First time on Main Avenue
Rosy Hardy has won 20 gold medals for her plants but this is her first show garden at Chelsea. By Val Bourne
Idiscovered how special Rosy Hardy is well over 20 years ago when I watched her put together an indoor Chelsea exhibit amid the cluttered chaos of the plant pavilion on the Sunday before the show opened. She plucked a pink potentilla from hundreds of pots, handling it like a newborn baby, twirled it around and then placed it next to an orange flower, a trollius from memory. I remember thinking that pink and orange would clash horribly – and then realised that they went together incredibly well. Even though it’s not the done thing to interrupt exhibitors when they are building important exhibits, I summoned up my courage and asked her why. Rosy pointed out that the pink potentilla had orange stamens and this allowed the two plants to hold hands visually.
That was back in the days of the canvas marquee. Rosy recalls: “When there was a gale, it sounded like you were on board a ship. It flapped and clattered, and the light was so poor it faded all the colours. A rich ruby penstemon would turn white by the end of the week.”
It didn’t put her off, though – she has exhibited ever since and, with 20 gold medals, is the most decorated woman to exhibit hardy herbaceous perennials at Chelsea. Her stands always include two “talisman” plants from 1992 (her first Chelsea), the hosta ‘Thomas Hogg’ and a red-flowered broad bean given to her by Garden Organic.
This year marks another first – a show garden for the investment firm Brewin Dolphin. Rarely have plantswomen of Rosy’s rank – Beth Chatto, Carol Klein and Jekka McVicar come to mind – left the shelter of the Great Pavilion for the glare of Main Avenue.
Rosy and Robert Hardy, of Hardy’s Four new plants in the Brewin Dolphin garden
Masterplan: Forever Freefolk for Brewin Dolphin, Chelsea 2016