Ornamental hedges, trees of all shapes and sizes, bright flowers, and innovative garden designs are the bread and butter of RHS Chelsea Flower Show exhibitions. Some transport visitors to jungles, others to coastlines, but few themes ever leave one cold. Here, we ask one of its 2017 florists, Jane Wadham, some questions about the show and her participation, so that those staying at the Egerton House Hotel (where Jane is the florist) are fully informed when it comes to their horticultural day-out.
Could you please tell us about your floristry background?
“I started my business at 23 after a brief stage with incredible floral designer Robert Day. Sadly, he died all too young at 40, but I was inspired by my time with him to develop personally as a florist and to start out on my own.”
What’s your first gardening memory?
“My first gardening memory is of planting Nasturtiums with my mother aged three.”
What was the overall idea behind the design for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017?
“Chelsea 2017 is a twist on the “English country garden” using British-grown seasonal flowers such as peonies, sweet peas, delphiniums, poppies, flag iris and scented climbing roses.”
What sort of work goes into the project behind the scenes?
“The process of being the RHS official gala night florist starts in December when we present to a group of our clients, alongside the RHS and Raymond Blanc’s team (Raymond works with Sodexo to create the dining). The process takes about four months of working on a total of sixteen designs, with a 26-person team to make and install the flowers over a four-day period.”
Are there any other exhibitions at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 that you’re excited to see?
“Yes, Maggie’s Garden. This wonderful cancer charity is all about creating soothing spaces for people and their families going through the frightening ordeal of cancer.”
How would you describe your style in your garden at home?
“Our garden at home is full of orderly topiary buxus, as well as climbing plants such as clematis, honeysuckle and jasmine. It’s a classic British garden with French Knot Garden inspiration. Lavender and white roses also play a big part!”
What’s your favourite flower?
“I don’t have a favourite flower. Asking me to choose would be akin to asking a mum “who’s your favourite child?!””
Who were your mentors, if any?
“Constance Spry, then Ken Turner and Robert Day. Not in person, but very much my inspiration. In terms of someone who believed in my ability and gave me the financial support then it’s my brother, Mark, without whom there would be no Jane Wadham Flowers! For the past 20 years, my constant support and inspiration is jointly down to Paul Balland, my remarkable husband.”
Are there any ways that the Chelsea Flower Show supports up-and-coming talents?
“Yes, there are two important competitions. People compete to become either the best Young Gardener or Young Florist.”
If visitors want to continue their love-affair with gardens outside the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, why not book a few nights at the exquisite Egerton House Hotel, where Jane’s green fingers are put to good work in the lounge’s floral displays: the perfect place for a spot of afternoon tea. To experience a horticultural wonder, visit The Rubens at the Palace’s magnificent Living Wall with over 10,000 plants.