A Storrington couple have successfully taken on the national awards for growing Rhododendrons and say they want to bring the underrated plant back into fashion.
Andy and Jenny Fly moved into their Storrington home in 1995 when its two and a half acres of land was just an overgrown tangle of weeds and plants, but over the years the avid gardeners have transformed their grounds into a paradise for colourful and vibrant Rhododendrons to flourish.
Jenny said: “The garden was all overgrown by ponticum and brambles. A couple in their 80s had this property and it hadn’t been touched in about 26 years.”
The Flys, who have been sweethearts since the age of 14-years-old created a beautiful haven bursting with countless varieties of Rhododendrons.
“We were encouraged by our local RHS branch in Ramster Hall, Guildford to start entering competitions,” said Jenny.
In 2011, the Flys went up against other green-thumbed competitors in the Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group’s RHS Ramster Wessex Branch competition and took home the Best In Show cup. This unexpected victory gave them the bug.
But, as Andy explained, the Rhododendron is sadly not as popular to grow as it used to be amongst home gardeners.
He said: “When you say Rhododendron everyone always thinks of that ponticum that grows in the woods and it’s very controversial. The problem is it’s probably one of the largest families of flowers that there are and yet it’s only noted for this one thing, which is really sad. But that initial bit of success spurred us on and then this year we thought we’ll go in for some bigger competitions.”
Using milk bottle crates to transport the plants, Andy and Jenny took on the big leagues in the RHS Wisley Garden competition in Woking in April 12-13 2014 for the South East and won three first awards.
Then they moved straight onto the RHS National Rhododendron Competition at Garden Rosemoor in Torrington in April 26-27 2014.
The show spans the whole country and featured big competitors like, Exbury Gardens in Southampton, Caerhays Castle in Cornwall and Windsor Great Park in Berkshire, but despite what they were up against, the Flys received five first awards.
Jenny said: “You saw Exbury come in with their beautiful big baskets and everything was beautifully sealed, and then we turned up with the milk crates and wine bottles but it kept them nice and fresh (laughs).”
Andy added: “If Jenny and I can do it, anyone can, but people are afraid to enter.”
Andy and Jenny will be competing again at RHS Ramster’s Wessex Branch competition on May 18.