At the Chelsea Flower Show in London, Alec White, owner of Primrose Hall Peonies, came up with a novel idea. Why not paint a nude model with peonies and have her walk around the show to gain attention.
Jill Brooke with Primrose Hall model – Photo Credit: Jill Brooke
“It certainly worked,” White says, laughing. “We were a lead story on the BBC and we’ve been interviewed by radio stations and morning shows as well.” Radio stations? Oh well, there will always be an England.
The model was painted by artist Liz Bylett.
“It took over six hours to do,” says Bylett, who chose apricot and raspberry colors in her palette. The large flowers covered all important parts of the model’s body since she was only wearing a tanga. However, her backside was literally and figuratively exposed which we can’t show you. Somehow with all the attention, the model remained calm as hundreds of people snapped photos of this live work of floral art.
Over at their stand in the Great Pavilion, White decorated the area with a large bathtub overflowing with peonies and a neon sign with the hashtag, #Love Peonies. There he and his team gave an instructional on peonies.
The stars of White’s display at the annual Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show, which has been taking place here since 1912, were his Itoh or intersectional peonies. They are a cross between the familiar herbaceous peonies and tree peonies and considered the most beautiful and most collectible. White heaped praise on All That Jazz, bred by grower Don Smith.
“What makes it really special are how they open into this raspberry cherry red and have a beautiful apricot fleck,” White said. “As it gets older, as it matures. it is 20 centimeters wide, fully double, and is lightly fragrant and a bit paler with a darker burgundy fleck. It’s absolutely fantastic and low maintenance to grow. Easy for beginners, perfect in pots or the garden, it will last 50 or 60 years. Nor does it get eaten by slugs, rabbits or deer. It’s perfect for everyone.”
Primrose Hall owner Alex White, photo credit: Jill Brooke
Other beautiful Itoh peonies included one called Morning Lilac and Cora Louise. Cora Louise has a lavender tone with raspberry flecks that I found absolutely enticing.
Primrose Hall Peonies’ Morning Lilac, another Itoh, at RHS 2019, photo credit: FlowerPowerwithJill
Primrose Hall Peonies’ Cora Louise, photo credit, FlowerPowerwithJill
For those who gravitate toward Itohs with peach tones, Singing in the Rain is a popular choice. Bartzella is ideal for those looking for yellow peonies, which are rarer.
Primrose Peony Singing in the Rain at RHS 2019, photo credit: FlowerPowerwithJill
Primrose Hall Peonies began when White left his law career in London to pursue his passion for horticulture. It wasn’t that much of a surprise, since the love of flowers is in his family. His mother is an accomplished florist and runs her own business.
His grandfather was a nurseryman, too, and some of Alec White’s earliest memories were of working alongside his grandfather Herbert and his flowers.
It seemed like a natural shift for his second act. He has already won several RHS awards and definitely won a audience award for creativity and an entertaining display.
Furthermore, he has announced that his peonies will soon find a home in the United States, since he plans on selling his popular root stock outside of England.
Primrose Hall Peonies’ nursery is in rural Bedfordshire and has the widest selections of rare and unusual peonies in the United Kingdom. – Jill Brooke