The Growers Diaries: Growers

The Growers Diaries: Medwyn Williams

Medwyn Williams

Medwyn is a Welsh champion of exceptional gardening practices, all managed from his picturesque plot of farmland on the beautiful island of Anglesey.

Proudest accolade 12 times Chelsea Gold Winner
Growing Since Childhood
Favourite plant to grow Leeks
Biggest learning curve Planting dates for show time

This season for me hasn´t really been affected by the Coronvairus pandemic, only the varied weather throughout spring so far. Some days it has been overly wet, some days bitterly cold and others sunshine. The cold weather has been challenging for planting.

Chelsea Flower Show is still my goal this year and I am hoping to add to my 12 Chelsea Gold medals! I always want to put quality vegetables on show to create a stunning 25ft display which takes some doing. Working with nature and trying to push it to its limits is great, though sometimes it does come back and kick you in the teeth and Chelsea this year has been rescheduled to later in the year.

This month I am potting up my tomatoes into 9cm pots, though for anyone planting – always plant them as deep as you can! The little hair roots on the stem are called adventitious roots which will develop into proper roots to get a stronger plant to carry on with. Once they get some warmth they will romp away! Tomatoes do need a bit of space so spread them out if you have the room for them.

There is no way I could have done this without my wife Gwenda supporting me and my son Alwyn who has come into join me more.

Going into my 80th year, I have no plans to stop! Growing keeps me active and gets me out of the house, whats the point in stopping? I´m enjoying it!

The last month has been difficult. The drop in overnight temperatures has given me problems, the main one being that some of my blanche leeks have bolted.

I have five barrels of my own long black beets, a very old variety, that can grow up to 4-5ft long! These were only sewn the 10th May and they have already thinned out to two in each station and there is four stations in each barrel – perfect timing for the end of September.

I have had it up to my eyes with rabbits and carrotfly, this mesh caging is to prevent pests getting to my 150 odd short carrots. If they grow to my expectations without flies and rabbits affecting them, we should have some nice results.

Next month is going to be a bit of a peak as 50% of the display stand is to be sewn and planted up, the last thing to be sewn will be the radish. These will be 5 weeks or so before the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in September.

I have temperatures to put up with so constant watering and monitoring, someone told me we are going to have a hot summer so I better have a tub of water just for me to dive into.

It is amazing how resilient plants can be, as long as they get water and nutrients around their roots – they will grow.

Tessa Traicher one of the most famous photographers who photographed for Vogue magazine worldwide came to my greenhouse for two days, she told me that I was an artist, I laughed and said no I am not an artist – I am a gardener!

A few weeks to go until Chelsea. Someone counted once on my display stand and found that I had over 120 baskets that I had made.

The carrots form baskets on my display so I will have a go at pulling one out to see. It should come out fairly easy, I like to give it a little twist just to break the side shoots a little, then gently pull it out to see if I can get the whole tap root out intact. The skin condition is superb and the colour – very happy with that!

This Folds variety of parsley is one of the best you can get. The fronds are so tight, it resembles moss and is very important vegetable as part of my display. More or less every bit of the display.

We have 8 beds with different varieties coming up. I am very lucky the greenhouse roof opens up so the heat dissipates very quickly! Got a long beetroot on the go, I have 5 barrels of 4 so I have 20 and I am only looking to pull 12. This F1 hybrid is a lovely white turnip that has been around for a number of years, but it is still one of the best to grow. My french beans will be selected for display at Chelsea and the rest of them will be set aside to be stock.

Once I get to Chelsea, once I have the tables infront of me and I select the baskets of veg, I am in heaven. That is me creating something from a simple vegetable.

This is my last Chelsea. I am 80 next year and it is time to hang my trowel up. We have done most of the big shows and have won Gold every time so there is a high standard to keep up. The saying I have in the front of my seed catalogue is that ¨I strive for perfection, but settle for excellence¨ and that is what you have to do.

Tuesday the 14th September and we´re pulling roots now, washing all day today. It is all go on all the roots! It is very stressful, you have 40 odd kinds of vegetables and they have all got to cross the finishing line together. It´s no use having them two weeks after or before, that is the incredibly difficult bit.

I have a variety of carrots called purple sun which are orange inside. All carrots were originally yellow, Holland decided in their infinite wisdom that they should be orange to match the flag and they bred them until the yellow eventually went out. I like the skin condition on these too!

As a family we have been gardening for years. My grandfather was a keen gardener, my father was a top gardener too and was known as the long carrot man. I have a lot of thoughts coming through, thoughts about my father, him and I going together. I remember putting our first collection in Shrewsbury and we saw we had won the Stirchley cup and the first prize for the first display ever. My father touched me and said ¨I want to cry.¨ I told him that is no problem dad, you have a good cry! He was so proud. We did have a moment like that at Chelsea in 2000, we won it and won the precedence award for the best display of any kind within the horticultural marquee. That was very moving, I had just lost my mother & father and I wanted to cry. I wanted to ring dad but he wasn´t there and that was the saddest and most emotional moment for me.

We work as a team, as a family unit. Gwenda my wife and Alwyn my son is keen on it. It is an art form our display, it is always from dead center to the left and right is an exact copy and you could fold it like a book. That to me is the pure enjoyment of creating an artistic form from vegetables.

The long beetroots have taken a bit of a pasting with the hot weather as you can see with the foliage. It isn´t the nicest vegetable for exhibition really, but it is another kind of vegetable and it makes the display different. I have always been convinced that vegetables when shown naked are more colourful than flowers, plus you can eat them which is a bonus. There aren´t many flowers you could eat!

Without CANNA I wouldn´t have been able to do Chelsea. We work extremely well together and write together. CANNA COCO Professional we use more than the TERRA, we found it works well for us.

The judges will check every stand that is covered with black cloth, they will check there is not too much cloth showing or that there is not enough cloth showing. There is a panel of judges, not just one person, they will come to the decision but we won´t find out until Tuesday morning when we turn up. It is like Father Christmas time, during the night the girls will go out with the cards for each winning display so that when you wake up in the morning you will see a silver, gold or bronze!

Alwyn Williams: Medwyn is like the director or the captain of the ship. I do all the logistics, planning and dates. My mother comes in to do the harvesting. My mums more the one with the artistic flair, she likes to match the colours up or work out the shapes of the displays.

Chelsea Flower Show 2021

Here we are at Chelsea Flower show at long last after all the worry and stresses of growing the materials but the public have boosted me up and everyone says it is absolutely amazing!

I am over the moon and I couldn´t say it any better than that. The judges have been very kind and generous to me, I have had a gold medal once again so that makes 13. It is nothing to look at really, it is just a small little gold emblem in the middle of card but to me it is worth a lot. It is the most prestigious show on earth so it says it all!

I am 80 next year and you can´t go on together. Everything comes to an end at some point or other. This is the end for me. I am very happy I have achieved a hell of a lot in gardening. I wanted people to be inspired by vegetables and I think I have achieved that. I am not packing in gardening, I will still grow for the show bench. I have all this to thank for, my son, my grandson and my great grandson who is only 6, but he is showing he loves it. He comes down the land with me and sits on the potting bench, does a bit of this and that, but well it is just the same as my dad passed down information to me. I get a bit emotional thinking about my dad. It has been a lovely trip and I have got to thank my wife Gwenda as she has been fabulous. We have been married 50-60 years now and she´s been with me all the way. We´ve never had less than a Gold medal anywhere at any show so that was my worry with this one being the last, I didn´t want to slip down. But I am chuffed to death.

Gwenda Williams: I love gardening! You look forwards to going to the shows and meeting the people. It is just wonderful! We have been married 50-60 years and we have been a team all along. I think Medwyn will never stop growing and I will still enjoy my shows as long as I live because the people and response to the stall. You´ve got to give in some time.