Hillier Chelsea's most successful exhibitor - ever

Hillier Nurseries and Garden Centres are relishing the title of most successful exhibitor in the 102-year history of the Chelsea Flower Show after winning their 70th gold medal.

Hillier's Ricky Dorlay greets the Queen. Image: Hillier
Hillier's Ricky Dorlay greets the Queen. Image: Hillier

The win was largely thanks to the efforts plantsman Ricky Dorlay and managing director Andy McIndoe.

Seventy-four-year-old Dorlay coaxed 4000 trees and plants to the point of perfection in preparation for the show, earning his 50th Chelsea gold in the process, a milestone which the plantsman said left him "absolutely thrilled – and a bit emotional".

"You never take anything for granted, so it is absolutely wonderful news," he said.

Dorlay personally manages the growing season of more than 200 species of trees and plants, from birch trees and flowering cherries to garden roses, flowering cornus, agapanthus, astelias, viburnums and foxgloves. Each demands specific heat, light and growing conditions to reach their peak time for Chelsea.

He has learnt to judge when a variety needs to be held back and when it needs moving on. Japanese maples and selected evergreens are brought into the Chelsea glasshouse in November to protect them from the worst of the winter weather, while flowering cherries go into the cold store as earlt as January and don’t emerge until early May. Roses, rhododendrons and hostas are moved under glass in early March as they start to bud up.

"Mother Nature holds all the cards and every season is different," Dorlay said.

The win also clinched a 25th Chelsea gold for Andy McIndoe, who designed the exhibit with a theme of ‘Crossing Continents’, illustrating how plants from across the world have become classics of British gardens.

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