Fourth generation nurseryman Harry Veitch (1840-1924) was knighted 100 years ago for his contribution to horticulture and the Devon Plant Heritage group are commemorating Sir Harry in their display in the Floral marquee at Chelsea Flower Show.
The story starts in the mid 18th century when Harry’s great grandfather John Veitch left his home in the Scottish borders to go south and seek his fortune. While working as Estate Steward for Sir Thomas Acland, and with his support, John set up a tree nursery in Devon. From this acorn grew a dynasty of nursery men and women who were responsible for sending out 23 plant hunters to search for new material to satisfy the growing demand for the new and unusual. With the skills of their propagators the Veitchs developed new hybrids, not universally approved of as this was ‘interfering with the work of God’.
Amongst his many interests Harry was a Council member of the RHS and when a second International Horticultural exhibition was held in 1912, he was in the group responsible for bringing this one-off show to Chelsea. It was such a success that the RHS decided to move their Great Spring Show permanently and next year, 2013, will be the centenary of the Chelsea Flower Show.
The display at Chelsea features plants introduced by the Veitch dynasty – from Primula pulverulenta to exotic orchids, Eucomis to Acer. Maps and photographs supplement the display and I found that visitors were reading the whole story and then being fascinated by the range of plants and the connections to the plant hunters through their names – veitchii, mariesii.
Deservedly the stand was awarded a Silver Gilt medal. Congratulations to all those involved and many thanks to our sponsors Brother UK, Johnsons Seeds, Vital Earth, Growise, OSD Tech LCC, and Club Rococo.