North Walsham iris grower heats and cools his blooms to reach Chelsea Flower Show perfection

Simon Dodsworth's English Iris Company, North Walsham.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Simon Dodsworth's English Iris Company, North Walsham.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

An iris grower from north Norfolk has been battling against nature to get his blooms ready for this week's Chelsea Flower Show.

English Iris Company - Chelsea flowers - Red Pike among the elephant statues

English Iris Company - Chelsea flowers - Red Pike among the elephant statues - Credit: Archant

Simon Dodsworth, from North Walsham, has been heating and cooling his show plants to speed them up and slow them down to flower at exactly the right time.

For the second year his plants have been featured on the trade stand of animal sculptress Suzie Marsh, whose garden designer cousin Steph Birch from Trunch enlisted Mrs Dodsworth's English Iris Company plants to adorn her creations.

They appeared among elephants, bears, ducks and cats on the sculpture stand - but only after a lot of anxious preparation. Mr Dodsworth said many blooms were nurtured in plastic tunnels at Peter Purdy's Woodgate Nursery at Aylsham to bring them on in the cold spring.

But one yellow variety, Charnwood Delight, began flowering early, so he hired an air conditioning unit to cool and slow them down.

English Iris Company - Chelsea flowers - cooling the plants

English Iris Company - Chelsea flowers - cooling the plants - Credit: Archant

Another, William of Orange got really behind, so they needed 'a blast' with a sandbox warmer and a garden heater.

Some blooms needed wrapping with caps, made from kitchen roll and rubber bands, to hold them back for a couple more days.

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Fifty blooms were eventually brought to the boil at the same time, and carefully ferried to Chelsea.

'It has been quite stressful, but I think people appreciate the efforts,' said Mr Dodsworth - a former National Trust finance manager at Blickling Hall who inherited his father's lifetime iris collection on his death in 2009.

English Iris Company - Chelsea flowers - Plants wrapped up and ready to head to the show

English Iris Company - Chelsea flowers - Plants wrapped up and ready to head to the show - Credit: Archant

He is now seeking to develop it at his Marshgate home, to showcase British irises - rather the imported European or US ones. He is holding open days there on June 6-7.

For more information visit www.englishiriscompany.com or call 07789 670299.

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