WIMBLEDON, England – Like many in tennis, Martyn Falconer wants to produce his best when Wimbledon rolls around. Falconer's results at this year's tournament, his 19th, have been "extremely good".
"You want a year like this," Falconer said in the past week. "This is one of the best where everything seems to be top-notch at the right time."
As the main gardener of the All England Club, Falconer cultivates vivid colors around the earth and beautifies the various paths and walks. Such environmental attention is critical to Wimbledon's desire to present "tennis in an English garden", a measure that reflects national pride in horticulture that goes back for centuries.
But while the on-court tones are famous, Wimbledon is still the only Grand Slam event that requires players to take their lively grass pitches in white clothing – Falconer focuses on creating a colorful softness for the surrounding scene.
Wimbledon's most iconic floral displays are their hanging baskets of petunias, over 200 of which are on the spot that otherwise beautify uninteresting architectural elements with what Falconer calls an "immediate impact." The tones are most dampened where Falconer chooses "something purply, bluey" that matches the club's color scheme without being dangerous or offensive.
"You just hang a basket on a column, and it gives you something to look at right away," Falconer said. "It looks at a building. We always try to soften the landscape."
Other events are more complex, with different flowers and greenery creating texture and painting grounds with bright and lively tones. For example, the hydrangeas that are planted most in cross breeds change. Color as they bloom and the soil pH changes.
"Because some of these beds are so concentrated, if you went with something ugly, it would stand out like a sore thumb," he said. "You just choose your places if you want to use big colors."
There is a lot of area to cover on 42 acre site which requires a massive scale planting and outsourcing growing. Some 15,000 to 18,000 petunias are grown for the tournament about 10 miles south in Banstead; Another 19,000 plants of other varieties are imported from livestock farmers and from abroad, primarily from the Netherlands. The club declined to reveal its flower budget.
While most English gardens are designed to shine continuously, with different elements thriving and dying back throughout the year, Falconer's efforts at Wimbledon must sprout during the two weeks of the tournament. He is consulting with growers about when plants can dig up for one year, which may vary depending on the 80 to 90 different types of plants around the site.
"In general, if the weather does what you expect to do in a summer, they bloom in time," he said. "But we have so many plants that if something blooms, something else might not be ready. And then by the second week of the championships one and the other flourishes."
Most of the hard work when it comes to planting takes place before the tournament opens to the public. A team of 15 gardeners stand out at the club every morning and start around noon. 6 for maintenance and maintenance, trimming of dying parts to refresh plants and occasionally addressing the effects of the more than 42,000 people coming through the gates during the busiest days of the tournament.
The packs of people Falconer said are remarkably respectful of the plants, with the only negative effects of the traffic being "a bit of a mess and a bit of bum-squashing".
"There is little trying to find a place to have room for you to get ridges of plantations where they have set up their backsides to rest and they get a bit squashed," he said about the flowers.
There is also gardening responsibility beyond the flower displays, including trees – there must not be shadow shadowing on courts that would affect the growth of the growth lawns – and the ivy that has covered the exterior of the center's building since 1922.
Together with the story there is innovation: This year, two "living walls", every five meters high, were added outside the renovated No. 1 court. The walls have 14,344 plants with a built-in automated irrigation system, their design "reflecting" the movement "of a wave pattern resembling a tennis ball being hit."
For the game's best players, it's time to stop and feel the flowers before the masses arrive.
"I actually like early hours of the day before the public and crowd come in when you can actually move freely as a player," Novak Djokovic, the tournament's defense champion in men's singles, said. "This is where you notice how much effort and time people in organization and management work here, how much time and effort they invest in making this club probably the most famous tennis club in the world."
Although he always liked his stomach more, the eight-hour Wimbledon champion Roger Federer also said he could take the time to appreciate the flowers before the tournament begins. "You start to see that you don't see them anymore," he said, once winning tennis matches is present.
"Especially that kind of first week, the exercise week, when we walk around in the grounds, we get a greater chance of enjoying them," Federer said of Wimbledon's flowers. "We see the gardeners working on them."
Where the players do not see flowers, it is usually within the tournament showrooms. While the entrance to the French Open's Philippe-Chatrier Court and the United States Open's Arthur Ashe Stadium have small flower displays on their court margins, there are no flowers in Center Court or the other main stadiums of Wimbledon.
"Personally, I don't think it needs it," Falconer said. "Let the lawns make their speeches in there and we must make our speeches outside."