UK display creator calls for sponsor for Chelsea 2015

Shop window for British-grown produce needs help to plug sponsorship gap for this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

UK Horticulture: a shop window
UK Horticulture: a shop window

The organiser of a long-standing RHS Chelsea Flower Show exhibit dedicated to promoting UK horticultural fresh produce is appealing for a financial backer for 2015 to allow the multiple gold medal award-winning stand to take its place at the show.

Penny Riley, who had expected existing main sponsor Waitrose to sponsor the display for a fourth year this year, said the UK Horticulture exhibit needs backing of around £50,000. Without it, UK Horticulture may not have an exhibit at Chelsea for the first time in almost half a century.

Waitrose has said that it will sponsor the display again in 2016.

Riley said this year's event would have been her 35th presenting the stand. She has had 17 consecutive golds. "I applied for a site and got 100sq m but it looks like it's not going to happen," she said. "It's getting late now. We can't do it without a sponsor."

Riley has organised the stand since the 1990s, on behalf of the NFU, which has sought commercial sponsorship to pay for the exhibit in recent years. "Waitrose has sponsored for three years and had said they would do a fourth, which is why we held on and didn't look for anyone else," she said. "They've been a very good sponsor."

Riley said the NFU has felt the exhibit has not received the media coverage it deserves. But BBC producer David Henderson has been in touch with Riley to talk about a TV feature on the display.

The growers donate or are paid wholesale rates for flowers. Riley said: "They're such good quality. The uniqueness of the stand is that no-one else exhibits fruit, flowers, veg and plants together, and it's all UK-grown."

The BBC suggested splitting the Chelsea plant pavilion into UK and continental sections, but the RHS has told exhibitors it is scrapping the continental theme because it would be too difficult and fragmented. But the RHS and BBC still plan to promote UK-grown.

NFU horticulture and potatoes board chairman Guy Poskitt said: "The NFU is rightly proud of its long history of representing British growers at Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

"We first started displaying at the shows in the late 1940s and in that time have been promoting our great British produce on the world stage. However, there have been occasions when we have not displayed.

"While we have taken this decision following consultation with our members, designers and partner Waitrose, we are already discussing our plans for next year.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank the committed and professional team of designers and growers, whose efforts have never failed to wow the crowds at the shows, and to our partner Waitrose who we have been working closely with since 2012."

Waitrose buying manager for horticulture Emma Coupe added: "It's a great privilege to work with the NFU to champion British produce and especially so at such outstanding events.

"Over the years the fantastic work of the designers and growers has really captured the imagination of visitors and we're very much looking forward to working with the NFU again in 2016."

Lincsflora - Fears aired over proposed closure of cut flower grower

UK Horticulture organiser Penny Riley is among industry figures who have voiced concern about the proposed closure of Britain's biggest cut flower grower.

Lincsflora, formed from Winchester Growers this year, has told staff that it is looking at proposals to close the business (HW, 6 February).

It supplied alliums, peonies and lilies to Riley's NFU/Waitrose UK Horticulture exhibit in 2014. Riley said Waitrose may now be forced to source lilies from Holland after previously having them supplied by Lincsflora. "I don't know of anyone else here who is doing them," she added.

"We've lost a lot of the big growers and it's a real struggle to find UK cut flower growers now. It's a great shame they don't get more support from Government. If it closes it will be terrible for the industry. People don't realise what's going on. It's another huge hole in British horticulture that will go to the Dutch. I don't know where it's going to end. I can't see anyone taking it on and that's such as shame."

NFU chief horticulture adviser Chris Hartfield said: "It is sad to hear that at a time when there is an increasing demand for British-grown cut flowers one of this country's biggest growers is considering closure. If British growers are struggling to justify investment in new facilities, then all players in the supply chain need to come together to identify where the challenges are and whether they can be overcome."

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