By KG contributor, Steve Neal
At the Chelsea Flower Show this year there was a small yet significant presence of vegetables among the blooms. But they punched well above their weight and visitors craned their necks to catch a glimpse of what was on offer.
Just off the main drag it was Radio 2’s Chris Evans Taste Garden that pulled in the crowds with multi RHS Chelsea Gold Medal Winner Jon Wheatley’s allotment garden design featuring some stonking brassicas and lettuce. They made a handsome display and showed the beauty that comes from a straight, untouched row of plants.
Mary Berry who helped with the choice of vegetables said ‘The garden is bursting with delicious and tasty plants to whet the appetite and help you feel good by enhancing your lifestyle and health and well-being.’ Dahlias, violas and nasturtiums were the edible flowers in the garden as well as a greenhouse.
In the Great Pavilion in the Discovery Zone, Sparsholt College’s Mighty Greens picked up on the healthy living theme as well. Their stand featured different varieties of water cress, including dwarf, leafy and American in a single bowl with running water. The versatility of the plant was demonstrated, from watercress as a street snack to its use in cutting-edge cancer prevention research.
Chris Smith from Pennard plants in Somerset has been coming to Chelsea for years, ‘Chelsea gives us the street cred and although we are primarily sell heritage and heirloom seeds we like to introduce to people the best of what is new, with flavour being our primary consideration.’ Chris felt that the tomato Patio Plum with its unusual curled leaves was ideal for the small space patio grower.
The Cardinal pepper looked spectacular too with its black fruit, ripening to red.‘A very heavy cropper,’ said Chris.
There was also plenty of demand for seeds at Pennard Plants.
Plant of the year was a fruit this year. It has taken over 40 years for Japanese breeder Mr Matsunaga to create this unique Dwarf Mulberry Bush that is compact with tasty berries, fruiting over a long season: everything the existing mulberry tree isn’t. 30 years of hybridising culminated 10 years ago, and since then the plants were propagated in Japan before coming to Europe.
Finally, it was good to see Morrice Innes collection of potatoes garnering so much interest. A strict potato-only exhibit, the humble spud has never looked so beautiful with over 140 varieties on display, historical and heritage, with their uses explained.
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