No sooner was I back from the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show than I made a snap decision to head north and spend a day at another RHS show! The RHS Flower Show at Tatton Park (near Knutsford, Cheshire) was, this year, as at Hampton Court, cleverly subdivided into four distinct sections, which made it much easier to visit the area of gardening and horticulture in which you were most interested. ‘Grow’, ‘Inspire’, ‘Escape’ or ‘Feast’: there was plenty to enjoy.
Show gardens featured edible produce on various scales – either just veg and fruit, or a partial inclusion within a mixed design. Older visitors were completely familiar with the wartime home allotment of ‘The Home Guard-ener’ complete with Anderson shelter created by Finchale College from Durham. Families relied on the produce they could provide – a staple necessity in a time of austerity and food shortage, and even now, home-grown produce is far tastier and more convenient than supermarket produce.
A large area was devoted to a number of National Allotment Society Community Plots. They had a huge area to fill, which they did with a joyful mix of adult and childish interpretations showing what can be achieved in a variety of raised planters set at various levels and different angles. One exhibit that particularly caught my eye was devoted to the concept of growing greens of many types – for hens! As this is something I continually advocate as being sensible for the production of good eggs from hens which cannot free-range on grass, I recommend growing cabbage, kale, broccoli and spinach in every possibly spare space.
Yet more vegetables: ‘Through Nature’ was a fascinating insight into the life of Beatrix Potter, indeed it celebrated her journey through the natural world in which she lived and grew up. From a typical sculptured Victorian garden complete with ferns, the imaginative Beatrix ‘travels’ through a rabbit burrow and out into the vegetable patch, in the form of a modern potager with terracotta tile edgings. Created by Tatton Park and Cheshire East Council who run an excellent educational programme throughout the year. Indeed, all sorts of garden- and country-related activities for adults and children take place at Tatton throughout the year. firstname.lastname@example.org
More of a conceptual garden was ‘An Edible Medley’ with a mixture of ornamental and edible plants (from figs to herbs) that would not look out of place in any modern housing estate. This was the type of Show Garden that you might expect at any RHS Show, with formal geometric blocks of colourful crops and swathes of informal grasses and flowering perennials. Created by Angie Turner Designs.
A revelation with not an edible in sight, other than flowering herbs, was ‘GreEnCO Sense’. It bridged the gap between nature’s rolling fields and recycled materials, which did not impinge on the design but added their own beauty. Cleverly planted and answering so many ecological concerns, it was at all times a mass of insects, bees and butterflies, far more so than any of the other ‘wildlife’ gardens at the Show. A ‘Young Designer Garden’ by Christopher James.
‘The Bees Garden’, designed by Florian Degroise was intended for a young couple who want a garden with central living space that “makes use of natural and recycled materials and incorporates wildlife habitats.” The plants were selected to attract bees – though whether the young couple could handle the traditional hives and position them relative to ‘flight paths’ might be questionable.
Gold-medalist Tony Woods turned on its head the more usual desire of escaping to the country, with his ‘Young Designer Garden’. Here, in ‘Escape to the City’, was a garden designed to fit a small space, yet more rural in its concept and planting than the all too-prevalent current practice of moving out of town and suburbanising the surroundings. (Though he might not have envisaged it that way!) A delightful and natural mix of plants and produce, shaded by trees in what would become a very private space.
Children were much in evidence at the Show, and the results of their work – particularly pleasing in view of the RHS Campaign to encourage school gardening, and the recent announcement that horticulture was to be re-instated within the National Curriculum. In my eyes, Norris Bank Primary School came up trumps with their display– and their attention to providing a printed explanatory leaflet and clever presentation of the produce they were selling. Their actual school garden is only three years old, involves children and the community and has reached the highest level of RHS awards for their achievement.