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Chelsea Update

It is with regret that despite our best endeavours we have had to withdraw from this autumn’s Chelsea Flower Show. I to those of you waiting for Chelsea to order your tulips and by way of consolation have extended our traditional show offer of free tulips until the end of September.

Way back in January it was with some consternation that we received the news that Chelsea was to be postponed to September. All our tulips had been planted by the end of November for the traditional May date and by the end of January, we had no stocks left.

Our options were limited. Timing is everything and in this case, it was against us. Had we known of the postponement two weeks earlier we would have had unplanted bulbs that could have been stored and planted directly in cold storage units in the spring, effectively tricking the tulips into thinking that it was simply a very late winter. Despite panicked phone calls to Holland, no bulbs were available. We did try to source bulbs from the southern hemisphere, but this proved impossible given the Covid restrictions and trading conditions at the time.

We then considered harvesting the bulbs that we had already planted and forcing them for September, but the timeline did not work. The lead time for ripening the bulbs before re-planting, even using heated chambers, was too long.  

The only choice was to try and hold back the tulips that had already been planted. This did seem to have a chance to work although we were concerned over the longevity of the flowers, the flower buds were quite high in the neck of the plant. Unfortunately, these worries were well founded. Whilst we can successfully bring the tulips into flower they are not lasting, becoming translucent and paper like after a few days. This has made them impossible to display over the course of the show.
I would like to thank everyone for their messages of encouragement, here’s just one.

"Dear Chris, 
I am so sad to hear this news but fully understand your predicament - as you say, here’s to a Covid-free Chelsea next May!
All the very best, and thanks again for all your efforts, Sue"
Sue Biggs, Director General of the RHS

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