Shropshire hopefuls in running at Chelsea Flower Show
The Chelsea Flower Show 2013 was getting under way today as the world-renowned event celebrates its 100th anniversary, with a clutch of Shropshire-based exhibitors flying the flag for the county.
Gardeners and florists are making sure the area is well represented at the show, with creative cacti, beautiful blooms and even a metalwork flower.
Chelsea is big business and is even believed to be worth around as much as £200 million to the economy. Around 600 exhibitors flock to show off their designs and innovations every year, helping to dictate what will be in vogue in the gardening world for the year ahead.
Experts at David Austin Roses based in Albrighton, have been putting the finishing touches to a garden of around 500 strains of rose, in an explosion of colour.
White, pink, red, yellow and apricot-coloured roses are all included in the garden.
It also boasts four new varieties of roses – the Lady Gardener, the Albrighton rambler, Thomas A Becket and Carolyn Knight.
Michael Marriott, technical manager at the company, said: "It's a beautiful rose garden.
"It's got to be a highlight of the show. There's a mixture of shrub roses, climbing roses and standard roses."
The company, based in Bowling Green Lane, has been attending the Chelsea Flower Show since 1983.
Mr Marriott said staging an exhibition there, particularly one of the larger gardens, could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.
But he said the prestige of the show is enormous and is one the company would never miss.
"It's the most important of all the shows," he added.
"All the eyes of the world are on it and its the show where people make the most effort to produce the most wonderful designs."
Bradley's leather tannery of Bridgnorth, which has been hand-making leather goods using traditional methods and local craftsmen for over 20 years, is there, along with Oswestry-based textile artist Alison Holt, and CJ Wildbird Foods of Upton Magna - a former Shropshire Company of the Year.
Hartman Outdoor Products, which has its UK headquarters in Telford, is also using the show to show off its collaborations with the likes of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, Kew Gardens and ITV's Love Your Garden landscaper David Domoney.
Bosses from a cacti company were among those making the 132-mile journey from the Black Country to the grounds of the Royal Chelsea Hospital.
Stan Griffin and his partner Vicki Newman, who run Craig House Cacti, did not take a winter break this year so they could concentrate on their spiky creations. The West Bromwich pair, who have already won four gold medals at past Chelsea Flower Shows, are hoping to wow the crowds once more in the centenary year.
Mr Griffin, who has been growing cacti for the past 50 years and runs the business from Durham Drive, said: "We hope our entry catches the eye."
The couple's display will include a 100-year-old Adenia globosa, which has four-feet-tall spikes.
It also features a Euphorbia horrida which is around 30 years old and in flower, as well as a Calibanus hookeri – which looks like long river reads
One of the most unusual displays at this year's show is expected to feature the handiwork of a Black Country engineering firm.
Tividale-based Barnshaws Section Benders was asked to produce a metal flower with a distinctive curved stem for one of this year's displays.
The firm normally specialises in curving huge metal girders for bridges and construction projects. Sales estimator Paul Price, who oversaw the project, said: "We get a lot of these kind of one-off requests and about 90 per cent of the time we never know where the work ends up.
"One of our machine operators, Rudolf Ava, handled this job, which involved induction bending the five-inch stainless steel pipe to create the S-bend."
Judging was taking place today and gold, silver gilt, silver and bronze awards will be handed out tomorrow morning before the doors open to the public.
Chelsea Flower Show has always been popular with the Royal Family, with the Queen herself a regular visitor on press day.
Media from around the world will attend and it will get hours of television coverage.
Identical twin florists Jessica and Victoria Richards are taking part in this year's show and said it is the most important date in the horticultural calendar.
The 24-year-olds both work at Lavender Florist, in Penkridge, and have both bagged a spot at the prestigious event.
Victoria, a former pupil of Pool Hayes Community School in Willenhall, said:?"It's a very important show for growers and gives people who are bringing something new to the industry a chance to show what they are doing. It's a constant trendsetter for garden design and gardening."
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