May 2010

Image for press release
(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

Strawberries and Champagne: the theme for the John Joseph Mechi garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show will create huge interest from fruit loving visitors. Designed by Ben Wincott of Writtle College, the garden reflects the times of this innovative Victorian farmer and is a celebration of two special anniversaries for RABI and Tiptree jam.

Upon hearing the medal achievement Ben said: “From initial client brief through to the construction at Chelsea Flower Show, I have been working on the design of the John Joseph Mechi garden for 17 months and I am so proud of what we have been able to achieve for such a momentous occasion.

Design and construction of the garden has been supported immeasurably by Writtle College horticultural staff as well as by highly skilled and dedicated Writtle students. The design of the garden pays tribute to a unique connection between the RABI and Tiptree preserves reflecting at every turn, and in every meticulously designed detail, distinctive celebratory links.”

John Joseph Mechi founded the farming charity: the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) 150 years ago. In June this year Wilkin & Sons Limited will celebrate 125 years of jam making at Tiptree, where fruit is still grown on the land once farmed by John Joseph Mechi.

“We hope that John Joseph Mechi, this Victorian entrepreneur and philanthropist who was so determined to pioneer new farming techniques, would have been pleased/proud to rest in this garden,” said Ian Thurgood joint managing director of Wilkin & Sons Limited.”

The creative skills of the designer, Ben Wincott, are reflected in his choice of water feature, natural stone and the challenging planting. Ben’s design illustrates the values of the Victorian plantsmen who were keen to introduce new methods of cultivation and new plants from abroad. A bubbling champagne style water feature, the introduction of copper to remind us that copper is still used in jam making pans and innovative ways of growing rhubarb will inspire visitors to replicate some of his methods in their own gardens.

After months of searching Ben has found a superb specimen tree for the garden, some beautiful Espalier pear trees, hundreds of strawberry plants grown for the show by Essex plant grower, Ken Muir, and rhubarb crowns that were taken from the fields where once Mechi farmed at Tiptree.

"We are delighted that Wilkin & Sons and Writtle College are supporting RABI through the creation of a garden dedicated to our founder. It is a fitting tribute to a man who devoted much of his life to improving crop production, as well as helping those in need in the farming community, and an important part of our 150th anniversary celebrations," said Paul Burrows, RABI chief executive.

Please view the dedicated web pages at