The Chelsea Flower Show is a five-day festival of Garden Design, bringing together the top designers and plant nurseries from across the UK and beyond. For this year’s event, we had the opportunity to restore a 30-year-old BSC spiral staircase to form the centre piece of the Fleur De Lys nursery’s stand.
The conservatory plant specialist is owned and managed by Lisa Rawley – a qualified horticulturist with over 30 years’ experience working in the industry. They exhibited at the show as part of the Plant Fairs Roadshow, a collective of specialist plant nurseries based in the southeast of England. The seed of the idea of using a spiral staircase for the Fleur De Lys stand was planted during a trip to Kew Gardens, as Lisa explained:
“The pandemic put us out of work for months as all regular plant sales were cancelled and we were suddenly unable to be within our client’s home environments. During this period of uncertainty, I paid a visit to Kew Gardens. The uplifting, romantic ascent of the spiral staircase in the Temperate House held me spellbound. I captured the image of this cup and saucer vine scrambling unabashed up the balusters and thought a lot about the charming scene.”
“When we had the opportunity to attend Chelsea again as part of the Plant Fairs Roadshow collective, it gave me an excuse to dream of the staircase again. And, with great fortune, we were able to find one – a rescue from a field in Gloucestershire. Unsurprisingly, the staircase wasn’t in the best of condition. I came across British Spirals & Castings and got in touch with them about restoring it.”
The existing staircase needed a good clean and a new balustrade. We discussed Lisa’s inspiration for the staircase and how she intended to use it as part of the stand. As the treads were going to be used to display many of the beautiful species she grows, the balustrade was designed to allow least obstruction to the views as a visitor, whilst still giving the appearance of a finished spiral staircase.
To achieve this, it was agreed to fit the balustrade with one decorative spindle per tread. This typically wouldn’t be possible for a staircase designed for actual use as there are strict limits on the size of any gaps but was acceptable for the staircase’s decorative use. We agreed a design of spindle with Lisa and then produced this and the handrail at our specialist foundry in Staffordshire.
The existing treads were shot blasted at our workshop to remove imperfections. Our workshop team then got to work finishing all the components and completing a test assembly. Once everything was ready, we then powder coated it so that the staircase was looking its best for the show.
The staircase provided a fantastic centre piece for the stand, helping to support a range of luscious tender species like Bougainvillea, Grewia, Monstera, Cissus, Ceropegia, Citrus, Pavonia & Plumbago. It served to inspire many conservatory owners who visited Chelsea in May as well as the judges who awarded Fleur de Lys with a silver medal.