Exhibitor laments RHS rejection

Devine Nurseries owner Tony Devine takes up other jobs after missing out on some RHS shows.

Devine: claims that hand-written signs contributed to RHS decision - image: HW
Devine: claims that hand-written signs contributed to RHS decision - image: HW

A leading RHS nursery exhibitor says he has lost most of his business and had to take up landscaping last winter after the RHS dropped him from all its biggest shows in 2014.

Devine Nurseries owner Tony Devine, winner of 95 RHS Gold Medals, said the RHS rejected him from Chelsea, Hampton Court Palace, Gardeners' World Live and Malvern because it did not like his hand-written signs and because he sells plants on his stand that may not be part of his exhibit.

"I got Cardiff and Tatton but I didn't get the rest," said Devine. "I've been growing for 40-odd years and I've done them all since they started. I'm very disappointed. It's a lifetime's work gone in a year.

"I'm welcome at every other show in the country and do 95 per cent of my business at shows, but I've had to take on landscape work for someone else and putting up log cabins in the winter to make ends meet."

He could lose 80 per cent of his mail order business, Devine added. "The RHS said they don't like my handwritten signs and that some plants we sell don't match our displays, but with nearly 400,000 bulbs in the ground you can't expect them all to be on the selling table. They've not said anything we could put right for next year."

Devine Nurseries grows 350,000 alliums and up to 8,000 Eremurus in East Yorkshire. The RHS has been inspecting its nursery exhibitors this winter for the first time in a decade.

Potash Nurseries owner and Horticulture Exhibitors Association representative Mike Clare said: "Tony Devine has not been given so many RHS shows, which are generally the better ones so everyone wants to be in them. I've not been given Wisley for the past two years."

Clare suggested three-year guaranteed show acceptance to give nurseries a chance to improve their glasshouses. He added: "Shows aren't guaranteed income but at least if you know you're there it's easier to invest."

RHS reply - How applications are considered

The RHS would not discuss why it rejected Tony Devine's applications. "Each year we receive many more applications for RHS shows than we are able to accommodate," it said.

"To be fair to all applicants, to identify and introduce new exhibitors and to offer visitors a wide a variety of exhibits, applications are considered according to medal records, support for RHS shows, balance of applicants in each plant category, seasonality of plant material, encouragement of new exhibitors, geographical factors, after-sales service, quality of plants for sale and compliance with regulations at past shows."

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