Fortunate indeed are those of us who are able to visit some of the major Gardening Shows in the UK. Going to these events offers the keen gardener so much more than just those ‘ooh-ah’ moments of sheer joy at what we discover. It might be a brand new rose, or other plant; it might be a new product to make life easier on the vegetable plot, or when trimming the boundary hedge, or it might be the elegance of a Show garden by an as yet unknown designer. Or the location itself, as last week at the 2013 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
As far as I am concerned on these occasions, I attend to keep ahead of trends, looking specifically for ideas that I am sure will inspire readers, let alone me. Although I have an acre of ground (somewhat neglected of late), the garden is subdivided into small plots, of a size no more than many gardeners have at their disposal. So much can be achieved by utilising raised beds, which can be configured in various layouts. So long as the compost used is appropriate for the plants to be grown, is kept topped up and adequate feeding is given, you can mix veg, flowers and herbs to great effect, whilst also considering beneficial insects.
Think garden art, too: a pleasing arrangement of statuary or artefacts need not encroach on the growing area. Indeed, a modest introduction will add interest to a plot during the winter months when plant growth is at a minimum, so that you view the garden on more than one plane. Exhibitors at Shows will have a far greater variety to offer than your local gardening centre. Or head online to the Dobies website and see what you can discover to augment your garden layout.
“Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder,” and that could hardly be more apposite than when wandering around the Show Gardens. Some are truly beautiful from every angle – a jump ahead of the rest, whereas others appear to have lost the plot and you wonder if there is some hidden meaning that has entirely escaped you. Surely a garden should not need a lengthy explanation from the designer to be able to understand it? Would you be happy if it was suddenly transported into your own plot, or as an adjunct to it? And wearing the other hat, if you have a favourite at any Show, could you give a reason for your choice?
At RHS Hampton Court this year, many designers were supporting worthwhile causes, or being sponsored by them. Supporting concerns is always worthwhile, though one does not have to fall in love with a garden or its concept to do so. One quickly comes to realise why gardens and their designers continually win Gold medals – as is always the case with knowledgeable and thoughtful Chris Beardshaw, whose McCarthy & Stone garden, challenging the concepts of old age, I wrote about last week. Equally provoking of thought was Landform’s ‘Desolation to Regeneration’, a conceptual garden inspired by Tolkein and designed by Catherine MacDonald. This explored the two phases of forest fire through clever sequences of film, crackling sound, smoke, smell, birdsong and of course, plants. Right on the edge of the showground, I almost missed it.
Challenging concepts and pushing the boundaries of garden fashion and design extends one’s own thought processes, so it is always a delight for me (a former primary school teacher) to see so many schoolchildren visiting these shows. Individually, they may be overwhelmed but the experience will rub off on them – how many amongst the various school groups might become the garden designers of the future? Those visiting this year were participating in the World Costume Scarecrow Competition.
From schoolchildren to garden personalities / celebrities (such horrid designations!) and this year eight who admirably fill this classification (for their names are certainly well-known) had the opportunity to create their own designer planting plots with their own description. Catching my eye was that of garden designer, writer and broadcaster, James Alexander-Sinclair – as much for his description as the planting, for James has such a way with words that you never tire of reading or listening. “A container can be subtle, sophisticated, blaring or productive but, whichever way you go, it should always be joyful. I very much hope that my design, filled with grass and colour, does precisely that.” Believe me it, did – so much so that I forgot to photograph it!
The next RHS Show is at Tatton Park (Knutsford, Cheshire) at the end of this coming week (25th-28th July), and that will be as different again as are all the RHS Shows, but equally designed to inspire. Do go if you can; details can be found HERE.
Don’t forget to visit the Dobies’ website for all your gardening needs and requirements. You may particularly like: vegetable seeds, vegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don’t forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don’t miss anything special.