In the course of a year, I visit many gardening shows and am always amazed at the ingenuity and beauty of the Show Gardens. I have come to think of them as ephemeral perennial delights – created for but a few days, yet clearly gardens that in the real world would be intended to last. So much can be learned from these show gardens, if you look beneath the surface; if you interpret the name of the garden, and start to ask yourself questions: “what, why and how?” Thus it was for me at the end of last week on my first ever visit to the RHS Cardiff Flower Show. Situated in the tree-enclosed haven of Bute Park, right in the centre of Cardiff, I discovered that this Show is very different to those of RHS Malvern, Hampton Court and Tatton Park. And this year, RHS Cardiff celebrated its 10th anniversary, so I was doubly-pleased to be there at last.
Gardens with a difference …
Each of the ephemeral perennial delights – gardens that were intended to last – held meaningful messages; certainly different to other shows, and intriguing. Three designers decided to concentrate on Cardiff’s links with its city twins, giving a truly cosmopolitan flavour to design and content. Inspiration from Norway, China and Ukraine certainly offered food for thought; I was entranced.
Three Cultures at one RHS Show
Designers of each of the ‘twinned-city’ gardens were unique in their interpretation; with many aspects of ephemeral perennial delights to captivate even the most experienced gardener. ‘From Hordaland to Cardiff: A Norwegian Garden in Wales’ designed by Victoria Wade Landscapes celebrated the beauty and landscape features of both the natural and built environments of Hordaland. From the cobbled streets of Bergen to the local countryside reflected in the garden’s lush vegetation, mossy rocks, woodland pools and birch trees, this was a tranquil space in which to relax and unwind.
Planting in the ‘China Tea’ garden designed by Sue Thomas offered gardeners more than the thought of crossing continents to Cardiff’s twin city of Xiamen. It reflected the legacy of plant hunters such as Robert Fortune who collected from nurseries and established gardens rather than from the wild. A delightful interpretation which incorporated traditional Chinese features including trees, rocks, water, a bridge, zigzag paths and a tea house. Perfect timing for the RHS Cardiff Show as the camellias were in full flower. Truly ephemeral perennial delights.
My favourite twin city garden was, for various reasons, ‘A Taste of Things to Come’. It conveyed that marvellous feeling of the first Spring planting weekend, for which surely all gardeners wait throughout the long winter. Designed by Anthea Guthrie, it depicted family time at the dacha (summer house and allotment), when carefully nurtured seedlings are brought from Kiev apartment windowsills to be transplanted into their allotted spaces. An enjoyment of outdoor life whilst bringing a dacha garden into cultivation for another year. The children have made traditional painted Easter eggs and home-made matanka (lucky) dolls to play with. Monuments to recycling, dachas often include furniture and other artefacts made from discarded items; the building (a banya or traditional sauna) was made entirely from recycled material, as was the fencing and other items within the garden.
Inventive Ephemeral Perennial Delights
The clever and inspiring ‘RainScape’ garden designed by Lorna Davis, Amy Shoesmith and Gareth Gough should have attracted more visitors than appeared to be taking notice of its environmental message. The garden demonstrates how visitors can manage rainwater falling within their property boundary by using simple, affordable and environmentally-friendly techniques that can enhance the biodiversity of gardens, no matter what the location.The design demonstrated effective methods of managing surface water such as rain gardens, permeable paving, water storage units and green roofs. Topical and ingenious.
Achieving a gold medal and ‘Best in Show’ was ‘A Woodland Garden’ which also conveyed a message – and a remarkable story. Designed by Andrew Fisher Tomlin & Dan Bowyer, it was inspired by a new woodland garden being created at Blind Veterans UK’s centre in Llandudno. It also celebrated the launch of the fundraising challenge by Esmor Davies as he drives a brand new JCB from John O’Groats to Lands End to raise funds for this garden and for other visually impaired organisations in the UK. The new four acre garden in Llandudno will provide a unique resource for visitors. It includes educational meeting glades, guided trails and wildlife habitats – the show garden featured just a few of these elements.
More Inspiration and Days Out …
Please remember that no matter where you are in the country, you should be able to visit one of the RHS Shows for more ephemeral perennial delights and a splendid day out. All the RHS Shows are listed on their website.
Good News on a different tack …
Dobies’ Food Ambassador, Simon Hulstone, has collected the first prize in the Bocuse d’Or Battle, which for the first time was held in Russia this year. Semi-final contests between Russian chefs and final winners teams, each composed of a former Bocuse d’Or winner and a Russian Chef, revisiting typically Russian ingredients under the watchful eyes of the audience. As a former Bocuse d’Or candidate, Simon was invited to take part in the competition ... and after beating the competition in the semi-finals and the final, won the most sought after prize!!! The Dobies of Devon team would like to congratulate Simon on his achievement.
More about Simon Hulstone and his co-operation with Dobies will follow in future posts; under wraps at the moment, but “watch this space”.