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RHS Chelsea 2020 | Trailfinders' 50th Anniversary Garden

The Trailfinders’ 50th Anniversary Garden, designed by Jonathan Snow, celebrates how far the company has come since selling their first overland trips to Kathmandu in 1970. It aims to capture the essence of Nepal and the wider Himalayan region through a representation of the culture, plants and landscape, specifically of the Himalayan foothills. The garden features a timber shelter inspired by the vernacular architecture of the region, and a network of stone paths leading to it. Water is ever present, both naturally as streams, which power prayer wheels, and manmade in the form of rills.

This is our third adventure with Jonathan, and we are continuing our journey around the world. In 2018 we took on South African fynbos, followed by the epic challenge of a Chilean cold rainforest in 2019. And now for 2020 Jonathan is taking us to Nepal! Each of Jonathan’s Show Gardens has had a very exacting plant list, with each species carefully chosen by him in great detail to reflect as accurately as possible the species that would be found in the natural habitat. This always presents challenges to us as growers, and whilst it is hugely exciting to be presented with a plant list of unfamiliar species, it can take a lot of research to find out if we can even source this stuff, and a huge amount of work to get it to its peak of loveliness for Chelsea week! The demands of sourcing, and growing, certainly keeps us on our toes!

Jonathan Snow |

Here are some pictures of some of the plants that we are growing for Jonathan, all potted and growing away in one of our large Chelsea tunnels. They include, some of the classic Himalayan plants commonly grown in UK gardens such as Primulas and Rodgersias, as well as some more unusual species that will test even the most knowledgeable plantsmen.


One of the iconic plants of Nepal is the legendary Himalayan Blue Poppy, (Meconopsis). This stunning plant relishes a cool humid location, and a humus rich soil, and takes 3-4 years to flower from seed, before sending up tall flower spikes of rich translucent blue. Many gardeners fail to manage to grow a single plant… we have about 200 of them! Our particular challenge with meconopsis is that it tends to naturally flower in early May in our part of the world, obviously too early for Chelsea, and also the flowers last just a few days! We work with this by keeping our plants outside in the coldest part of the nursery, and in deep shade throughout the winter. This delays the onset of growth as long as possible. Once the plants are growing, we move them into slightly less shade so that they do not stretch or lean.


           Meconopsis on December 19th 2019                               Hopefully the Queen will see them in flower on May 21st!

Thereafter it’s a case of maintaining a consistent cool growing environment and careful watering to keep the hairy leaves as dry as possible. We watch the weather and hope that we do not get a hot spell in the early part of May, so that they keep slowly growing up to 80-100cm in height before the majestic blooms begin to pop open. We will keep you up to date with the progress of the Blue Poppies!

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