This weekend we made our annual pilgrimage to the Spring Gardening Show at Malvern.
This is a trip that I always enjoy; the countryside around the Three Counties showground is one of my favourite parts of Britain. Blue skies and sunshine made the rolling hills even more of a pleasure this weekend, a welcome relief having watched the Gardeners’ World team battling deluges of rain a day or two earlier – and with memories of running back to the car in torrential rain with armfuls of heavy plants in previous years still vivid.
The show gardens seemed rather disparate this year – we almost missed one or two of the main ones as they were scattered rather arbitrarily about their area, many tucked in to corners at odd angles. With so much to see, not to mention plants to be found and bought, we felt it added an unnecessary element of frustration having to explore around unpromising walls to find that they did indeed harbour a show garden hastily hidden from view.
Of the main gardens that we found, three really stood out for me. The first was Imogen Cox Associates’ ‘Hasten Slowly’ garden, shown above. I loved the rill, and the element of fun in the chair swinging above its head (was it possible to climb onto the seat?) and the contrast of its formality with the wilder pond and looser planting that it flowed into. I loved the materials too; the tactile oak and paving were harmonious choices, and would translate well into a real garden, unlike some of the more fantastic gardens.
Another garden that struck me was Surrey Gardens ‘Diapason of Colour’, above. The planting in this small garden was pleasing, and ‘real’. It was also satisfyingly full, where the planting around the pond above and in some of the other gardens was still relatively lean. While I found some elements of its hard landscaping a little too much for me, I thought that this was a reasonable design for a smaller semi-formal garden.
My favourite garden, and indeed that of the judges, was once again the work of Graduate Gardeners, winner of the only gold medal this year, and Best in Show.
I loved both the planting and landscaping. The water feature was beautiful, and the serene pool at its feet mesmerising. The wall of ferns – perhaps not practical – was stunning. The shapes and colours employed, the balance of plants and stone, everything was beautifully designed and presented. This was certainly a winner for me.
After watching James Alexander-Sinclair bandying chickens about in the main theatre with Paul Hervey-Brookes for a few minutes, and admiring a box of rather lovely day-old chicks that were being shown around by an enthusiastic young chap, we acquired seats then promptly gave them up again, reluctantly deciding to miss Carol Klein’s appearance in favour of plant-hunting in the main tents and stalls. With a brief intermission for tea and cake in the Members’ tent, of course; where JAS appeared to have the same good idea. It was lovely cake.
The floral marquee was full of beautiful displays, including the collection of Meconopsis, above, from Kevock Garden Plants, which were breathtaking. As we made our way about the marquee, we admired the wonderful displays, chatted to the lovely and knowledgeable plantsmen and women, and made purchases. Soon we were rather too loaded down with bags of plants to even take any more photographs.
As we staggered back to our car sometime after 5pm, our final list of acquisitions stood as follows:
- Acer dissectum ‘Garnet’ AGM
- Dierama ‘Merlin’
- Briza media
- Deschampsia flexuosa ‘Tatra Gold’
- Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foester’
- Lagurus ovatus (couldn’t resist the bunny tails)
- Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’
- Veronica gentianoides ‘Tissington White’
- Lychnis flos-cuculi ‘White Robin’
- Knautia macedonica ‘Thunder and Lightning’
- Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’
And then there were my mum’s and mother-in-law’s purchases… and a roll call of new names in my mind still to be investigated, some of which had sold out – not that I would have had the arms to carry any more.
All in all, it was a very successful day of inspiration and shopping in the spring sunshine. Half of our new plants have already found homes in the borders, I hope to find time to add the rest soon.