As the rain lashed down on Halloween, Dawlish Garden Society was in for a treat without any
tricks. The invited speaker was Saul Walker who is Head Gardener at Stonelands, a local Dawlish
manor house. We can also hear Saul on the Sunday morning, BBC Radio Devon gardening
programme.
He was here to talk about his time as Show Manager at RHS Chelsea, sharing his experiences
through extensive photographs and a short video.
Saul started work with the National Trust at Antony, in Cornwall, where he was an apprentice and
then moved to Kew to complete his training before he was headhunted by the Royal Horticultural
Society to run their show at Hampton Court. This was such a good training ground that he was
soon offered the chance to manage the running of the most prestigious flower show in the world –
Chelsea.
Saul talked us through the history of the RHS shows, from the start in 1813 where Rock Gardens
were the height of fashion – when the show started the London Social Season, to the present day.
Now there is an 18 month planning cycle and involves teams of people managing operations and
infrastructure. He gave us all an insight into the logistics of moving 5 metre wide Amelanchier trees
into sponsored show gardens which can cost up to £1 million to install, to the delicate, creative,
exotic floristry. The Show covers 3 acres of the Chelsea Hospital grounds with an enormous Floral
Pavillion erected in just 1 day by a team of expert contractors.
Nowadays the brief for the designers must include how the Show Gardens will be used when the
Show closes. In fact this year, Dawlish is a beneficiary of a Chelsea Garden co-designed by the
Duchess of Cambridge.
To round off the evening, Saul proudly showed us the Gold Medal award he won at Chelsea for his
display of Orchids – another passion of his – before taking questions from the members. A
thoroughly entertaining and interesting insight into a British institution.
The next meeting will be held at The Manor on Thursday 28th November at 7.15 where the speaker
will be Suzanne Jones on how to use Prairie Style Planting in your Garden.
Members £1, Visitors £2 to include raffle and refreshments.