We are here again on the Three Counties Showground in the lee of the Malvern Hills, enjoying a day of sunshine. The occasion? The Malvern Autumn Show. So much to see, but I make a beeline for the ‘edible display gardens’ in the Good Life Pavilion. As the catalogue explains: ‘The Good life is all about sowing, growing and cooking, with fresh wholesome food harvested from the garden, for a healthier, happier lifestyle. It’s about enjoying and preserving a year-round, regular supply of fruit, vegetables and herbs, or keeping chickens and rearing livestock on a small scale.”
Judged as the ‘best edible garden’ was ‘A la Mode Dining’ designed by Caspian Robertson of Surrey Gardens. It portrayed a section of a retired couple’s garden – reflecting their passion for cooking and love of beautiful flowers; raised beds made gardening easier, herbs grew in abundance, and the scent of roses and edible pelargoniums would allow any owners the opportunity to relax on the terrace with a glass or two of wine. Added to which, they could happily entertain friends to join them for ‘Scallops and piperade’ – a culinary delight created by this year’s ‘Good Life Kitchen Garden Chef’, Jean Christophe Novelli, using produce from the garden.
Love your greens: very different was ‘Discovering Brassicas’ which portrayed a small backyard garden showing the joys of growing winter brassicas such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and purple sprouting. A painterly display (forget green, there were so many shades which bring colour to the veg plot in the colder months of the year. Menu suggestions were included, prepared by award-winning chefs within the Blue Diamond group – one of whose companies, 3 Shires Garden Centre, designed the garden.
Inspirational in its design, David-Neate-Stidson’s (Avantgardens) ‘Harvest in Harmony’ combined the efficiency of permaculture with the beautify of nature in a symbolic garden which balances human involvement, harvest and habitat. Imagine an open clearing (or a very small backyard garden between tall buildings): step into the circle towards a central pyramid up which vines flourish with high-level raised-planters between the uprights. At ground level are salads in small raised bed, herbs, a clipped circular edge of dwarf box and a perimeter of 12” ash-poles along beside which are trained step-over apples.
Nostalgia was one of the themes apparent at this year’s Autumn Show in many areas of the showground. Reflected in the edible gardens within the Good Life Pavilion was Mark Walker’s ‘Dig for Victory’ – a sensitive and theatrical portrayal in a rural setting within north Somerset, it epitomised the time from the mid-1940s – 1950s; from VE day to the Queen’s coronation. Here is its imaginary story: during World War II, the garden had been home to an anti-aircraft gun-emplacement which suffered bomb-damage in a Luftwaffe strike in 1942. Complete with sandbag walls and an Anderson shelter, it was lovingly cared for after the war by a ration-starved family who formed the garden using bomb-damaged materials, creating raised bed in which were grown vegetables, fruit and herbs.
Although Dobies were not exhibiting this year, don’t forget to check the Dobies website for plants and seeds. For a start, look at Vegetables, Salads, Herbs, Planters, Raised Beds, Equipment, and so on. In other words, time to plan for the coming season.
And a date for your diary: the Malvern 2013 Spring Garden Show – a feast for the eyes, with more stunning Show Gardens.