Orchids set to steal the show at RHS Chatsworth

Jonathan Moseley's design for this year's RHS Chatsworth Show Artists_ Ula Maria

Jonathan Moseley's design for this year's RHS Chatsworth Show Artists_ Ula Maria - Credit: Archant

Award-winning Derbyshire florist Jonathan Moseley is returning to RHS Chatsworth with another exciting installation

Part of the serpent sweeping along the bridge last year

Part of the serpent sweeping along the bridge last year - Credit: Archant

One of the abiding memories from last year’s inaugural RHS Chatsworth Flower Show was crossing the River Derwent through a flower-bedecked Palladian bridge created by Derbyshire florist Jonathan Moseley. Living in the area, Chatsworth is, as he says, ‘in his blood’ so for someone who also has a lifelong passion for gardens and flowers and vast experience in creating magnificent floral installations at numerous RHS Flower Shows, this is the perfect combination.

As Jonathan says: ‘Last year’s flower show could be described as a christening with fire. The Bridge received massive acclaim, people were bowled over by the concept, so I was invited by the RHS to repeat it this year – but I decided you only need one bridge in your floral career, and that was it. The wet, windy and wild weather conditions made it a real challenge. The two weeks of the build were extremely sunny and we were worried the flowers wouldn’t last. Then the weather changed and the bridge became like a wind tunnel. Being suspended over the River Derwent in 75mph gusts of wind was not ideal for soft, delicate flowers. After they closed the show on press day I had a sleepless night imagining the bridge floating somewhere downriver, but amazingly when we drove back on site the next day just six flowers had blown out. We were extremely lucky. The head of the huge willow serpent wrapped around the bridge was nodding up and down in the breeze as if it was alive. Fortunately the wind blew through the structure rather than against it.’

After such a challenging start, the huge positive for Jonathan this year is that he will be under cover. One of the stand-out structures on the showground will be the massive reconstruction of Paxton’s Great Conservatory and this will be the venue for the spectacular showcase Jonathan is creating.

He explains: ‘At the centre of the structure will be the UK’s largest-ever display of orchids, composed of 5,000 Phalaenopsis (moth orchids), with around 100 varieties in a colour palette of pale pinks, lilac and purples, with a touch of delicate blue. It’s going to be a feast for the eyes, and people will feel immersed in orchid paradise – a bit of orchid heaven with orchids dripping from the ceiling, cascading water and tropical planting. Around this will be ten island displays featuring individual orchids, living canvases with unusual varieties in settings to inspire people with ideas for different ways to display orchids. They’ll also have a chance to get even more up close and personal. Together with Manchester Museum and Manchester University, virtual reality expert Simon Mabey has created a pair of glasses that give you the view a fly or moth would have when suspended over the flowers. You can put them on and be like an insect, perch on an orchid and see the intricacy. Families and children will love it.’

Jonathan at Double H Nurseries

Jonathan at Double H Nurseries - Credit: Archant

Orchids have a historic link with Chatsworth. The 6th Duke of Devonshire and Sir Joseph Paxton (Head Gardener at Chatsworth from 1826 to 1858) amassed one of the best collections of orchids of its kind, which was influential in the development of some of the more modern cultivars. So Jonathan will also be ‘bringing back the splendour of an orchid house which Chatsworth was renowned for during Paxton’s time.’

He confesses, ‘I got a bit of flak from some of my floristry colleagues because I’m a huge proponent of using British flowers. The plants I am using are British-grown by a specialist nursery, Double H Nurseries, based in the New Forest. They will also be launching some scented phalaenopsis at the show and people will be able to get near enough to smell them – a feast for the senses.’

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The build for the display will take two weeks and Jonathan will have about 20 people helping him, ranging from a team of riggers to get the structure and hanging chandeliers in place to floristry students from Sheffield University who will help prepare each plant before putting them in place. The three days before the show opens he expects will be ‘pretty manic’ but a wonderful experience, and once in place, the orchids shouldn’t need too much maintenance other than ‘misting’.

That is probably just as well as in addition to hosting school visits to the exhibition and giving daily talks and demonstrations in one of the talks theatres, Jonathan will be assisting with the British Flower Bus, which is at the show to raise awareness of the British floristry industry and to promote using and buying flowers grown in Britain. This is something he feels very strongly about. He is keen to stress the importance of bringing back seasonality and supporting British growers: ‘People should go into flower shops and ask what they’ve got that’s British and seasonal.’

Different varieties of orchid

Different varieties of orchid - Credit: Archant

Jonathan is also looking forward to taking time to explore the show: ‘My favourite bits are always the plant pavilions. It’s like opening a box of chocolates. I can never resist buying more plants. I’m also drawn to the show gardens, which are a highlight of any RHS show – and there are going to be some interesting ones again this year. Early lessons have been learnt and issues resolved from the few teething problems last year. The layout will also be different.’

Jonathan certainly has a busy summer ahead. Having just created a big floral installation at RHS Malvern involving three flower-packed flying Morgan cars, he is looking ahead to preparing installations for RHS Harlow Carr and the Great Yorkshire Show, as well as touring every major show with the British Flower Bus. However, as he concludes: ‘I think it’s so wonderful that here in Derbyshire we host this amazing show, a showcase for horticulture here in the north. It’s also a huge vehicle for us to say that there are all these talented people who live and work up here as well as a wonderful opportunity to showcase their skills and their crafts.’

To keep up to date with Jonathan and for details of floristry events and courses go to www.jonathan-moseley.com


Phalaenopsis - Credit: Archant

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show, 6th-10th June, www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chatsworth-flower-show