Back in 2001, the local Garden Club here in Bracknell staged a courtyard garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. This was back in the day when the smaller gardens were open to amateurs, the gardens didn’t cost a small fortune (or a large one!), and Health and Safety was common sense and didn’t need a six inch thick pile of paperwork. As we had never staged an exhibit before, we decided to keep things simple and play to our strengths. Having two plantspeople on the team of five meant we were always going to have a garden full of plants, and we soon realised that many of them preferred to grow in shady conditions, so this became the theme of the garden. As well as buying in small plants from wholesale nurseries in January, and growing them on in greenhouses around the town, we also took plants from our own gardens (a small acer came from mine). Another team member volunteered drimys lanceolata, as that time a rare plant, only available from specialist nurseries. Here it is in our Show Garden, to the right of the statue.
There were many questions during the week about the plants in our garden, but the drimys was by far the most enquired after. So much so, that by the end of the week, it had been prefixed by an earthy adjective; we still call it the ‘king drimys to this day. After that experience, I decided to have one as well; here it is in my own garden.
And a close-up of the flowers.
It’s not a showy plant, it doesn’t shout “come and look at me,” but it has a certain presence. Even when not in flower, I frequently get asked what it is. The evergreen leaves are slightly shiny, and the red stems are a permanent feature. It grows fairly steadily into a bush about six feet high and wide, taking anything the British weather throws at it, and always look presentable. All it asks in return is a bit of shelter from the hottest sun, and a soil that doesn’t dry out. Now it is fairly readily available, and we like to think it was due to our exhibit at Chelsea.