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Growing for gold at Chelsea Flower Show

A Kent man has been chosen to design the main sponsor's show garden at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show.

With one month to go, KM garden writer found Roger Platts' nursery is a hive of activity.

Roger Platts checks the lavender plantsThe Wealden sandstone pond edging had just arrived from the quarry.

Roger Platts rips open the plastic wrapping like it's Christmas to reveal curved slabs of still-damp biscuit-coloured stone, twinkling with specks of black and silver.

"Well, that's beautiful. Fabulous. It will look even better with the alchemilla just softening the edges," he declared, delighted with his rather extravagant order.

"This is really quality stone. We wouldn't normally be able to use it, but as this is a Chelsea garden I could justify it. Old reclaimed stone cut into a contemporary style - very exciting."

Quality is the by-word for the Celebration of the Traditional show garden Roger will create at RHS Chelsea this year.

His trademark natural planting schemes made him the front runner to design and build the main sponsor's garden in the main avenue.

M&G Investments is a global company and is sponsoring the garden to highlight its ethos of "nurturing expertise" while upholding the traditions and values of M&G and the RHS. The quintessentially English show garden will take prime position on Main Avenue (plot MA18).

Roger Platts delights at seeing a young plant unfurl in the first April sunshine.Roger has been gardening most of his life. He won gold at Chelsea in 2002 and returned to the Great Pavilion last year to receive silver-gilt for his floral exhibit.

This year he will need 4,000-5,000 plants to choose from for his show garden. From those he will probably select 2,000-3,000.

Of these, 80 per cent will be grown at his Edenbridge nursery. "I live on site, so I can keep an eye on the plants all the time," he said.

"When you order in plants that can be stressful - because once they arrive, that's it. By growing so many here I have more control and can watch the plants evolve and keep a constant eye on their growth."

With one month to go, Roger is at full tilt - inspecting and moving plants from greenhouse to greenhouse to either bring them on, slow them down or simply hold their growth; the electricians are in to finalise their work and achieve a safety certificate; the hard landscaping and tanks are laid out in the car park; the phone never stops ringing; deliveries arrive; the BBC needs its daily diary update and yet Roger remains calm, relatively unrushed and totally focused.

So the Celebration of the Traditional show garden plan is laid out - but it is not all cast in stone. It will be interesting to see what makes it into the final scheme and what other surprises Roger may pull.

Roger Platts and Jenny Noscoe go through the final M&G show garden design

Roger Platts and Jenny Noscoe go through the final M&G show garden design

Only the highest quality planting will achieve the RHS Chelsea Gold medal and by the look of what's growing at Platts Nursery it must be worth a bet.

  • RHS Chelsea Flower runs from May 24-29. Tickets range from £14 for RHS members and £19 for non-members. Tickets must be bought in advance on the Chelsea Flower Show website or call 0844 209 1810.
  •  If you can't make it up to Chelsea, Roger Platts will be opening his own garden at Leydens, Edenbridge, as part of the National Gardens Scheme on Sunday, August 8, noon to 5pm. See The Yellow Book 2010 for more details.
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