It doesn’t matter how often I return to gardening shows at Malvern, there is always something new to delight and inspire me. And this latest RHS Autumn Show is no exception. Situated in the lee of the beautiful Malvern Hills, every RHS show here provides a grand day out for the keen and dedicated gardener.
A quick dash through the show guide, making notes, and then I move from location to location, assimilating ideas; amazed at the ingenuity of so many garden designers and exhibitors. This Autumn, the organisers (TCAS – Three Counties Agricultural Society) again provided “a splendid mix for food and gardening lovers, and a window on the countryside”. Two new areas were The Good Life Pavilion, which concentrated on ‘the edible garden’ and the ‘kitchen garden stage’ with a programme of cookery demonstrations using fresh produce, and The Orchard Pavilion, celebrating the importance of fruit growing – apples and pears which our British climate particularly favours.
Show-garden designers are adept at cramming so many ingenious ideas into a very small space. Sometimes the concept is clever but the message not immediately apparent – personally, I prefer to learn from what I see knowing that I could adapt an idea within our own garden space. So I loved the little banked corner of Mark Walker’s ‘Somerset Pride’ (best-in-show garden) depicting a rural farmyard plot, complete with rustic artefacts – and prominent edible dandelion growing alongside vegetable and arable crops. What first caught my attention was the clever use of old tyres as planters, cunningly sunk into the bank so they did not dominate. Mark specialises in ‘garden retreats’ and will be creating another garden in support of Macmillan Cancer Care at next year’s Malvern Spring Show.
Herb gardens somehow convey a sense of well-being and calm but can look flat and uninviting to the uninitiated. So the Cottage Herbery’s use of a metal obelisk up which were trained runner beans was a touch of mastery. ‘The Old Kiln Yard’ – a corner of a much larger hop yard – was a joint effort, with Paul Taylor of Alchemy Gardens creating the landscaping and old building, and Kim & Rob Hurst providing the plants and planting, following their philosophy of recycle, re-use and re-invent.
And then it was time for me to explore The Orchard Pavilion and the celebration of ‘The Herefordshire Year of the Orchard’. Now I can’t wait for next Spring to further investigate the orchards around Ledbury – whether in blossom or fruit, or during the summer in between. Ledbury Cycle Hire loan bikes whilst detailed directions along quiet lanes can be downloaded from ‘Herefordshire Cider Route’. Planting fruit trees and saving orchards – or creating community gardens – is currently topical as open spaces disappear and gardens become smaller. I was fascinated by a talk I have just attended in the pavilion on ‘The archaeology and historic landscape value of traditional orchards’ given by archeologist, Neil Rimmington of Herefordshire County Council. Too much to report within this post, but hopefully I will find space to talk about the significance of fruit trees and orchards shortly.