Rosy Hardy answers your questions on all things horticultural in our first Gardener’s Question Time.
What is your biggest challenge as a plant’s woman Rosy Hardy?
R: Biggest challenge for me from the point of view of the nursery is getting the plants to be in tip top condition at exactly the right time. We have done it for the last 24 years so we should be able to do it again. However, it doesn’t get easier - we are always dealing with the weather. Chelsea is not the same week every year - it alters. You can guarantee that day five before we have to have everything there, there will be a frost. We can be going out there covering things with fleece, dragging stuff inside just to protect. We used to forget about this when we first started.
How many extra plants do you do in addition?
R: If I’m going to use 10 plants, I will grow 30. This is to make sure I get 10 spot-on plants - I have grown 6,000 of one variety.
What frost protection do you have?
R: The main protection comes from inside the tunnels. What we use is a woven fleece material which is very light. Once put over the top of plant material, it will keep it 2oc higher than the outside temperature. The frost that you get in May is ‘snap frost’. Last year I drove to Chelsea on the Saturday (last day) and I had to scrape the ice off my car.
Is the fleece frost protection expensive?
R: You buy it by the roll. It is not too bad; it has come down in price. It’s used a huge amount in the vegetable industry. We use it all the time. Ours gets destroyed after about 2 or 3 years because the mice come in and nibble at it.
Is it too late to move perennial bushes and trees around the garden?
R: You can move them at any time, as long as you move them carefully. We carry on splitting the nursery all the time. If you are doing it for the garden, you don’t want to do it in the middle of the year because you have to cut off all the top growth because you want to make them stop growing, split them up and put them somewhere where they’ll start growing again. Right the way through until the end of April, you can still lift and move stuff around. You have to be careful with root growth, as long as you’re not damaging that then it will be fine. Don’t forget to have good, prepared ground, that’s what people tend to forget. If you don’t have that done properly then you won’t succeed.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction?
R: At Chelsea, on Sunday evening when everything is completely finished. That is the best point, then I can go ‘right I have done it, there’s no more I can do’.
What’s it like waiting for the judging to take place?
R: It’s awful. I do not sleep the night before the Tuesday morning. I’m usually awake by 5.30am, and my husband at 6.00am says ‘go on then, go to the show ground and see what you have got’ because he can’t stand my fidgeting anymore. I quite often go to the marquee at 6.30m each year on that Tuesday morning. I still get the feeling of trepidation and elation of seeing the medal.
Have you ever been approached by a National Plant Collection?
R: Yes, I was approached about 15 years ago and asked as to whether I would hold a collection of Heucheras. This was before they really became the plant and everyone tried to collect every colour of leaf. I actually turned it down because there is an awful lot of material that you have to keep with a collection; knowledge of the breeders, exactly where it came from, all sorts of numbers. At that time we weren’t in a position to do all that. I have since then (last year) thought about going back to do another collection and this time doing something we are breeding. And I was considering doing it this year too, but somehow something else got in the way. It will be my next challenge perhaps!