The purple and white hydrangeas, one of the traditional symbols of the English summer at Wimbledon, regularly feature ‘there or thereabouts’ – to borrow player lingo – alongside strawberries, Pimm’s, the Queue and Murray Mania in the top five of lists visitors compile of ‘What Wimbledon Means to Me’.
However, in contrast to Federer’s triumphant run to equal Pete Sampras’s record of seven titles last year, the All England Club’s top-ranked horticultural player failed to qualify for Championship presence in 2012. Famously a thirsty plant, the flamboyant hydrangea lost out in the Club’s emergency drought-resistant planting mode as the local water authority announced a hosepipe ban at a critical time for planting. The only positive spin on the wet weather endured by Great Britain in the last 12 months is that it has enabled the return of the flowerbox staple.
Today, no sooner had the gates opened than many an opening-day ooh and aah was heard as the return of 800 or so hydrangeas was hailed appreciatively. “They’re back by popular demand,” confirms Martyn Falconer, assistant manager of the landscape contractors Natural Green, who also indicated that the Club is as keen on evolution as in upholding tradition, pointing out two innovative ‘living’ floral ornaments within the grounds.
For those following the Championships online, let us paint the picture. In size and novelty value, the famous Fred Perry statue that has for years served as a spectator meeting point is now overshadowed by a giant living tennis ball. A vast ball of greenery, cleverly clipped to form a sphere and marked with a line of small cactus-like plants to replicate the ball’s seam now dominates the Britannia Flower Bed in front of the Aorangi Pavilion. (Keen gardeners will want to know the ball is made from Sedum ‘Gold Mound’ and the seam created by echevaria.) And up on the Members’ Lawn we can also vouch for an in-vogue living wall that has been vertically planted with strawberries, herbs and a few perennials.
The Opening Day of The Championships is all about optimism. The day begins with all players still in their respective singles and doubles draws, hopes and ambitions intact, all unlikely scenarios of glory possibly to unfold. This spirit of positive thinking extends to the fabric of the grounds itself. The Tea Lawn, for example, where bands play and champagne is sipped, now boasts eight new boxed trees to lend aesthetic greenery – and to provide shade from a hot sun!
So, that’s the hot news on the visual front. Audio-wise, Wimbledon has a new sound too. Welcome to David Luck, the new PA announcer. While the job is purely about delivering information – a morning welcome, weather updates, reminders to drink plenty of fluids if the weather turns hot and sultry – previous incumbents have brought their own persona to the role. For 23 years, Chris Gorringe, the former chief executive of the Club, began each announcement with a very patrician “May I have your attention, please?” Mike Morrissey, former chief umpire, had an authoritative, no-nonsense stint. Tony Adamson brought a broadcaster’s feel to his pronouncements while Luck’s immediate predecessor, John Parry, raised a smile with his regular line, “And now to a subject dear to all our hearts… the weather”.
David Luck’s voice is most often heard at equestrian events, such as showjumping and three-day eventing. Any suggestions what his catchphrase may prove to be?