Cheshire Friends Hardy Plant Tatton Display 2013
The Curse of the Momo-Beni-Yama.
By Kevin Pratt
I was driving to Linda and David Race’s house because we had all planned to build a mock display the Friday before R.H.S. Tatton Show. It was a scorching hot day so we all had high factor sun cream and wore our hats. Linda and David’s front garden is small leading via a side passage to the most magnificent, intensively planted rear garden. As he was our Chairman, organiser, communication and coordinator, one hopes of a splendid array of first rate hardy plants. I was transfixed by their garden, a central lawn with double sided, meandering curved borders, heavily stocked with literally hundreds of herbaceous plants, covering hundreds of genus from Agapanthus to Zephranthes. I really couldn’t pick a favourite from so many superb plants, there were too many, oh okay, just one, Dactylorhiza ‘Robins white’ a rarely seen pure white orchid. A deliberately crossed D. fuchsii alba was crossed with D. maderensis and given to Blackthorn Nursery in the nineteen seventies. After a number of years this plant gave rise to a number of very strong growing, hardy white orchids, they were named by the nursery owners, (Robin and Sue White) Dactylorhiza ‘Robins White.’
Dragging myself away from the impressive garden, both Linda and David darted around the garden like hyper active bumble bees, retrieving plants they had grown and placing them along side the plants all our members had grow for the show. Times have changed and peoples lives are now very busy so we firstly can’t expect people to grow, deliver and donate or lend their plants for a show. My experience has shown, it is best to adopt a sceptic view with expectation. I remember asking Linda ” where are the plants for the show.” Linda stood motionless, staring, pointed at over a hundred mature, large plants and said “these” “all these.” It is going to be a dream working with so many plants.
We started with the design theme as “Silver Anniversary Garden” and John Quartermaine’s wood work, a raised area, path and trellis. Isn’t it nice when you ask for something and not only is it delivered, but delivered with something over and above expectation. John had excelled in the construction, thank goodness we had John’s skills, I personally wouldn’t know where to start with woodwork. It was decided to keep the rustic look to both the seats and trellis, however the wooden path, edging and deck lines would be painted black. Rather than lay traditional decking we broke the lines with the gravel path, this added a continual look rather than a full stop. The seating area and decking lies at the end of a meandering gravel path, which dissects two herbaceous borders in subtle colours. We avoided all hot, red and yellow colours which constantly looked out of place. We started with a pond idea which over time developed into an area for growing moisture loving plants.
We all made contributions with the planting ideas, which easily flowed considering the abundance of flowering material available. Betty Smith stopped the flow from time to time, asked us to step back and just look, most of the time she was right, it was too “fluffy” (Betty’s words) so we would pull it apart and add a few “flats.” (again Betty’s words) I hadn’t worked with Betty Smith before, but what a joy. Her knowledge of plants and design is immense. With Myself, Betty and Linda the outline (basic) design come together before tea. Although Linda Race had put most of the thoughts behind the overall design and colours, Betty and I only made minor changes to Linda’s first drawings. At this point I must not miss out Lesley Quartermaine and Jacqueline Williams who fetched, carried, moved, watered and worked their socks off both before, during and after the show. We left David and Linda’s garden on Friday with a “Tatton” show garden within a “Linda and David” show garden and said other adjustments can be made when we see what plants will be going over in this heat.
Keeping the show plants cool, shaded and watered was again left to stalwarts David and Linda and I arrived with my van early on Sunday morning. We loaded the van rather easily and the full day was taken-up by delivery, walking plants through and arranging them on the floor. Tatton was not so busy on this Sunday. Traditionally Sunday is the start of the floral marquee nurseries, but this year with one day less these nursery men were leaving it a little later. Moving in and around the show and parking was rather delightful. An early start and late finish on Monday saw our team build a stand, which had almost taken shape by the evening. Tuesday was final adjustments, a few plant changes (ones which were going over,) plant labelling, packing with paper and compost dressing. Not the busiest of days because the main work had been completed on Monday, and we still had half a day on Wednesday for final touches before the judging. During the build-up days plants went in and out the display, Tropaeolum speciosum out, Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ in, Hydrangea serrata ‘Momo-beni-yama’ dropping it’s anthers, in out, in out, dropping more anthers on the leaves, soil and floor, determined to spoil the fun. We left the marquee Monday night and the ‘Momo-beni-yama’ was not in the display, by the morning it was back in the stand! On the Wednesday morning it was decided to stand back and leave all the plants as they are and just make final touches. Our job was done.
I have personally worked with many teams including Tatton and Chelsea but I have never been part of a team which jelled, harmonised had fun and laughs, and worked so well as a team. It was a pleasure to be part of this group.
The Medal ! Obviously we wanted and we worked towards a Gold Medal. I would be Lying if I said some of us (I included) were expecting the top award and high praise. We received High praise indeed, R.H.S. Silver Gilt. Brilliant work Boys and Girls. The general public loved the complementary colours that flowed down the entire display, there was much interest for the Hardy Plant Society and many numerous praises for our stunning display. Was the ‘Momo-beni-yama’ a curse? I don’t think so but it did make light entertainment over the week.
Linda and David Race. Design, Coordinators, Administration, Growers.
John and Lesley Quartermaine. Support workers, Woodwork and construction.
Jacqueline Williams. Support worker and provider of many cakes.
Betty Smith. Design and Consultancy.
Cheshire friends, Members. Plant contribution.
Kevin Pratt. Talked Loads, Knows everyone, Van driver, helped a bit!
Written By Kevin Pratt