This week we welcome Wes Fleming of Fleming Nurseries to the Guest Blog! Wes and his team are currently in London where they are preparing for the incredible Chelsea Flower Show. This week we will be meeting some of the key players in the Flemings 2012 team and seeing some snippets of the design and construction process on this year's garden, before seeing the completed design on Friday. There are even a few photographs of the Fleming crew with Her Majesty The Queen - she loves the Aussie style! - Jenny x
This week my team and I will bring TDF followers a daily snapshot from the world’s most prestigious gardening event, ‘The Chelsea Flower Show’, as we create a show garden in the main category. In what I call ‘The Chelsea Experience’, each year we invite a different Australian landscape designer and construction team to build a show garden at London’s premier garden show.
With four gold medals and three silver-gilt so far, we continue to share the experience across the horticulture industry in a bid to raise the profile and value of gardening, design, landscaping and tree planting across Australia.
Let's start this week with a few questions!
Where did your passion for horticulture come from and how has this influenced your business today?
(Wes) I started growing trees as a kid, I would grow trees and sell them back to the nursery – I was about nine when this started. It must have been in the blood because I understood from that age how to work with the trees. I quit school after year 11 – at the time I was entertaining the idea of becoming a solicitor but my dad said, 'Son, we can hire as many solicitors as we want, but what we can’t find so easily is great, natural nurserymen.'
That made me a third generation nurseryman, and I never looked back. My family believes - as I still believe, the best training is done on the job, in the field. My children are now working in the business – from the ground up, and we carry on that family tradition, remaining focused on introducing and growing the best trees in Australia.
What is the Chelsea Flower Show and how does that relate to Fleming's?
I can’t honestly remember the first time I heard about the Chelsea Flower Show, but it was always there as this elusive, very prestigious and 'proper' garden show in the UK. Initially I never thought of being a part of it – I mean why would we – we are an Australian nursery that doesn’t export… what’s the point?
Then in about 2003, myself and a gang of fellow industry-men where feeling pretty chuffed with how things had gone at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS), and the gauntlet was thrown down – ‘what’s the next challenge’ and someone threw out this idea of the Chelsea Flower Show.
To cut a long story short – there we were in 2004, the first Australian team to enter a show garden in the main category at the Chelsea Flower Show, with a design by Jim Fogarty called ‘Australian Inspiration’. Due to a lack of sponsorship, Fleming’s supported the project. Our entry was awarded the second top honour – a Silver Gilt.
That first year was a huge eye-opener, and while we had a lot to learn and many things to refine and change, it was the beginning of something special.
I am constantly asked why we continue to exhibit at Chelsea. The answer is not particularly straightforward, but it is really about the profile the project brings to the industry. We don’t do it to sell more trees, but to encourage more people to place their careers here, to support our landscapes, to recognise the value of soft and hard landscaping, to get excited about their own gardens, and finally to break away from the cottage-impression this industry has had for far too long.
You have partnered with many great designers, what made you approach Jason Hodges this year?
We have invited seven previous designers including Jim Fogarty, Jack Merlo, Dean Herald, Mark Browning, Jamie Durie, Scott Wynd, Ian Barker and now Jason Hodges. (And we're already speaking with a designer for 2013 - hush, hush at the moment sorry!)
We don’t always have the same process, and each year our designer has emerged through quite different circumstances. Some have directly approached us and others have been approached by us - Jason was the latter.
We first got to know Jason through previous years at Chelsea when he presented for Better Homes and Gardens while they were shooting the show at Chelsea. Jason always presented almost as part of that team, he lived and breathed the stress and tension, the highs and lows with us. Since then we have worked with Jason on his MIFGS entries and we have held him in very high regard - not only for his design integrity but his down-to-earth approach to gardening and Australian design equally. Moreover, Jason is a highly talented designer in his own right and I think, up until know, that fact, despite his gold medals at MIFGS, is somewhat downplayed by his very down-to-earth bloke next door persona on BHG.
Jason is the perfect candidate to represent Australian horticulture on the world stage because he gets it – he gets our reasoning for doing it and he is an amazing ambassador for the industry.
Looking forward to showing everyone our 2012 Chelsea Flower Show entry on Friday!