First time on Main Av­enue

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Chelsea 2016 -

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

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