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Off to Malaysia on a plant hunting mission!

Posted by James Wong on 26 Feb 2010 at 04:33 AM

Begonia pavoninaSelaginella wildenowiiSelaginella wildenowiiSelaginella wildenowiiSelaginella wildenowiiDesigning gardens can seem like an incredibley idyllic job, visiting exciting new nurseries, toying with cool computer models and  generally concocting up strange new ideas. All this may be true, but when it comes to Chelsea there is an awful lot of hard graft too!

It's 4.30am right now, and I don't think I've been to bed earlier than this for the past month - and the show still isn't for months to come. The reason is when you are working with Malaysian nurseries (where we hope to get a small collection of truly wierd and wonderful plants) you need to be up for the Malaysian working day. The tricky thing is you also need to be awake for your UK-based builders, plant sourcing team, materials suppliers, etc - and these factors conspire to create a pretty heavy duty sleep deprivation - so I do hope you excuse the inevitable typos.

Great news this week though. We have had some amazing news from Malaysian Airlines, in that they may be generously providing us with a free freight allowance to import a few select plants from Malaysia! Although we would like to source almost all our key plants as locally as possible (with a self-imposed limitation of 300 miles from the show site) to cut down on our carbon footprint, for the really crazy exotics- many of which may have never been shown outside of Malaysia before - there is only one solution. Going there and getting them yourself! David and I are really excited about seeing what they have in store, and at the top of our list of priorities are tracking down bizarre carnivorous plants, a rare begonia with irisdescent scales that make their leaves sparkle like the wings of a butterfly and arums that look like a cobra poised to strike - all native to the Malaysian rainforest and (of course) sustainabley sourced. Like all the plants in our garden, after the show is over they will be donated to gardens all over the UK.

Incidentally the image attached is of the iridescent begonia in question - Begonia pavonina, the Malay peacock begonia. It grows along paths in the jungle and if you wander around with a torch at night, the leaves act like motorway cat's eyes reflecting light straight back at you and illuminating the edges of the path. Way more exciting the the council bedding scheme begonias...

Excitement, determination and not a small amount of caffeine are keeping us going, let's just hope we get what we need!



Jen said:

Praying you and David find everything your searching for, it will make all the hard work and the sleep deprivation worth while im sure!

on 06 Mar 2010 at 10:34 AM

Helen Oon said:

Good luck with your search for rainforest plants. Head to Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysian Borneo for exotic plants and wild orchids. It is a botanist's paradise.

Helen Oon ( author of Globetrotter Guide To Malaysia and Wildlife Guide To Malaysia)

on 30 Mar 2010 at 05:28 PM