“This year’s Chelsea Flower Show was an important event for us, as it was an opportunity to show the quality of our repeat flowering clematis. The exhibit won me my 31st Gold Medal and our first Presidents Award,” says breeder Raymond Evison, whose clematis start their life at the Guernsey Clematis Nursery. Evison shares the journey of staging a flower exhibit four months later than planned, the need to increase propagation by 25%, and how their breeding program in China is going.
Raymond Evison and Lindsay Reid at the IPM Essen 2020
“An opportunity to show our repeat flowering clematis”
The 2021 Chelsea Flower Show was supposed to occur in May. However, as a consequence of the pandemic, the RHS decided to postpone the event until September. Evison explains that this was actually a blessing in disguise for their company. “The delay was a great opportunity to show that our clematis are repeat flowering. We let the plants that were destined for the original show in May grow. Then, at the end of May/beginning of June, we cut all the plants down to about 5-6 cm. They were then put in the cold store for about 4-5 weeks, and after that we took the plants out of the cold store, basically telling them that they just had a winter and that it is now spring, time to grow and flower.”
Raymond Evison Clematis’ winning exhibit at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show
“We exhibited about 2500 plants at the show, so there was a lot of work involved. In addition, we didn’t quite get our timing perfect, as the weather complicated this a bit. Still, the visitors and judges were very impressed that we got May/June flowering plants to flower and look beautiful at the end of September.” As a result, the exhibit won the Gold Medal as well as the President’s Award, as it was considered the most worthy exhibit in the whole Chelsea Flower Show, including the Show Gardens, by the RHS President.
Increasing propagation by 25%
At the Guernsey Clematis Nursery, they have seen sales increase drastically this year. “People were able to devote more time to their gardens, and our clematis have become very popular throughout the world. Our sales have increased by 20% compared to last year. We adjusted our program and devoted more staff to propagation and production, increasing our propagation by 25%. It is a challenge to increase labor, however, as the new Brexit regulations are limiting the number of foreign people that can come to the UK. In addition, our nursery is on an island, making it more difficult to suddenly get more people to work here.”
Mr. Yu of The Bejijng Florascape and Raymond Evinson in Beijing in 2019
Breeding program in China
In April 2020, the partnership between Raymond J. Evison Ltd. and Chinese breeder and grower The Beijing Florascape Co. Ltd. was announced. Together, they were starting a breeding program in China, from which new ornamental cultivars will become available worldwide. “So far, I have not been able to travel to China yet, which is very unfortunate. However, our breeding partners are carrying on with the breeding program that we have set. They have been able to go out into the wild, collecting some native plant material in China that we wanted to have in the breeding program. We are collecting very sensibly and are respecting the wild, so we are not digging up plants. Our ruling is that, if we need to collect clematis seed, then we will do that, but mostly we collect cutting material so that the plant in the wild is not destroyed. I hope that in June 2022, I can go to China to see the breeding development myself, and see the flowering of some of the first hybrids that have been produced in China.”
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Raymond J. Evison Ltd