14 February 1997

A net profit out of Wimbledon plants

TORQUAYS Livermead House Hotel was the venue for the Devon FWC annual lunch, organised by contact leader Dorothy Sellick.

It was a feast of roast beef and yorkshire pudding, enjoyed by all 101 of us. After lunch Dorothy gave out details of a varied programme for the year, but members can always read the notices in farmers weekly.

Then Robin Furlonger gave a talk on his two favourite subjects, flowers and tennis. His is a story of hard work and being in the right place at the right time.

When he left school he went to work at a local nursery in Surrey, and started by sweeping the floor, making the tea and knocking down a shed in his first week.

During his 32 years at the nursery, the past 12 as owner, he made many sales but probably the best was 29 years ago when he was in a florist shop in Cheam and overheard an irate man being told that there were no hydrangeas available for Wimbledon. Robin stepped in and said that he could supply the 100 needed in five days time. The one phone call he made has led to todays £0.5m order for hydrangeas, pot chrysanthemums, fuchsias and trailing geraniums for Wimbeldon fortnight.

Queen Mary was the first royal patron of the tennis tournament and stated that hydrangeas should line the royal balcony every year, said Robin, who told us that he has to buy hydrangeas from the Loire Valley in France now, as the English supply has been exhausted.

Nowadays there are many marquees to be decorated, and, as self-watering hanging baskets are available, there is no longer the problem of caterers and nurserymen fighting over water dripping on to the white damask tablecloths.

In the course of his days spent preparing the courts and surrounding area Robin has met many of the well known tennis players and just happened to have his racquet handy when practise players have been late or not turned up.

Jean Howells

Enjoying the ambience of Livermead House Hotel are (LtoR) June Hallet, Avril Skinner, Doreen Turl and Susan Hansell.