A Freefolk plant nursery has been given a grand send-off by the leading lights of the horticultural world as it retires from the Chelsea Flower Show.

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants announced earlier this year that it would no longer compete at the show after the date was moved from May to September, as there would not be time to grow all the plants required. Instead, the garden has been built at their nursery, and was opened today (Monday, May 17) as celebrities including Gardeners World presenter Adam Frost and BBC Breakfast presenter Mike Bushell looked on.

Rosy Hardy said: “It’s really great to know that so many people have loved our shows over the years and this is our way of saying thank you very much for everybody who has come and seen our planting, taken delight in it and maybe even copied it, which is a really great compliment for anyone who puts something on display.

“The garden is a thank you and goodbye to Chelsea, but we will still be going to other shows, it’s not us retiring, it’s just a farewell to the big show I have had a love-hate relationship with over the past 29 years”.

Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, based on Priory Lane in Freefolk, was founded by Rosy Hardy, who started growing plants in 1988 in her back garden. Since then, she was won 24 RHS Gold Medals, and was hoping for a 25th in 2020 when the Chelsea Flower Show was postponed. Following 2021’s being postponed as well, she decided to announce her retirement from the show.

Adam Frost said that she “has an innate understanding of how to put plants together” and had indirectly taught him many techniques over the years.

He said: “You’re a joy, you’re a joy to the industry. I said to someone earlier, the amount of times I see Rob [Rosy’s husband] at a show and need to borrow something he never moans. Nursery people do have a little tendency to moan but he never does.

“For that, and what you’ve done for the industry, I thank the pair of you.”

As the plants for their final show had already been grown, the Hardy’s decided to build the garden at their nursery, with the public being invited in this month and the next to experience a slice of horticultural expertise on their doorstep. The garden features a wooden structure intended to be reminiscent of a boat’s skeleton, with visitors being taken through into a seated area beyond.

Speaking to the Advertiser, Rosy said: “Lots of locals are loving the idea of our garden. They love that it’s on their doorstep as many are not able to get to Chelsea for the show. Some have booked twice, so that they can come now and then again in a few weeks to see how it has grown.”

All proceeds from booking fees will be donated to Naomi’s House and Jacksplace, a Sutton Scotney charity raising funds for children with life-limiting and lie-threatening illnesses.

Rosy said: “Ever since we moved here in 1991, we’ve always wants a local hospice to support and Naomi’s House and Jacksplace was the obvious choice. We normally do open days for them, but lasyt year we had to just give a donation as we couldn’t open.

“Naomi’s House is just a very happy place and we love the story behind it. Already we’ve raised over £2000 on 650 pre-booked tickets alone.”

While the Hardy’s have retired from the Chelsea Flower Show, they will continue to display at other compeitions, while their nursery remains open.