The backbones of every RHS flower show are the specialist nurseries who fill the Floral Marquees with riots of colour and choice plants from all corners of the world. In 2016, the RHS launched the Master Grower scheme, a new scheme designed to raise the profile of one nursery at each major show.
Fibrex created an immaculate, incredibly varied display at Malvern that showed off their many specialities, interspersed with stylish black-and-white pictures showing the nursery and staff, and their work behind-the-scenes.
Founded almost 60 years ago by Hazel and Dick Key, and now run by their children and grandchildren, Fibrex had two Plant Heritage National Plant Collections: Pelargonium (more than 2,000 cultivars), and Hedera (ivies, with 390 species and cultivars), both of which were prominent in their display. They rubbed shoulders with two other specialities, southern hemisphere plants and hardy ferns. This eclectic mix of plants reflected the interests of family members, past and present.
Nursery owner Heather Goddard-Key explained the Society asked last autumn if the nursery would like to be Malvern’s Master Grower, and preparations began almost immediately, sourcing large pieces of wood for the ferns display section. They did their first ‘mock up’ of the entire display as long ago as November.
"We then did two or three more versions – but of course everything changed when we got here and began putting the stand together for real – but we’re very pleased with the result".
Integral parts of the display were the lovely black-and-white images gracing the ferns section, the results of two days' shooting at the nursery by photographer Neil Hepworth. The result was some 130 images, from which the staff themselves chose their favourites. The ferns section has a walk-through area, allowing visitors to get up close to both plants and pictures.
Pelargoniums in all their variety are Fibrex’s biggest sellers, and continue to grow in popularity.
"There is a definite trend away from the larger Zonal and Regal cultivars, towards more compact plants, with scented-leaved cultivars, and species, particularly in vogue," said Heather.
Among the diverse pelargonium section, a Rosebud cultivar (fully-double flowers that do not open completely) P. ‘Australian Pink Rambler’ caught the eye, as did coloured leaf cultivar P. ‘Deanna Westwood’, with lovely chocolate-tinged, lime green leaves and red flower - a paler version of well-known ‘Vancouver Centennial’, displayed nearby. Compact Angel pelargoniums are also growing in popularity: the blooms smothering ‘Fairy Orchid’ demonstrated exactly why. All three are suited to smaller gardens, and are not difficult to overwinter, kept on the dry side and frost-free.
To summarise, Heather acknowledges the designation of ‘Master Grower’ means significantly more exposure for the nursery chosen, and she believes it is a much-needed way to raise the profile of growers at RHS shows, which hopefully will be reflected in increased interest - and sales.