Winning garden fit for a Queen

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 13:00 21/05/2014

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A family effort has won Nelson-based landscaper James Wheatley a prestigious award at this year's Chelsea Garden Show, and even caught the attention of the Queen.

British-born Wheatley is in London displaying the "very, very English" garden which was commissioned by gardening organisation South West in Bloom to celebrate 50 years of gardening.

He worked with his father, award-winning British horticulturist Jon Wheatley, on the garden, which won the Diamond Jubilee award.

It used many plants which Wheatley's mother had grown and his younger sister also helped out with planting.

"It was a dynamic crew and a family effort, that's what I love about it; it's a collaboration between all of us. That's a magical thing to be involved with."

The Queen's visit added to the occasion.

"That was quite amazing, I did get incredibly star-struck by the whole experience. I was quite nervous, but as soon as she arrived I bowed, and we shook hands." He said he "thoroughly enjoyed" the meeting.

He explained the display and they also spoke about growing your own vegetables.

"She asked if people did it [grew vegetables] more these days; I mentioned my children liked to go out in the garden in New Zealand and we had a really nice conversation about growing food."

The display had elements to encourage this, with some "tongue in cheek" life-size versions of characters from children's TV show The Herbs, made from plants to entertain children at the event, which stood among the vegetables.

Wheatley runs Landform Landscape Services in Nelson, but is a multi-award winner at previous major British gardening shows. Along with his father, he has won awards at the Chelsea Flower Show, Gardening Scotland, and the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in Surrey.

Wheatley and his team split their 12 metre by 12 metre display into four sections which was to celebrate different elements of horticulture through the southwest of England.

The garden represents the more "formal and colourful traditions" of gardens in Bath and Bristol; it also goes into the countryside, and "rolls into a big, wide meadow area" with wetland meadow plants as well as a pond with aquatic plants. It then runs into coastal elements to represent Devon and Cornwall.

Wheatley went straight from the airport to working on the display, chasing the clock to get the display ready. "It was insane. I had no time for jet-lag. I kept pushing on and working away."

He said there were hundreds of varieties of plants in the display. It took six months to plan and seven days to put together.

Next on Wheatley's agenda is creating a New Zealand "major show garden" at the show.

Wheatley said he was "champing at the bit" to be able to do this and hoped it could be for next year's event.

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- The Nelson Mail

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