Cardiff heralds a 'vintage' show season

Next month's Chelsea Flower Show is set to be the most colourful for years predict exhibitors after the RHS outdoor show season started brightly at Cardiff.

RHS Cardiff show drew record numbers of visitors - image: HW
RHS Cardiff show drew record numbers of visitors - image: HW

However, some specialist growers voiced concern that their plants will be over by the time of the big shows.

Nursery exhibitors at Cardiff reported strong sales of colourful specimen and larger plants to replace those lost in the cold winter. At the same time, many said the warm start to the spring had rushed plants into flower earlier than expected.

The show attracted a record 27,000 attendees, up from 20,000 in 2010, while RHS shows director Stephen Bennett said tickets for Chelsea from 24 to 28 May were selling "faster than in its history".

"The city is buzzing with the first outdoor show after the long, cold winter," he said. "The speed with which plants are coming into flower is staggering. We are expecting a broad range of seasonal flowering plants at Chelsea." He said the RHS had rejected six sponsored show gardens because of lack of space.

Garden writer Peter Seabrook said the show season should be a "vintage" one: "The very cold November and December was unusual and gave us a very early vernalisation. Then the warm February sap started to rise and you can't hold that back. We will probably see more natural material at Chelsea and Malvern."

He said salvia, lobelia, delphinium, lathyrus and iris will look good but tulips, wisteria, scabia, auricula, aquilegia and lilac could be over.

Aquilegia specialist Three Counties Nursery owner David Hitchcock said: "The warm weather has not made things easy. Five weeks away and the success of Chelsea is uncertain. The weather will affect specialist nurseries worst, although it could be good for herbaceous growers who struggle to get plants to flower before June, July or August."

Rhododendron grower Millais Nurseries owner David Millais said: "We have 10,000 plants worth of stock, but what concerns me is that the season is running two weeks ahead of schedule."


- Paul cook, owner, cook's garden centre

"Big plants and Italian specimens are selling well and £1,000 sales are frequent. Shrubs and hardy plants have sold better than for a long time as people have lost so many. There's a reluctance to replant phormium and cordyline. But a lot have had them 15 years so investing £30 for another 15 is not bad."

- Rob Evans, owner, Pheasant Acre Plants

"For Chelsea we have gladioli in different shades than previous years. Last year we had a cold January and February but this year they are growing quickly."

- Rob Hardy, owner, Hardy Cottage Garden Plants

"For the past two years we've had cold springs but if this season it is easier to grow you will see different plants at Chelsea."

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