RHS Chelsea Flower Show – Then and Now

109 years since the first RHS Chelsea Flower Show and still going strong.

What an achievement in these unpredictable times.

Let's delve into a bit of this remarkable show's history and then find out what we have planned for you this year!

Early Days

The first show held on Chelsea Hospital grounds on 20 May 1913, then called the Great Spring Show, was where the RHS Chelsea Flower Show as we know it really took off. With 244 exhibitors and a giant tent over two acres full of all manner of plant-life, it was quite the event.

However, the Royal Horticultural Society had quite a few shows leading up to that, although not quite so prestigious. For example, it seems the first exhibit in 1805 was rather humble - a potato displayed by a Mr Minier.

So in 1827 the Society decided to get the public involved. They held a fête at their garden in Chiswick and it was such a success they had another the next year.

1829 was hit by terrible rain where guests were apparently drowned up to their ankles - ’shrieks were dreadful and the loss of shoes particularly annoying.’ Mammoth downpours have occurred a few times since, so be prepared - take your wellies!

The show continued in Chiswick until 1857. From 1862 onwards it moved to Kensington and then Inner Temple, but by 1911 they were on the hunt for another more suitable venue.

The 1900’s

Come 1912, whilst supporting an international horticultural extravaganza on the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital, the Society realised this would be the perfect venue.

The show has continued with great success at this location since, with only temporary postponements during the two World Wars and a delay in 1926 due to The General Strike.

The event has grown and exhibits have become more and more intricate and creative as the years have gone by, with all sorts of memorable happenings such as:

  • “The Garden of Tomorrow” in the 50’s featuring ‘the most modern aids to horticulture’, one of them being a radio-controlled lawn mower.
  • A 5000 square foot orchid display in the 60's – the largest ever at the show.
  • The first celebrity garden designer came about and could be seen on TV in the 70’s.
  • A vintage gnome allegedly blocked the entrance to the show in protest in 1993 on the 80th anniversary of the garden gnome ban
  • The recycling of the Great Marquee into 7,000 aprons, jackets and bags
  • An entire garden made from 2.5 tonnes of plasticine by James May causing quite a stir


What've We Got in Store This Year?

This year we'll be capturing visitors attention with a dazzling, eye catching bonanza! It will be an all-singing and all-dancing display of alstroemeria, honouring the alstroemerias South American heritage.

Alstroemeria are the party animals of the garden and nothing says party like the Rio Carnival! So we're creating a Carnival street scene with mannequins in dramatic sparkly costumes made from alstroemeria, feathers and sequins.

You'll feel like you are part of 'The Greatest Show on Earth' (as the Rio Carnival is affectionately known)!

More cause for celebration is that we'll be launching two new alstroemeria at the show on 23 May 2022. One will be entered into the Plant of the Year competition. Alec has named them affectionately after his maternal and paternal grandmothers - ‘Little Miss June’ and ‘Little Miss Connie’ pictured right (photos by Clive Nichols).

Nanny Foreman (June) (maternal) – Nanny June has always been a gardener and Alec has fond memories of spending lots of time in the garden with her. He especially remembers going with her to Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in the early 1990s and spending long days looking at the gardens and plant pavilion exhibits. Nanny June turned 89 this year and we are hoping she will come to press day

Nanny White (Connie) (paternal) – Alec has particularly fond memories of sunny summers spent in Bournemouth on the beach with Nanny Connie which was close to where they lived. She loved outdoor walks and spending time in the sun. Nanny Connie was always very supportive of his gardening exploits and early exhibiting as a child.

These will make a wonderful addition to the historic Parigo ‘Little Miss’ Series which we hold the Plant Heritage National Collection for.

Clearly there's lots of cause for celebration! Come and join us and get your tickets here!

2021 RHS Chelsea Flower Show

2022 Sneak Peeks

A Little bit of Rio
Festive Alstroemeria
'Little Miss June' alstroemeria
'Little Miss Connie' alstroemeria

The Story of Parigo – Part 2

If you missed part one you might want to read that first.

Our story continues in 1964 when the demand for the new super hybrids increases.


Parigo buys land in Sussex to keep up with all the orders and build new glass houses.

The extra light pays off. Two are widespan houses producing over 100,000 blooms each year while the smaller houses are used for propagating and breeding.

By 1978, John and his sons Bob and Frank start focussing on the three most successful crops - alstroemeria, freesia and gladioli.


At this time they see a need to simplify as they were running seven nurseries in total between Sussex and Lincolnshire. They decide to sell four of the nurseries and upgrade the remaining three. Bob manages Spalding and Frank is in charge of Chichester.

Come 1988, Parigo’s production areas total 9 acres - all under glass!


About two thirds of their cut flower production is sold through wholesale market channels countrywide. The rest goes to secondary wholesalers, local florists and a few supermarket customers.

The breeding plants of all three crops are an important part of the business and are sold worldwide.

Believing quality is paramount, Bob Goemans says:

“We really know how to grow the crops we have specialised in and as breeders and growers, we follow all the way through with a top quality product”.

In 1998, the hybrid alstroemeria’s future is looking more and more promising as the worldwide demand for Parigo varieties continues to grow.


This leads to the building of high-tech labs for micropropagation.

By this time South America, Africa, Japan, Holland, France and Germany are all growing the hybrids. However, Parigo has about 25% of the market share supplying alstroemeria plants to cut flower growers in the UK.

The range is extended to 24 with three new varieties – ‘Oriana’, ‘Vanessa’ and ‘Tristar’.

Lead varieties are the deep ruby Bellini’, bright magenta ‘Europa’, ‘Yellow Crown’ and ‘Friendship’. ‘Athena’ claims fourth position out of 20 in Dutch productivity trials while ‘Europa’ and ‘Bellini’ are planted for assessment in the 1998 trials. Parigo also begins working with leading supermarket chains to supply cut flowers.

In 2004 new garden variety alstroemeria are being bred and Parigo starts exhibiting these at flower shows around the country.


The plants get a wonderful reception and continue to be popular garden flowering plants.

In 2019, after nearly 81 years running Parigo as a family business, it came time for Frank and Bob to retire.


However, they didn't want to just dissolve the company or let it go dormant as they still supplied a number of UK cut flower growers and retail plant sellers with Parigo hybrids.

Instead, the brothers wanted their father’s legacy to continue and for Britain to become known again for growing and breeding alstroemeria.

This led to Frank handing his treasured family business over to Alec - handpicking him because of his success in growing peonies and his brand “Primrose Hall Peonies”.

Alec is committed to producing the highest quality alstroemeria plants. He’s passionate about showing the world what fantastic, versatile plants they are and the wonderful assortment available for both the garden and the vase.

The Story of Parigo – Part 1

Whether it be a handsome sum of money, the dining room table or a bad temper, we all inherit something from our parents.

In the case of the founder of Parigo, John Goemans, it was a horticultural heritage that began with his grandfather Petrus. Petrus established “P. Goemans and Sons” bulbgrowers and exporters in Holland in 1860.

It seems that once those plants get in your blood you can’t get them out.

Don’t we know it!

So Petrus’ horticultural legacy continued down the line with his son Adriaan happily bulb growing in Holland.

But how did Parigo begin and get to England, you may ask?

It all began with Adriaan’s son, John, just before World War 2.

Before and During WW2

Parigo began in December 1938, when John Goemans, started growing flowers on a small nursery near Spalding. John originally started growing Spring flowers together with another Dutchman, Mr. van Paridon. This is where the name Parigo came from - a combination of the founder’s names.

World War 2 intervened in the company growth and Mr. van Paridon spent the war years in Holland. After years away from the nursery he decided to withdraw from the company after the war ended, leaving John to run it with his sons Bob and Frank.

The war years were a challenge in many ways. In 1945 John reported that the last four years culture of bulbs had been limited to 25 percent of what he had in culture in 1938.

He had to start growing farm crops like potatoes, sugar beets and wheat but was focusing on freesia seed to trade in after the war. He also started keeping bees as he recognised how vital they are for gaining seeds. And it tasted good too.

Post WW2

After the war, the family began growing freesias, alstroemeria and gladioli along with other bulbous plants.

But John Goemans was not just a grower of plants, he was also a successful plant breeder and by 1951 Parigo’s breeding programme really got going and achieved great success with their freesias.

Alstroemeria were still a work in progress. Although alstroemeria had long been established as a garden plant, John wanted to breed a new hybrid. He wanted long lasting cut flowers with larger blooms in a wide range of colours.

The hybrids were initially produced from crosses between three of the original alstroemeria species. After years of endeavour, in 1959 John produced his first seedling ‘Ballerina’ and two years later, ‘Parigo’s Charm’ and ‘Parigo’s Pride’ came along.

Encouraged by the success of these hybrids, John went on to produce 100 seedlings of varying colours and characteristics. Through continuous selection work on Parigo’s nurseries, a nucleus of about 20 varieties has been vegetatively propagated to produce stocks for commercial cut flower production.

These Super hybrids could be made to produce cut flowers from early March through to late October rather than only July, as with Alstroemeria aurantiaca varieties. They also had straight, single stems with narrow, attractive leaves and could grow to over 180cm in height. The flower head could have as many as 10 branches with each having a spray of 4 or 5 flower buds.

What an achievement!

And what happened next?

Stay tuned for part 2…

Parigo Relaunch at Chelsea 2021

We're excited to be relaunching this British Heritage brand to visitors and keen gardeners at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2021. It's been nearly twenty years since Parigo was at Chelsea so we are delighted to be back!

With the show moving from May to September this year, it's a fantastic opportunity for us to be able to show off the beauty of Alstroemeria. Although Autumn is not the most flowery time of year for many plants, Alstroemeria flower right up until October.

Our exhibit will demonstrate, in a contemporary way, the extraordinary colour range of these versatile, repeat flowering plants.

So you'll get to see them in all their blooming glory!

Who's Parigo?

Parigo was originally established in the UK in 1938 by John Goemans who was the first in the world to grow Alstroemeria commercially under glass. In 1959 Goemans bred and introduced the first Alstroemeria variety specifically intended for glasshouse growing. By the mid 1960s he had bred an entire collection and it was some years before anyone else could emulate the success.

In 1985 Bob & Frank Goemans took charge of the remaining Spalding site, with his brother Frank Goemans managing the Chichester site. By the end of the century it was decided to concentrate on the breeding and propagation of the Alstroemeria for both the cut flower and garden markets.

Come 2019, Frank decided it was time to retire. Rather than shutting the business down he thought he'd find someone he could pass his father's Alstroemeria legacy on to. Frank handpicked Alec White to take over his treasured family business because of his success in growing peonies and his brand PrimroseHall Peonies.

After taking over the Parigo brand in 2019, Alec plans to reignite the breeding programme and bring this British horticultural heritage brand into the 21st century. He is committed to producing the highest quality Alstroemeria plants for our customers. His passion is to show the world what a fantastic assortment of Alstroemeria are available, both as cut flowers and as garden plants.

Parigo at Chelsea

As a British bred and grown flower, Parigo fits right in to one of the themes of this year's show - sustainability and environmental awareness.

In line with this, there is a new competition - The Chelsea Flower Show Floristry and Floral Design – with the main theme “Our World”. The aim is to create awareness around our environmental impact, particularly in the cut flower industry. Making small changes over time can make a big difference!

Entrants will choose between ‘Floral Windows’ and ‘Floral Installations’ which have the following options:

‘Floral Windows’ will have the themes ‘British Blooms’ or ‘Preservation’ to emphasize the importance of keeping things local and reusing plant materials to reduce those carbon footprints.

‘Floral Installations’ will be centred around ‘Pollination’ and the ‘Beauty of Nature’. These designs will be required to use plants from the RHS Plants for Pollinators list or carry a strong horticultural message in the design.

Find out more about the exhibitors here.

Better yet, get some tickets and see us all in person!


British Alstro

Now is as good a time as any to be proudly British.

Because, why not?

Also, with more interest in buying local and supporting smaller, homegrown companies closer to where we live, why not add Alstroemeria to that list?

British Grown

Some of us may remember a time when 90% of the flowers supplied in the UK were British grown. We were all going along swimmingly until a fuel price hike in the UK and Dutch government subsidies turned the tables in the 1970’s.

Up until a few years ago, the percentage of British grown flowers sold in the UK was less than 15%. And 90% of that was going to the supermarkets. But that is starting to change.

Although Dutch flower companies have been one step ahead in the flower industry since the 70’s, government subsidies have recently started being phased out which is having a impact on their production.

With many campaigns encouraging greater enthusiasm for British flowers, the demand for British grown flowers is steadily growing.

If you’re in England and buying Alstroemeria grown in British soil, there’s no doubt you’ll be getting a better quality plant. It makes sense to buy plants that don’t have to travel for weeks to get to your door.

Think about how we humans often feel after travelling a few hours on a plane.

Not a pretty sight...

British Bred

Although Alstroemeria originate from South America the first new varieties were bred in Spalding, Lincolnshire by plant breeder John Goemans, becoming known as 'the father of alstroemeria’. He was the first in the world to grow Alstroemeria commercially under glass, introducing the first Alstroemeria variety specifically intended for glasshouse growing in 1959.

By the late 60’s breeding really took off with his launch of pink ‘Ballerina’ - the first of about 50 new varieties he developed over the years for the garden and cut-flower industry. This led to Alstroemeria becoming one of the major glasshouse grown cut flower crops in the world today. In 2018 John Goemans’ company 'Parigo' was taken over by Alec White of Primrose Hall Peonies, where the growing and breeding continues.

There are now about 250 different varieties of alstroemeria available in Britain. We grow over 200 varieties on our 8 acre nursery based in rural Bedfordshire, including original British bred Parigo varieties (such as ‘Apollo’, ‘Friendship’ and the ‘Little Miss’ series), the ‘Colorita’ (‘Princess’) series, ‘Inca’ series, ‘Planet’ series and Inticancha collection. Some of our favourites are ‘Rock ‘n Roll’ and ‘Colorita Fabiana’ with their beautiful and unusual variegated leaves.

Alstroemeria are marvelous because of their comparatively long vase-life (up to 2-3 weeks) and have a long, prolific flowering season.

And strong stems & long bracts make British grown alstro a first prize choice. Also, known as a ‘dry’ and a ‘cool’ crop, they require very little watering or heating.

So they are a sustainability win too!

Gives us reason to be even more proudly British.

And that’s why we love ‘em.