2019 marks 15 years since Wilstone's first stand at the Chelsea Flower Show. Wilstone’s founder, Christo McKinnon-Wood writes about the experience of exhibiting at Chelsea and why it means so much to us to be there:
For my first Chelsea I partnered with Julian Faulkineer from Small Earth, who designed and built a stand to impress. This was awarded a Merit for its Outstanding Presentation and since then we have been exhibiting at Chelsea every year.
From this great start our stand has evolved, along with our product range and the increasing popularity of the Kadai Firebowl. But still I hanker over the amazing antique pieces I’ve collected from all over India and use Chelsea as a showcase for these. However, it’s not uncommon to see my name on an item that I cannot bear to part with when I’ve seen it displayed so beautifully.
From 2008 the Kadai Firebowl side of the Wilstone business has been taking off to incredible heights. People were noticing the Kadais and realised how fabulous they are, and my mind moved to think what innovative products would go alongside them.
In 2010, after a demonstration from children at a local bushcraft event, I saw how charcoal is made. Heading home I designed a mini charcoal retort and on my next India trip made the first prototype, testing it with my son on a cold December evening to great effect and fun.
The following February, the RHS invited entries to the first ever Product of the Year Competition and the Charcoal Maker seemed like the perfect entry. To my huge pleasure and honour it won, with HRH Prince Phillip personally buying four for himself at Chelsea!
Most years since we have had a product shortlisted as Product of the Year, with our Wall Greenhouse as last year’s entry and this year, our Obelisk Composter entry is through to the finals. It is a great product being environmentally effective, innovative, affordable and of massive horticultural benefit; converting kitchen waste directly into plant feed for vegetables in raised beds. The environment credentials that are fundamental with our ethos are very evident, being handmade from recycled metal, coming in recyclable packaging, being ultimately 100% recyclable itself and recycling plant matter, it really is carbon neutral.
Chelsea is our premier show of the year and one I take huge pleasure in planning, building and attending. It takes weeks of work, but creating a beautiful garden show stand from a patch of grass in the centre of London and having 150,000 visit, including royalty, is quite something.
The buzz of being part of a world famous event and the camaraderie between fellow exhibitors is fantastic. Chelsea is no doubt the very best Flower Show anywhere in the world.