29 April 2013 By Billy Hawkins
Nelly Hall, who looks after the Chelsea stand for Alitex – the planning, producing and directing, found a couple of minutes out of her busy pre-Chelsea schedule to let me in on her hopes and fears for Chelsea 2013.
It’s a big year for both the show, in its 100th year – all gnomes allowed – and for Alitex in our 60th birthday year. It will be our 50th year of bringing Alitex greenhouses and conservatories to Chelsea and our 13th year on Main Avenue. None of these milestones are taken lightly by the Alitex team, there is a lot of responsibility and certainly this week, before site access is gained on Friday, a lot of tense holding of breath. To use a baking analogy, the key ingredients are in the cupboard, but it’s the last few which will bring it all together and make it work as an Alitex stand.
This week there is a lot of anxiety and racing heart beats as confirmations are made regarding deliveries of vital components; both Nelly and Paul Hewitt (Alitex) are gearing up. Just when you think you’ve got it licked, there is always a hitch; it’s how you deal with these challenges which makes everything come together in time for the show. Nelly has developed a knack of pulling it together in her head, in the hope that the actuality makes sense, both for the show case on Main Avenue and as a commercial stand on which we can entertain our customers. It is crucial that the ‘feel’, of the stand is what our customers relate to and identify with when they come and visit us - we like being recognisable.
The National Trust Scotney greenhouse will be packed with plants, all supplied by our friends at Thrive, the charity which uses gardening to change lives. However it all needs staging and styling to make it look just as a gardener would have it – we like to keep it real! The bespoke greenhouse will be presented as many of our past customers use it – for gardening yes, but alongside - entertaining, relaxing and having space of one’s own. The seating area is all in Nelly’s imagination at the moment and she cannot wait to get all the bits and pieces together to see if it works as she hopes it will. The planting supports and arches from Ulf Nordfjell should look great on our stand, but again we are looking forward to seeing them to get a feel of their potential.
Nelly has been scouring the counties sourcing the bits and bobs which make the difference – even Ardingly Antiques Fair has been rummaged for “usefuls”. The fact that this will be our shop window for a week at the largest horticultural show on earth makes it all sound quite onerous and daunting. Nelly can’t wait to get onsite on Friday and get on with the “doing”; the action stuff, the pulling it all together.
The image shows the team taking down the bespoke greenhouse from Torberry in readiness for the stand.
I asked Nelly what her worst scenario would be;
“The worst, I guess would be awful weather in the build-up (like last year), but then the actual show week was so glorious that the memory faded. I suppose rather the build up be wet than the actual show!”
The best part of pre-Chelsea for both Nelly and Paul Hewitt, seems to be the fun and camaraderie between the team. This includes the Deacon brothers (builders we have used for years), the Taylor Tripp’s (again, a team we have used for years) and the Thrive gardeners. Across the show ground a similar bonhomie takes place with a real cross-cultural melting pot of people all with a job to do – to get things ready for press day on Monday 20th May and to make sure everything will look just as good by the show’s end on Saturday 25th May.
Come and visit us on Main Avenue - MA10, opposite the Laurent Perrier garden, to see how we got on.