Familiar names return to RHS Chelsea Flower Show to inspire the public

Inspiring displays, spectacular plant launches and emotional returns and anniversaries are likely to make the Pavilion as great as ever when the RHS Chelsea Flower Show opens its doors on 25 May despite the challenges of the harshest winter in decades.

The new plant award will provide additional interest for those growers who overcame the weather to get their plants ready in time and should help bolster the show's commercial value to growers. Rosy Hardy, of Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants, is vying to become the most successful woman in Chelsea history as she looks to secure a 15th gold medal. Her two new plant launches will also be in contention.

She said: "The new award is a good idea. The initial assessment will be done by the plant advisory board and then turned into a list of 20 plants from which the committees will choose."

Hillier Nurseries is looking for its 65th consecutive gold medal with its exhibit 'Adventures in Gardening'. Managing director Andy McIndoe has designed a series of interlinking gardens inspired by the colours of Venice, Morocco, the Himalayas, the water's edge and woodland glades.

McIndoe said the Pavilion remained vital to Hillier, providing unrivalled market research through contact with the gardening public. But its chances for the new plant award may be jeopardised by the cold weather.

Hillier show manager Ricky Dorlay said: "I'm pretty anxious about the new plant release Philadelphus maculatus 'Sweet Clare', which is really struggling to put on growth at the moment. "

However, McIndoe believed the cold weather could be a good thing because plants do not need to be held back, making them more likely to survive the week intact.

Matching the Hillier glitz will be veterans Geoff Whiten and Peter Seabrook, who are working together on a series of eight gardens backed by The Sun. One of these is thought to be the first in show to be grown by school children.

Andrew Fisher Tomlin is curating the continuous learning zone and designing the RHS exhibit, both of which will celebrate the UN's Year of Biodiversity.

He said: "We are going to make it more about an interactive feature, so that all these learning stands work together in a much more integrated way."

The RHS exhibit will feature two gardens illustrating the loss of green space since World War Two. Among the stands in the learning zone will be one from the Food & Environment Research Agency highlighting how the public can contribute to the Defra programme.

The World Land Trust will have a stand to promote the fight to save the rainforest, while UK Climate Impacts Programme will explore how plants can be used to make a better environment. Capel Manor's garden will demonstrate how plants can help to reduce crime rates.

There will be celebrations around the tent as numerous growers reach major milestones. Hippopottering Maples will put on a display of 100 maples to mark the 100th birthday of director Margaret Gibbons. It will include traditional maples and new cultivars including the miniature 'Gibbons'.

Raymond Evison has a double celebration - it will be his 50th Chelsea and 2010 is Guernsey Clematis Nursery's 25th anniversary. The nursery will unveil Clematis diamantina at the show.

W Robinson & Son will put on a display highlighting its five generations of vegetable cultivation, while vegetable guru Medwyn Williams will reappear five years after vowing "never to return" because he wants to introduce his son and grandson to the show.

Their display may also link with the 50th anniversary of the National Vegetable Society. The Pavilion is sponsored by M&G Investments and runs on 25-29 May.

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