Plant nursery co-operative returns to RHS Chelsea

The Plant Fairs Roadshow (PFR) will return to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Pavilion in 2024 with new nurseries joining the co-operative for the first time.

Derry Watkins at her Special Plants Nursery
Derry Watkins

The Plant Fairs Roadshow (PFR) is organised by a collective of specialist nurseries in the South East. The PFR put on the first ever cooperative stand in the floral marquee in 2023, in order to help nurseries who wouldn’t otherwise have exhibited at the world’s most famous flower show.

After capturing the public’s imagination, and attracting new nurseries to join them, the collective of smaller nurseries will commandeer a larger corner of the Marquee this year and provide a space for micro-nurseries to exhibit their plants.

Under the PFR umbrella, the participating nurseries include: Daisy Roots (Hertfordshire), Pelham Plants (E Sussex), Plantbase (Kent), Swallowfields Nursery (Kent), Miles Japanese Maples (W Sussex), Special Plants (Wiltshire) and The No Name Nursery (Kent).

Returning after 25 years away from RHS Chelsea, celebrated nursery woman Derry Watkins of Special Plants (pictured) will join the co-operative team display with her collection of unusual hardy and tender perennials plants from around the world.

Cooperative coordinator and RHS Chelsea veteran, Annie Godfrey of Daisy Roots in Hertfordshire said: “Chelsea offers an invaluable platform for us as individual businesses and as a group and we are hoping to build on the success of last year. In fact 2023 was a first time for many of the nurseries involved in the Plant Fairs Roadshow exhibition and we used smaller stands, however for 2024 we are going bigger – doubling the size – with 3 metre circle stands (7.3metres squared each) and filling our space with even more plants.”

Paul Seaborne of Pelham Plants in West Sussex, first-time exhibitor in 2023 as part of the PFR cooperative, said “It’s going to be wonderful to return in 2024 and show the huge variety of plants and specialist expertise that our plant fairs cooperative can bring to venues across the South East, from drought tolerant planting schemes to spring woodland and more.”

Last at Chelsea in 1999, Derry Watkins, known for her umbels, salvias and tender perennials, said “It’s fun to be involved in 2024 – doing it with the Plant Fairs Roadshow makes it much more do-able (it’s exhausting doing it on your own) and I’m coming back to Chelsea purely because I can do it as part of a team.”

The micro nurseries exhibitors who run their successful small businesses from their back gardens include, Miles Japanese Maples run by Miles Hayward, near Arundel in West Sussex and Rachael Castle of Swallowfields from Ashford in Kent.

“Most of the people involved in the Plant Fairs Roadshow are small nurseries and many are sole traders. You’ll find people who’ve taken a career change or sought escape (in my case from the classroom/office) to start their dream job. However, I/we all do need to be reminded that we changed our occupations for a reason, and to reflect on why we do what we do. I know how much I am motivated by the sight on the nursery of new seedlings, of emerging perennials and flower buds bursting to life. But I also know that at busy times I can be overwhelmed by the emails, calls and lists of jobs still to be done, to the extent that the joy of new life can go unheeded. Having a few moments in the garden is so important but may be less often experienced when your workplace is where you live. So, my Chelsea design will represent me taking time to clear my mind, watching the wildlife mind its own business, whilst I forget mine”, explains Rachael Castle of Swallowfields Nursery.