John and Rhona Marshall are coming to terms with being a very small part of a four man team which achieved the first gold medal ever at the Chelsea Flower Show. Morrice Innes with his wife Ann built a magnificent display of a 140 varieties of potatoes from his 600 strong collection grown on the outskirts of New Machair Aberdeenshire.
John Marshall writes to tell us:
“When we arrived on the Thursday before the event there was already a fair amount of activity in The Grand Pavilion. Black hessian clad platforms were being transformed into the exotic tropical gardens. We were surrounded by the Pillars of Mexico, the spice Island of Greneda and the rum punch of Trinidad and Tobago. On the potato stall it was slow work as we selected for the themes Scotland, Ireland, Baking, Blight Resistance, coloured flesh and so on.
“One minute before the Sunday 9pm deadline we were finished. Celebrity and press day meant kilts for the men and colourful dresses for the ladies. We had our share Janet Street Porter, Brenda Blethyn , a grilling from Nicholas Parsons and Bianca Jagger passed by Radio Sussex, Radio Tyne Tees the Guardian, The Telegraph all talked about the “Potato Man” and Monty Don with an interview on BBC2 resulted in Morrice being spotted man on the underground. Joe Swift used the display as a continuity backdrop as he talked about the potato being grown on the 1995 Columbian Space shuttle.
“We were going to work the stand in shifts but the popularity was such that we were all at hand to exchange “tattie talk”. We reckoned we had spoken with over 50 nationalities, “Where were the Jersey Royals?” “We love the knobbly Pink Fir Apples” “Do purple potatoes taste purple?” “Maris Piper make the Best Chips” “Where can I get Arran Victory/” Recipes from the bay of Biscay with grilled sardines, wrinkly potatoes from the Canaries, Accordion potatoes from Auchermuchty, curried ones from Bombay. At one point we had an invasion of chefs. A quick recount reassured Morrice they were all there when they left.
“Everybody congratulated Morrice on his award, the first ever gold medal for potatoes at the Chelsea Flower Show. A truly amazing 12 days for Rhona and I. I had always promised to take her there one day when I had retired and there we were 8am till 9pm!”