A marvellous showgarden at Malvern 2013 (Spring Gardening Show)
Blog author Ann Somerset Miles adding sketches at Malvern in her gateway to gardening notebook

Gardeners seeking inspiration and ideas for their home plot will assuredly enter a gateway to gardening when visiting RHS Shows. The RHS (Royal Horticultural Society)  is Britain’s gardening charity, keeping gardeners up to date in so many ways. It’s worth becoming a member for the many advantages that brings, not least the help and advice available through its monthly magazine, free entry to RHS gardens, personalised garden advice – and priority on RHS Show tickets.

RHS Inspiration:

Inspiration from every RHS Show visited leads to more enjoyable gardening back home
Collage created from images taken in 2013 at four RHS Shows (Cardiff bottom row copyright RHS)

But it’s the Shows – truly a gateway to gardening – that lead the way in providing inspiration, whether or not you are an RHS member. Show dates for three of the major gateway to gardening events are the first to be entered in my annual calendar: Malvern, Hampton Court and Tatton Park. Each offers such a different gateway to gardening – inspiration lies all around me. I soak up the unique atmosphere of each. For the last three years, I have visited them all. This year I am adding a fourth – Cardiff.

A New Experience:

A stunning garden with a Welsh feel
Discover the Heart of Wales RHS Cardiff 2013 show garden (copyright RHS / Jason Ingram)

I don’t know what to expect at the RHS Flower Show Cardiff (11th-13th April, 2014), but this year it is celebrating ten wonderful years of welcoming the gardening world to Wales. The stunning backdrop of Cardiff Castle will lend an ambiance to a Show I have long wished to visit. Add to that the award-winning gardens, top nurseries outstanding crafts and Welsh food, and I know I won’t be disappointed. I’ll listen and learn and maybe participate in a hands-on session at the RHS Potting Bench.

Return to the Hills:

The transformation from build-up with tons of stone to a forested idyll was a revelation.
Designed by Peter Dowle & Richard Jasper, ‘There’s a Place in the Forest … where East Meets West’ was indeed a gateway to gardening.

Next in the annual gateway to gardening Show calendar is Malvern, which this year has not only acquired RHS status, but has also changed its name to the RHS Malvern Spring Festival (8th-11th May, 2014). Their own permanent Showground set in the lee of the magnificent Malvern Hills has allowed a revamp of layout. Indeed, an amazing sea-change is about to take place. There will be a much wider focus on gardening, growing, show gardens, workshops, celebrity garden ‘know-how’, Plant Pavilions and seed suppliers and of course the RHS Malvern Floral Marquee. Plants and flowers galore – in fact, a plant-a-holic’s paradise, and an almost equal focus on Food. I do have to declare an interest – I am the Show’s official blogger!

The South-East Calls:

A lovely feel of a flowering meadow caught the attention of those who like open spaces.
You would not believe the proximity of central London when viewing this wild-life space.

A dash for us down the M40 takes me with my photographer on a day visit to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (8th-13th July, 2014). Set in the spectacular location of the Home Park overlooking baroque 17th century palace, the 2014 show will once again bring you all the fun and excitement of a spectacular summer festival. The show area cleverly utilizes parkland on either side of the Long Water – temporary bridges allow easy access to both sides of the Show. Details will be forthcoming on the Show website un due course, but look out for the famous Rose Marquee, brilliant show gardens and great family attractions in this southern gateway to gardening event.

My fourth Gateway to Gardening Event:

Close attention to shapes and plants provided the perfect outdoor space for a young business couple.
Up north, but this garden could have been a bolt-hole in central London.

And so to the fourth RHS gateway to gardening event that I will be visiting: the RHS Flower Show Tatton Park (23rd-27th July, 2014 set in a beautiful location just outside Knutsford in Cheshire.  Following the successful new layout last July, the four zones of Inspire, Escape, Feast and Grow will be back again with brand new features alongside popular show favourites. Early highlights include The RHS Young Designer of the Year gardens – this year’s budding designers will have as their mentor Paul Hervey-Brookes (a Chelsea gold-medal winner who began his career at Malvern). The young designers will receive practical support and guidance from Paul in the run up to the show and a grant of £12,000 towards their garden. And the Winsford Education Partnership School Gardens will be back with a theme of children’s stories – 16 schools have already applied to exhibit at the show. The RHS Campaign for School Gardening will be supporting local schools in creating allotment gardens at the show, alongside community allotment plots in the returning Great British Allotments feature.

A Personal Focus – Education:

Inspire children with the joys of gardening when they are young, and they will never look back.
Malvern is particularly good at bringing young children through a gardening gateway.

It will be a busy year – I wish I had the time to visit other RHS Shows. One of the aspects I most enjoy when visiting any of the ones outlined here is the enthusiasm of participating school children, and their ingenuity in designing meaningful Show Gardens. Maybe for some of them, their own gateway to gardening, and a career in horticulture.

Gardening Resources:

Don’t forget to  visit the Dobies’ website for all your gardening needs and requirements. You may particularly like: vegetable seedsvegetable 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. 

(Please note, images of  RHS Cardiff in this post appear courtesy of the RHS and are copyright RHS / Jason Ingram. All other photos are copyright Ray Quinton / Ann Somerset Miles.)

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