Chelsea exhibit a ‘huge honour’ for owner of world-class plant collection in Kerry

The owner of a world-class plant collection in Kerry is set to realise his greatest professional ambition by exhibiting at next May’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Kells Bay House & Gardens boasts the Northern Hemisphere’s biggest tree-fern forest and Billy Alexander and his family celebrate 10 years in the nursery business on the Ring of Kerry next year.

Exhibiting his fern display at Chelsea, he said, is a huge honour and a major breakthrough for Kells Bay, which is building its reputation as one of Ireland’s premier heritage gardens.

The exhibition moves to Dublin’s Bloom in the Park immediately afterwards and on to the RHS Tatton Park in July next year, said Mr Alexander.

“This is a huge honour,” he said. “My ambitions for my Chelsea nursery display are threefold: To introduce Ireland’s foremost Robinsonian heritage garden to the wider public; to further educate a discerning audience in the wonder and diversity contained in the various fern species, including those exclusive to my collection, and to increase awareness of the Kells Bay programme for sustainable fern propagation and production.”

Showcasing at such an event is not cheap, and Mr Alexander is seeking a main sponsor for Chelsea.

“This is a massive opportunity not just for Kells Bay but for Ireland as a whole. There is no bigger event in this industry than Chelsea, but I need support.

“I supplied plants to Paul Martin’s Gold medal- winning Mindful Living garden at Chelsea 2016,” Mr Alexander said.

“It is now a privilege and an honour for me personally and for Irish plants-people to exhibit my own collection at Chelsea. I’m hoping that it also represents a major partnership opportunity for an appropriate corporate sponsor.”

The Chelsea display will showcase with ferns the fusion of Hibernia and Australis while referencing the Victorian passion for these fantastic plants, Mr Alexander said.

“To me, the display echoes the original Pangaea, in a time before the continents drifted apart, and my hope is that the display is a plausible depiction of how a piece of this landscape would have appeared.

“From the 180 years of introduced naturalised ferns at Kells Bay Gardens, I will present ferns that live harmoniously together in one display.

“I will exhibit a selection of ferns representing distinct, current geographical regions; South America, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, Pacific and Atlantic islands to British and Irish natives. I hope that my display will encourage people to consider the origin and evolution of these primitive masterpieces,” he added.

Over the past decade, Mr Alexander has helped popularise various types of ferns and displays these both at shows and in his heritage garden.

The nursery at Kells Bay also sells a range of southern hemisphere plants and ferns for wholesale and retail.

“I believed that my collection of specimen ferns and plants were of a standard ready to exhibit and compete at the highest possible level. And it’s a great honour that RHS Chelsea agrees.

“In pursuit of excellence in plant husbandry I am really looking forward to my exhibit to be critiqued and judged at RHS Chelsea Flower Show,” added Mr Alexander.

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