RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2021

This year is the 99th year of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and it’s going to be an invigorating, inspiring and most welcome distraction!

From 21-26 September you will be able to, once again, savour the show virtually from the comfort of your couch. However, for those up for an outing and some fresh air, you will be able to see, smell, touch all the flowers in all their petally glory!

Hooray! We're excited too!

Although we appreciated the virtual show last year and earlier this year, we must admit, it wasn’t quite the same. After a challenging period of time this is a great opportunity to leave the stress behind us and immerse ourselves in the restorative powers of nature.

That’s why, at this years show, the therapeutic value of having plants around is being celebrated as well as the life and work of nurses and the NHS, with a series of show gardens dedicated to honouring the nursing profession.

An Autumn Show

The shift from May to 21-26 September means a different kind of atmosphere, but Autumn has just as much to offer as Spring. In fact, Autumn is the perfect time for Alstroemeria as their flowering season extends right up until October. Parigo Alstroemeria will be exhibiting again at RHS Chelsea after nearly two decades so keep your eyes peeled for that. You will also see the likes of Salvia, Dahlia and an array of grasses and fruit and vegetables.

You’ll have the chance to bask in show-stopping gardens designed by famous designers and many wonderfully creative floral artworks. There'll be plenty of neat ideas and advice on growing plants in containers, inside and out, as well as gardening on your balcony or in any other small space.

The Chelsea Flower Show is a magnificent melting pot of horticultural specialists, florists, nurseries and designers producing a fabulous explosion of creative expression! This is the place to see what’s trending in the gardening world with products such as gardening tools, sculptures and, of course, plants aplenty.

Some gardens to look out for:

Guide Dog’s 90th Anniversary Garden - telling the story of when the first guide dogs were trained in the 1930s for blind war veterans and the wonderful work these creatures do, bringing liberation and connection to the blind.

Bodmin Jail: 60° East – A Garden Between Continents - a blend of European and Asian plants brought together by the landscapes of the Ural Mountain creates a refreshing and calming, atmospheric journey

Green Sky Pocket Garden - showing innovative use of smaller outdoor spaces, bringing nature back into the city.

Pop Street Garden – a colourful pop and street art inspired space to hang out and have some post-lockdown fun!

This show is not to be missed!

Even if it should rain, the show must go on! In fact one year when it was a thoroughly rainy show, one of the exhibitors dubbed it ‘The Chelsea Shower Flow’ (more odd facts here).

Due to covid safety precautions, the number of visitors will be less than in previous years so it’s best to book those tickets as soon as possible.

And if you don’t manage to nab a ticket to the show you can still enjoy the festivities by taking a walk through the streets of Chelsea. They’ll be full of all things flower with themed floral activities and displays.

British Alstro

Now is as good a time as any to be proudly British.

Because, why not?

Also, with more interest in buying local and supporting smaller, homegrown companies closer to where we live, why not add Alstroemeria to that list?

British Grown

Some of us may remember a time when 90% of the flowers supplied in the UK were British grown. We were all going along swimmingly until a fuel price hike in the UK and Dutch government subsidies turned the tables in the 1970’s.

Up until a few years ago, the percentage of British grown flowers sold in the UK was less than 15%. And 90% of that was going to the supermarkets. But that is starting to change.

Although Dutch flower companies have been one step ahead in the flower industry since the 70’s, government subsidies have recently started being phased out which is having a impact on their production.

With many campaigns encouraging greater enthusiasm for British flowers, the demand for British grown flowers is steadily growing.

If you’re in England and buying Alstroemeria grown in British soil, there’s no doubt you’ll be getting a better quality plant. It makes sense to buy plants that don’t have to travel for weeks to get to your door.

Think about how we humans often feel after travelling a few hours on a plane.

Not a pretty sight...

British Bred

Although Alstroemeria originate from South America the first new varieties were bred in Spalding, Lincolnshire by plant breeder John Goemans, becoming known as 'the father of alstroemeria’. He was the first in the world to grow Alstroemeria commercially under glass, introducing the first Alstroemeria variety specifically intended for glasshouse growing in 1959.

By the late 60’s breeding really took off with his launch of pink ‘Ballerina’ - the first of about 50 new varieties he developed over the years for the garden and cut-flower industry. This led to Alstroemeria becoming one of the major glasshouse grown cut flower crops in the world today. In 2018 John Goemans’ company 'Parigo' was taken over by Alec White of Primrose Hall Peonies, where the growing and breeding continues.

There are now about 250 different varieties of alstroemeria available in Britain. We grow over 200 varieties on our 8 acre nursery based in rural Bedfordshire, including original British bred Parigo varieties (such as ‘Apollo’, ‘Friendship’ and the ‘Little Miss’ series), the ‘Colorita’ (‘Princess’) series, ‘Inca’ series, ‘Planet’ series and Inticancha collection. Some of our favourites are ‘Rock ‘n Roll’ and ‘Colorita Fabiana’ with their beautiful and unusual variegated leaves.

Alstroemeria are marvelous because of their comparatively long vase-life (up to 2-3 weeks) and have a long, prolific flowering season.

And strong stems & long bracts make British grown alstro a first prize choice. Also, known as a ‘dry’ and a ‘cool’ crop, they require very little watering or heating.

So they are a sustainability win too!

Gives us reason to be even more proudly British.

And that’s why we love ‘em.

Caring for your Alstroemeria

It could be said that Alstroemeria are a bit like Goldfish. Such an easy pet. You just sprinkle a few flakes at them everyday and keep those air bubbles going and there you have it. Much ado about nothin’!

Well, in a similar way Alstroemeria are such vigorous bloomers they don’t need much encouragement to keep going and growing.

But how much care does an Alstroemeria really need?

Here are some guidelines to help you along:

Feeding

Alstroemeria are hungry little creatures, so regular weekly feeds through growing season from May to September is recommended and will encourage them to flower well and repeatedly. A high potash fertiliser is recommended such as our Alstroemeria Feed.

Mulching

All of the Alstroemeria plant varieties we grow are garden winter hardy but, for the first couple of winters while they are establishing, it will be best to mulch well to make sure your new plants are protected until they are well established and can get through the winter without any assistance.

Watering

Alstroemeria are reasonably drought tolerant but will need regular watering during the summer months. If your Alstroemeria are planted in containers these tend to dry out quicker so make sure to keep the ground moist but don’t over water.

Alstroemeria need free draining soil. This is essential for them to grow well and establish in the normal way. The root system doesn’t like to be waterlogged as this can cause the roots to rot and likely cause it to die.

Picking Flowers

Alstroemeria are fabulous flowers in a vase and can last many weeks. A few tips for picking your own Alstroemeria are as follows:

Pick at the point when the buds are not yet open but have colour and looking ready to pop. They will last longer in the vase if picked at this point.

You’ll want to get hold of the stem about halfway down and give it a gentle twist followed by a sharp tug which will pull out the stem. This ensures that there are no pieces of stem left to rot which can cause fungal disease to build up on the root.

Pulling the flowering stem at the base and ripping it from the ground also encourages the plant to re-flower as it produces another bud under the ground. They‘ll then keep producing an endless supply of flowers for every vase in the home throughout the Summer.

It is best to allow the plant to become firmly established (so at least one Summer to pass after planting) until employing this method. You can still have fresh flowers by cutting them instead until the roots have had time to establish.

Dead heading

Once all the flowers in a cluster head have faded and died, remove the whole stem with a gentle tug, the same method as picking. This encourages further flower stems to sprout and keeps the plant looking neat and tidy. It also prevents it from wasting energy on producing seeds at the expense of more flowers.

 

So a little more care and maintenance than a Goldfish but totally worth it!

How to Plant your Alstroemeria

The Alstroemeria you ordered has just arrived at your door.

Now what?

Do you leave it in the pot it came in? Or pop it straight into the garden? Or in another pot?

Alstroemeria are quite easy-going plants. The most important thing is that they have a healthy root system when planted on.

If you’ve ordered your Alstroemeria from us it will come in a 9cm pot, ready to be potted on into a larger one and they are fast growers so will easily fill a 3 litre pot within 6-8 weeks in growing season.

Read on to find out how you can help your new Alstroemeria establish well and grow into a strong healthy plant that flowers from June to November.

In Containers

Alstroemeria are repeat bloomers through the Summer which makes them great choices for containers in the garden or a sunny balcony or patio. The short and Inticancha varieties such as ‘Noah’, ‘Little Miss Roselind’ and ‘Inticancha Navayo’ make fantastic container plants as they are nice and compact.

Here's how to get them in the pot:

  • Place some broken pottery ,tiles or gravel loosely at the bottom of your pot or container
  • Add good quality, fresh compost, mixing in some slow release fertiliser
  • Free-draining soil is essential
  • Place the well-watered plant onto the compost. Put more compost around it. The compost should finish level with the top of the rootball, 2-4cm below the rim of the new container (to allow for watering space)
  • Once in place, pat the compost down firmly but gently so as not to damage the stems – you want the plant to be secure but the compost should still be light and airy, not compressed too much
  • Water in lightly
  • Whenever the compost is getting a little dry give it a drink. If the very top of the compost is dry that’s healthy, but the compost needs to be moist around the roots
  • Remember to feed regularly once your alstroemeria starts flowering, use a liquid feed high in potash

In the Garden Border

Alstroemeria make wonderful border plants especially the medium and tall varieties such as ‘Marguerite’, ‘Pandora’ and ‘Apollo’.

Their rainbow colour selection make alstroemeria a bright, eye catching feature that will keep producing flowers for up to 4 months a year, flowering from early Summer into Early Autumn.

Here’s how to plant your babies into garden borders:

  • Mix fertiliser and organic matter into the soil around where you want to plant: bonemeal or blood fish and bone are good choices
  • Make a planting hole in this soil to the depth that the top of the plant’s root ball is level with the top of the soil
  • If the soil is dry, fill the empty hole with water and leave it to drain
  • Place the plant in the hole, filling around it with the soil and organic matter mixture. Add the plant and firm with your hands or a lightly applied foot
  • Water well, even if rain is forecast – this helps settle the soil
  • You can add a layer of mulch to help keep the roots moist but be careful not to let the mulch pile up against the stem
  • Water occasionally and thoroughly for a month or three, until the roots get established. Occasional deep watering is better than a frequent sprinkle.

 

Once you’ve followed these instructions for Alstroemeria in pots or in the garden, you’ll be guaranteed flowers ‘til the cows come home (or at least the first frosts in the Autumn).

Just make sure that when the cows come home your Alstroemeria aren’t in a place they can be trampled...

And please pop us a message on social media and let us know how your planting goes, we’d love to hear from you!

Alstroemeria as Cut Flowers

Spring is just about springing and we are looking forward to enjoying the joy of Spring soon!

If you have Alstroemeria in your garden right now or perhaps some overwintering snugly in a pot in your greenhouse, all those fresh new shoots are getting ready to jump out the ground as we speak! And once they get going again you can pick, pick, pick away for months and they’ll just keep giving you more and more flowers.

For cut flowers the taller varieties of Alstroemeria go a LONG way. Those with 60cm+ stems have a stately, elegant look that’s just perfect for the vase. If you have some tall varieties in your garden right now such as Alstroemeria 'Friendship', ‘Bauge’ or ‘Lucca’ you can look forward to gathering up some great cut flowers over the next few months.

For Beautiful Cut Flowers

One thing to note is that they won’t be ‘cut’ flowers. Technically speaking, instead of cutting you’ll be doing more picking, plucking or (what feels like) ripping.

You’ll want to get hold of the stem about halfway down and give it a gentle twist followed by a sharp tug which will pull out the stem.

It will feel a bit like you’re hurting your Alstroemeria but never fear! They love it!

This encourages more flowering and makes sure there are no pieces of stem left to rot which can cause fungal disease to build up on the root.

You’ll want to pick them at the point when the buds are not yet open but have colour and looking ready to pop. They will last longer in the vase if picked at this point.

Unlike earlier hybrids, many of the recently bred varieties flower for months, repeat flowering multiple times during the season from March/April to October/November in the UK. Most importantly, the newer cultivars iwll not rampage through your garden. So keep picking, tugging or, indeed, ripping and they’ll keep rooting, growing and shooting up more and more blooms.

By choosing a reliable variety and taking good care of it you can enjoy flowers from the same plant for 20 – 30 years!

Ideally your alstroemeria was planted late last summer for it to be ready for picking this spring. If you planted them around the end of August they will have had the whole of autumn and winter to establish their roots so they can withstand the rigours of the picking action described above.

Putting them in a Vase

  • Remove leaves that will be under the water. This will reduce the bacteria formation in the water which will extend the vase life, but leave some leaves above water as they help the plant to draw the water up
  • Cut about 2cm off the stems at an angle whilst immersed in water as they will then absorb water immediately. Alternatively you can dip the stems in a hydrating solution after trimming and before putting them in the water which will open the cells and lengthen vase life
  • Use flower food in the water and change the water, giving the stems a fresh trim every 2 days
  • Position in a cool place away from direct sunlight and drafts

 

These are a few of our favourite ‘tugged’ flowers (pictured right) blooming from Jun – November, all of which enjoy a sheltered position in part shade or full sun:

Indian Summer

Copper-orange golden yellow with dark, almost black, foliage

Height: 70cm

Etna

Deep red with a yellow throat

Height: 90cm

Evening Song

Burgundy-red with yellow marking and dark streaks

Height: 70cm

Dana

Soft pink with a blush and yellow speckled throat

Height: 70cm

Maze

Pure white

Height: 80cm

Bonanza

Bright pink flowers with flecked, yellow-marked inner petals

Height: 90cm

Friendship

Cream with yellow speckled throat

Height: 60-120cm

Pandora

Lovely deep purple/mauve

Height: 90cm