It is one of the most important dates of the year in the gardening calendar.
With just weeks to go until the Chelsea Flower Show gets under way, the Observer talks to two businesses taking part in this year’s prestigious event and their memories of past shows. This year’s show is on from May 21 to May 25. It is also the centenary year of the Chelsea Flower Show.
AN award-winning family-run business in Bosham is preparing for the annual Chelsea Flower Show, which it enters every year.
The Hepworth family has been running Chi-Africa Ltd since 1999, taking part in the flower show for nearly ten years.
The company specialises in selling recycled metal art pieces, all of which are handmade from old and weathered metals, including recycled tin and drink cans, old oil drums, scrapped cars and factory off-cuts.
Its exhibitions have won awards at shows around the country.
Paul Hepworth, managing director of the company, said: “All our sculptures are made out of recycled material, imported from Zimbabwe.
“I previously ran burger restaurants, but when mad cow disease hit, my business suffered.
“A friend used to travel to Africa. I went with him one year, and our sculpture business started from there.”
Trade flourishes in the summer months for the family, when they attend all the seasonal RHS garden shows, including Chelsea and Hampton Court.
In the winter, they take their sculptures to Christmas markets including Bath, Winchester and Chichester.
Mr Hepworth’s wife, Mary, is in charge of buying and selling, while his son Joe takes the helm as sales director.
Mr Hepworth said: “This is very much a family business, and each of us is a jack-of-all-trades.”
Alitex, South Harting
A FAMILY business will be showcasing its designs in the Chelsea Flower Show this year, keeping up a 50-year tradition.
Alitex, a company based in South Harting, specialises in conservatories and bespoke greenhouses.
Nelly Hall is married to the managing director of Alitex and works in the marketing department, but her main role is to oversee the show each year.
“This is quite an achievement; we have been entering the show for around 50 years now,” said Nelly.
“Chelsea is our biggest five days of the year. We look at it from a marketing point of view – our pitch is like a shop where we showcase our designs. We really want our customers to have an experience when they visit our trade stand, really engaging with our ethos and experiencing what Alitex is all about.”
The company has a strong working relationship with local garden designers Taylor Tripp, who design the floral arrangements at the Alitex stand.
They also work closely with Thrive – a charity which helps people with disabilities to use gardening as a therapy. Two young people who worked with Thrive and Alitex at the show last year both went on to secure jobs following their work experience.
“We start planning our show for the following year before we have even finished the show we are doing at the time,” said Nelly.
“We start to consider what we might do bigger, and better.
“This year we will also be working alongside a Swedish designer who is immensely popular in his home country.”
Swedish landscape architect Ulf Nordfjell combines a relaxed Swedish design with classic British elements, and will be incorporating this into Alitex’s stand this year.
Nelly said: “We will also be collaborating with Gaze Burvill.
“We do open days together and will have an archway between our stands at the show, so will make good use of this.
“We are trying to create a contextual setting – an outdoor kitchen area that then leads through an archway into a vegetable garden.”
Alitex will be showcasing their National Trust collection this year, comprising of greenhouses in a wood sage colour that depicts the natural environment they are influenced by. Alitex will be celebrating their 60th birthday with a party on June 28.