Chelsea Flower Show 2020

Chelsea Flower Show 2020

Due to the Chelsea Flower Show being cancelled this year the RHS has introduced a digital version. They very kindly asked us to produce a short film about our famous Cymbidium Loewianum magnificum, which has been going to the show since it began in 1913. This will be aired on Saturday 23rd May and we are looking forward to the final edit, knitting together our amateur filmmaking extracts using an iPhone! You can rewatch here:

Cymbidium Loewianum magnificum
Cymbidium Loewianum magnificum

McBeans collaborate with three young artists. Chelsea Flower show 2018

 We were proud to present ‘Lowing’ a commission made by artists Elinor Stanley, Ned Armstrong & Steph Hartop, creating a sculptural support structure to display orchids.

Drawing from elements of the Sussex landscape and interior architecture, the artists sought to transplant McBeans locality into a set displaying the orchids and emphasising the structures required for the development of this vast and varied species. Working intuitively, the artists chose materials that articulate the chalky Sussex landscape surrounding McBeans. As the project progressed it became apparent that within the world of orchids the boundaries between natural and artificial become obscured. If the success of a species is measured by variety and abundance there is surely none more successful the orchid.

Elinor Stanley (b.1992) is an artist based in London. She completed her BA at Glasgow School of Art. Recent shows include Strong Currents, Botany Bay, Margate 2018, With Kin, Manor Farm Dorset 2017, Fort Bravo, Caledonian Road Church, Glasgow 2017, June, Set Space, London 2017, Pendolino, Glasgow New Society 2017, Hedging, House for an Art Lover, Glasgow 2016, MONO, URG3L, Madrid 2016, Glasgow to Leeds, Blip Blip Gallery Leeds 2015. She is a member of BART WALTZ Collective who exhibited in 2016, The Glue Factory Glasgow and Gayfield Gallery, Edinburgh. In 2016 Elinor received the HAL20 scholarship and was artist in residence at House for an Art Lover, Glasgow. In 2018 she was selected for Chisenhale Art Place’s Into The

Wild program and is currently an associate to Open School East, Margate.

Ned Armstrong (b. 1992) is an artist based in London, he completed a BA at Edinburgh College of Art where he received the George Jackson prize for excellence in painting. Recent exhibitions include G.E.L., Basic Mountain Gallery, Edinburgh, 2018, Places I want to be, P.S. Miracle Gallery, 2018, Paperworks, The Popular Rectory, London 2018, Stuffstarts, New Glasgow Society, Glasgow 2017, Dirty Den, Forrest Road, Edinburgh 2017, June, Bermondsey Projects, London 2017, Camberwell Arts Festival 2017, Further Away, India Dickinson Gallery, London 2017, Spindleshanks, All Saints Rectory, London 2017, Annuale, St Margarets House, Edinburgh 2016, Fourth, India Dickinson Gallery, London 2016, Gubbins Ran, St Margarets House, Edinburgh 2016, Kiosk, Gayfield Creative Spaces, Edinburgh 2016, Painting Now, Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown Wales 2016

Steph Hartop (b.1991) graduated from Goldsmiths in 2014 with a BA in Fine Art and Art History. Previous exhibitions include: June, Set Space, London 2017, Paralysis, Ellis King, Dublin 2015, Gesamt, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copehagen Art Festival 2012. She lives and works in London.

The History of McBean’s Nursery – over a century growing exquisite orchids and rare plants in East Sussex near Lewes

McBeans Nursery in full bloom with various beautiful orchids

The 140 year old Orchid Nursery near Lewes

In 1879 McBean’s nursery was created by the Scotsman James Ure McBean on a piece of land just outside of Lewes in the South Downs. James was a passionate horticulturist and dreamt of growing exotic plants from the nursery. The original McBean’s glasshouse was used to grow a variety of imported plants including ferns. It is said that the first orchid in the nursery appeared amongst ferns.

It was Albert, James’ son, who fell in love with orchids. He was absolutely passionate about growing the finest orchids from the nursery in the world; it was he with his passion and drive that originally won McBean’s recognition as one of the greatest orchid establishments.

Innovative and award winning from the start

In the early 1900’s Mr Schlegel was the Nursery’s principal grower winning several awards. The first cymbidium awarded was named Cymbidium Schlegeli in his honour. Unfortunately, in 1914 Mr Schlegel, being of German parentage, was interned. His hybridisation work continues to this day.

From the very beginning hybridisation, the artificial crossing of two plants was of great interest and importance. The experiments to raise orchids from seed took many years. Few plants made it to maturity; the mortality rate was about 99%.

A day at the Nursery

In the 1920’s a typical day began at 6am with Albert McBean standing at the nursery gate, watch in hand, making sure everyone arrived on time. Albert then led the men in prayer before the work began. In the 1930’s Albert decided that the Cymbidium would become fashionable as a cut flower and the nursery concentrated its main effort into producing high quality cymbidium for the floristry trade.

The nursery grew steadily and its breeding techniques changed drastically when the Head Grower of the day, Sidney Rothwell, learnt revolutionary new sowing techniques from Professor Knudson of the USA. This involved sowing orchid seeds in sterile media (agar) in Pyrex flasks. Using this technique Sidney produced well over a million seedlings in his time.

Export and world fame

In 1939-45 many plants were exported to the USA on boats that were returning empty after delivering arms, etc. for the war. The RHS was helpful with regard to permits for fuel and agar so that laboratory work could continue.
In 1942 Albert McBean sadly died leaving behind a widow and four daughters.

The royal connection

In 1971, McBean’s acquired the stocks and business of Charlesworth & Co. of Haywards Heath. From the Charlesworth collection a search was made for Alba clones with a view to producing high quality Odontoglossum crispum. Two crosses that resulted from this programme were Odontoglossum Royal Wedding and Odontoglossum Royal Occasion. McBean’s were proud to supply flowers of these hybrids for the wedding bouquet of HRH Diana Princess of Wales.

A continuing success

Over the years McBean’s has bred thousands of different varieties of orchids, registered hundreds and has received hundreds of awards for its plants and exhibits. The nursery is proud that it is one of only three surviving nurseries that were invited to exhibit at the very first Chelsea flower show in 1913.

To see our wondrous array of orchids visit our online shop and own your very own piece of history.