Howard Wholesale Nurseries, from Wortham, in collaboration with Sarah Cook, holder of the Plant Heritage National Collection of Irises bred by Sir Cedric Morris, have been allotted space in the Grand Pavilion at the 2015 Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show.
The stand will be showcasing Tall Bearded Irises bred by Sir Cedric Morris. Acclaimed artist Sir Cedric Morris ran the East Anglian Art School at Benton End, Hadleigh, Suffolk from 1940. He was a notable Iris breeder and plantsman. His irises were shown at Chelsea in the late 1940’s until mid 1950’s, but have not been seen there since. The exhibit will make the connection between Sir Cedric Morris as an iris breeder and an artist.
Howard Wholesale is owned by David Howard and his daughter Christine. It is one of Britain’s leading wholesale herbaceous plant nursery and has won numerous awards for their sustainability. They have previously won Gold and Silver Gilt medals at Chelsea, and have been growing Morris’ irises for 7 years, they now have enough stock to furnish this ambitious project.
Sarah Cook, past Head Gardener at Sissinghurst Castle for the National Trust, was born and bred in Hadleigh and retired in 2004. She has spent the last 10 years researching Sir Cedric Morris and collecting his Irises. In all he bred and named about 90 irises, but many have been lost to cultivation. In 2004 Sarah Cook set out to collect any of his irises which have survived, and the collection now contains over 25 of his named irises, obtained from private sources and Botanic Gardens in Britain, Europe and the USA.
He is credited with breeding the first ‘truly pink’ irises, including one called ‘Strathmore’, shown at Chelsea in 1948 it was recorded in a nursery catalogue that “This beautiful iris was selected from our Gold Medal Exhibit at Chelsea, 1948 by H. M. Queen Elizabeth who graciously consented to have it named ‘Strathmore’ after her own home”
The exhibit will have a large planting of Morris irises and a studio area with vases of iris. The garden and studio areas will be enhanced by backdrops painted by Cherryl Fountain. (Cherryl has also worked on Gold Medal winning exhibits of Malmaison Carnations put up by Sarah’s husband Jim Marshall at the Hampton Court Flower Show, her work has been regularly exhibited in the RA summer exhibition)
The Irises are all being grown in Melcourt Peat Free potting compost
Sarah Cook says “it is a chance in a lifetime to be working with Howard Nurseries who have all the skills and experience to grow plants for showing. Without their input it would not be possible to showcase the work of such a renowned artist and iris breeder. It is a thrill to be working with a Suffolk company (and a fellow Ipswich Town Football Club supporter!)”