John Jacques Amand wins his 29th Gold Medal at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Tucked away in suburban Stanmore, north west London, is the spacious garden nursery of multi-award winning bulb specialist John Jaques Amand. John is a third generation plant enthusiast, like his father, a bulb expert and importer, and his grandfather a bulb grower in Holland. With the world’s most prestigious flower show, RHS Chelsea 2015, opening this week, a very relaxed John discusses his plants and the upcoming show with Sonia Zubri.

John Jacques Amand beside Gunnera manicata from South America
John Jacques Amand beside Gunnera manicata from South America

 

What do you specialise in? 

Unusual bulbs and plants. I choose what I personally like; what’s interesting, what there’s a market for, or sometimes we create a market.

Where are your customers from?

Although our nursery welcomes visitors, our customers are from everywhere, we export to USA, Japan, Indonesia, all over Europe and the UK. We sell different things for different times of the year.

What are your personal favourites?

I really like Erythroniums which are from the lily family and Cypripediums which are hardy orchids.

What are some of your more expensive plants?  

The most expensive plants are a small potted cypripedium, Lady Doreen a lady slipper orchid that costs £37, and we have a small Arisaema bulb, Urashima Red (cobra lily), that comes from Japan which costs £55 – just because it is very rare. Often plants are rare because no one’s got round to growing them. Some eythroniums aren’t easy to grow and some are just impossible to grow!

When did you first exhibit at RHS Chelsea Flower Show?

In 1971. My father used to do it, so then I decided that I wanted to do it.

Since then how many medals have you won at RHS Chelsea?

We’ve won 28 Gold’s at Chelsea! I like the sense of achievement when we’ve put it together. It is always our best display of the year.

How do you choose which plants to take to RHS Chelsea?

Mainly we select what’s in season from our nursery and ready for Chelsea. We do keep some things back (in our cold storage) and we force some others to grow early. Often we decide what were taking to Chelsea at the last minute. We display the things that we are known for, they’re slightly different but our stand has our unique style, which is our hallmark.

Left: plants in cold storage for Chelsea. Right: Nursery staff preparing for Chelsea
Left: plants in cold storage for Chelsea. Right: Nursery staff preparing for Chelsea

 

How do you manage to make your award winning stall different every year at Chelsea? 

My sister and I design the stall every year and we do it as we go along. The stall is designed around the goods we have that year. There are 11 people working for our small family business, and for Chelsea it takes a team of 18 people including helpers such as my daughters and nieces to get our stand ready over a four day setup period. We go down to Chelsea on Thursday and put the trees in place, on Friday we start doing the tabling and building up the contours, and on Saturday we start building up the contours and the pond or water feature and by Sunday it’s a team effort to finish it off.

What do you think about the next generation of gardeners and horticulturalists?

I meet some young people who are very interested and it is encouraging. We’ve got some good keen and knowledgeable people working here.

What do you most like about your business?

The best thing about my job is I get to do what I like!

John selects a lady slipper orchid and other plants for Chelsea Flower Show
John selects a lady slipper orchid and other plants for Chelsea Flower Show

 

We have packs of Eucomis bicolor (Pineapple Flower) from the Jacques Amande nursery to give away to three lucky readers. For your chance to win leave a comment below, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Good luck!

Eucomis bicolor plant.
Eucomis bicolor plant.

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