Highlights of Chelsea and Hampton Court

Meeting of the Biddenham Gardeners Association on Tuesday 18th June 2024

There was a good turn out for this month’s meeting which was on the subject of “Highlights of Chelsea and Hampton Court” by Simon White of Peter Beales Roses, Norfolk. 

Simon, who has given talks to this society on previous occasions, explained that he had 43 years’ experience with Peter Beales Roses, having been with them since July 1981. In his initial comments he mentioned “Uncle Toms Rose Tonic” which although apparently expensive, the quantity produced when diluted was such that it was in fact very reasonably priced and which he recommended as being the best rose tonic which should be applied every 14 days; it was also good for potatoes and other vegetables …
The Chelsea flower show was the most prestigious flower show in the world. Every year there were 168,000 or so visitors. It now lasted for 5 days instead of the previous 4 days. It had been held every year (except for the war years) since 1913 at Chelsea. Before then, between 1862 to 1888 it had been held at Kensington, and from 1888 to 1913 at Temple Gardens. In 1980 there were only 8 show gardens, and in that decade the number had doubled. In 1919 the Government had demanded payment of an Entertainment Tax, but the Royal Horticultural Society had persuaded the Government that it was educational rather than entertainment. In 1951 the world’s largest tent was erected as the great marquee; that had now been replaced by a construction which did not require tent poles. 

Chelsea was not the world’s largest flower show by area, the RHS show at Hampton Court took that prize, the Chelsea area being 12 acres as opposed to the Hampton Court area of 33 acres. At Chelsea, some 2000 tons of top soil was used, trees of 12 metres in height were among the exhibits. There were 500 exhibits, 100 exhibitors and 250 shopping stands. There were 185 lavatories, 3 miles of piping and the show was open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. After  5 days of talking to the public for 12 hours each day they were very weary. 14 Judges were needed with 2 moderators. In 2021 the use of Oasis was banned. At the Chelsea show, Pimms was preferred to champagne, large quantities of both being sold. Fish and chips was on offer, but Simon advised that it was expensive, and a policy of bringing your own picnic lunch was advisable. 

Hampton Court was the world’s largest flower show, and Simon said he would be there. It took some 18 months to plan each show, and there were about 140,000 visitors each year. Everything used in the shows was now recycled. The exhibitors had to leave the site exactly as they found it and as a result a lot of material had to be put in skips at the end of the shows. Some exhibitors were finding the shows too expensive, but Peter Beales Roses did not want David Austen Roses and Harkness Roses to be lonely and would continue attending the shows. 

Simon had intended to illustrate the shows by slides but unfortunately the technology failed to work and the slide show could not take place. He promised to return when convenient to give his talk again, this time with illustrations.  

A proposed summer visit to Lamport Hall Gardens in Northamptonshire on 14th August 2024 was mentioned at the meeting at a cost of £17 per person, to include a tour of the garden with the head gardener, access to the 50th Trust anniversary Art Exhibition and to All Saints Church, own transport arrangements required. The day trip to Broughton Grange Gardens on 2nd July was now fully booked. 

The next meeting of this association would be its annual general meeting on 16th July 2024 at 7.30 in the Biddenham village hall which, after a short period of reports, and election of committee members will have a talk by Peter Bradley of the Lodge at Sandy, Royal Society for Protection of Birds followed by cheese and wine. All are welcome. 

Charles Duchenne

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