themed around plant hunters from around the world.

Bowden will be replacing Hillier on the site. The garden includes hostas, ferns and bamboos, with hostas and ferns for sale in gift boxes. Bowden owner Tim Penrose said there will be no "hard sell", despite an RHS rule change in 2014 allowing plants to be stored and sold from Chelsea stands. The garden will also feature a £32,000 antique book, Ferns & Flora of South America.

"This has been a couple of years in the planning," he added. "I wanted to take a showman’s ‘wow’ garden to the pavilion and make a challenge for me. Hillier have been there for 75 years but not always at the monument, though they are still in the marquee and I’m sure they will build a great garden.

"The monument site is the most significant in the Great Pavilion and I wanted to turn it
into ‘Monument Station’ with the train in the middle and a plant hunter time travel garden around it."

Hillier, which has won 70 Chelsea gold medals, will still be in the pavilion. The Hampshire nursery’s managing director Andy McIndoe, who designed Hillier’s Chelsea gardens, left the business last month.

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants’ Rosy Hardy has designed her first show garden for next year’s event, "Forever Freefolk", sponsored by Brewin Dolphin. It is inspired by endangered chalk streams in Hampshire.

New Covent Garden Flower Market will be making its debut at the show with a floral installation exploring the symbiotic connection between the wholesalers of London’s New Covent Garden Flower Market and independent professional florists.

The 100 exhibitors in the pavilion next year will include newcomers Tom Smith Plants, Hoggarth Hostas, Plantbase and Love the Plot You’ve Got. UK Horticulture is to return too, but without former sponsors NFU and Waitrose. Marks & Spencer will have an exhibit in the pavilion, as will Interflora, but they will not be using home-grown themes in 2016.

Hortus Loci director Mark Straver said: "Shows and contract growing are the big area of growth for us in the UK and other countries like Sweden particularly through [garden designer] Ulf Nordjfell."

Straver said Bugg’s Jordanian-influenced plant list was the "most difficult list ever" with "150 plant varieities and I only knew one".

Ovens replaced the Rich Brothers at Cloudy Bay and is a former RHS young designer of the year, as is Bugg. He has a small triangular plot.

He said shows were 15-20 per cent of turnover at the nursery, which is four years old. He added that show publicity helped spark sales to the mainly private landscaping projects Hortus
Loci supplies.

Straver said: "There’s definitely a wave of optimism happening now. In the last few years larger private projects didn’t go ahead but had orders delayed and bits taken off. But in the last year to 18 months, people are saying they need to go ahead and want bits added."

Juliet Sargent has sourced an oak for her modern slavery garden from Barcham Trees and irises from Iris of Sissinghurst.

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