Like Paddington Bear, my colleague Fred Foot and I met at Paddington Station with our luggage and camera equipment, missing only one thing – marmalade sandwiches!

We got the train to Penzance and enjoyed a long but peaceful journey as we took in lovely scenes of the West Country. Once there we met Jon Wheatley and were delighted to find the grey weather of London had turned into Cornwall sunshine.
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed the next morning we went to visit The National Dahlia Collection. They aren’t currently open to the public as there’s not much to see! The vast area where the Collection is to be found shows row upon row of plants cut back and buried in soil to protect them from frost. Each kind of Dahlia has it’s own place and we’re looking forward to seeing ours amongst all the others in the summer.

They also have a large glass house, roughly the size of four tennis courts, which is heated in order to grow Dahlia’s more quickly than if they were outdoors. Conditions are carefully monitored by a chap called Mark Twyning who is responsible for the day-to-day management of the collection. Here some Dahlias are already in flower, though of course they are too early for Chelsea. However, we did see our seedlings begin to grow and root down. It’s exciting to see them grow! The designs by Mary Payne include them just to the left of the forge as she works towards Chelsea ‘wow’ with a mix of yellow and orange.

In this Episode, Jon Wheatley and Mike Mann (a director at the NDC) introduce the National Dahlia Collection to us and discuss the trends in popularity of this colourful plant. Mark Twyning then talks us through how cuttings from the Collection can be looked after at home.

As the day draws to a close, we head off to visit Terry Porter for an update on our leeks and onions. Find out how they’re doing in Episode 4 (follow us on twitter.com/bulldogchelsea for updates)

Ed White

Posted in Chelsea 2011, Exhibitions By Ed White On 2nd March 2011

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