17 July 1998

Cream of Cornwall in all respects comes to show…

THE cream of Cornwall came to the Royal, both literally – sold with strawberries and in delicious ice cream – and metaphorically with Cornish life, work and leisure presented in four pavilions and on stage, under the banner of Cornish Excellence.

The county was the first to be featured in the RASEs new annual project enabling different parts of the country to promote themselves. Forty businesses shared the four pavilions and music and song helped draw attention to the countys assets which were presented under the headings food, tourism, agriculture and horticulture and energy and nature.

The Eden project was an exhibition in itself and a succession of Cornish musicians and singers took to the bandstand, their music wafting across the showground as they entertained the crowds.

Cut flower and bulb production was one of the features of the pavilion featuring agriculture and horticulture. Over the last 10 years the proportion of bulbs grown in Cornwall has increased from 25% to 35% of the national crop.

"This is still developing, due to the fact that it is the best growing area in the world for the cultivation of daffodils," says horticulturist and bulb specialist Andrew Tompsett,

There are 4453ha (11,000 acres) of bulbs grown and about 70% of this is exported to the USA, pointed out John Humphrey, representing the Cornish bulb growers.

But while bulb production is centred on Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly focuses on cut flowers. Narcissi of various kinds are produced for six months of the year, says Mr Tompsett, who is helping Isles of Scilly growers to diversify their crops to extend their production season.

Show pinks are already a well established alternative but chincherinchees and agapanthus, plants that originate from South Africa, are showing great potential. At present these only have a one-month cropping season but development work is being carried out in order to extend it to three months.

Early next year work will start on the worlds biggest planthouse. But tourism rather than horticultural production is its purpose. Two plant conservation biomes – communities of flora adapted to particular conditions – will occupy 15ha (37 acreas) of a china play pit overlooking St Austell and be surrounded by a further 12ha (29 acreas) of grounds.

The Eden project has been awarded £37m by the Millenium Commission and is expected to attract at least 750,000 visitors annually and directly create 300 jobs. It will also bring opportunities and major changes to life in St Austell.