Howard Nurseries helps bring iris display to Chelsea

Plant Heritage Collection holder, Sarah Cook, is bringing her National Plant Collection of irises to the grand pavilion at the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, in partnership with Howard Wholesale Nurseries.

Sarah Cook
Sarah Cook

The stand will be showcasing tall bearded irises bred by Sir Cedric Morris. Howard Nurseries who have won gold and silver gilt medals at Chelsea, and have been growing Morris’ irises for seven years, now have enough stock to furnish the project.

Artist Sir Cedric Morris ran the East Anglian Art School at Benton End, Hadleigh, Suffolk from 1940. He was an iris breeder and plantsman. His irises were shown at Chelsea in the late 1940s until mid 1950s, but have not been seen there since.

He is credited with breeding the first ‘truly pink’ irises, including one called ‘Strathmore’, shown at Chelsea in 1948.

Cook, past head gardener at Sissinghurst Castle for the National Trust, was born and bred in Hadleigh and retired in 2004. She has spent the last 10 years researching Sir Cedric Morris and collecting his irises. In all he bred and named about 90 irises, but many have been lost to cultivation. In 2004 she set out to collect any of his irises which had survived, and the collection now contains more than 25 of his named irises, obtained from private sources and botanic gardens in Britain, Europe and the USA.

Cook said: "It is a chance in a lifetime to be working with Howard Nurseries who have all the skills and experience to grow plants for showing. Without their input it would not be possible to showcase the work of such a renowned artist and Iris breeder."

Plant Heritage chief executive Sarah Quarterman said: "We are delighted that Sarah has found a trade partner to work with in order to be able to showcase her Collection at Chelsea, tell the story of Sir Cedric Morris and then be able offer these rare plants for sale to the public. It is a great example of Plant Heritage conservation in action."

The exhibit will have a large planting of Morris irises and vases of iris in a studio area. The garden and studio areas will be enhanced by backdrops painted by Cherryl Fountain.


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