Malvern Spring Gardening Show

This weekend we made our annual pilgrimage to the Spring Gardening Show at Malvern.

Alchemy Gardens & Villagio Verde 'Un Poco de Hogar' show garden Malvern 2012

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.

Hasten Slowly - Imogen Cox show garden for Malvern 2012

Imogen Cox Associates - Hasten Slowly - show garden Malvern 2012

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.

Surrey Gardens ‘Diapason of Colour’ show garden Malvern 2012

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.

A Place to Reflect show garden by Graduate Gardeners Malvern 2012

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.

A Place to Reflect show garden by Graduate Gardeners Malvern

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.

Kevock Plants display of meconopsis: including M. punicea bottom left, and M. x cookei bottom right

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.

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12 thoughts on “Malvern Spring Gardening Show

  1. I agree about the show gardens. There was so much going on in that area it was hard to see what was what but to be honest I’ve never felt the show gardens at Malvern were that big a part of the show, unlike Chelsea. I was also a bit disappointed with the selection of plants to buy outside the marquee. Virtually every stand was selling the same plants and not a shrub nursery in sight. Still a great day out though.

    • True, the show gardens are just a small part of Malvern. They are always thought-provoking though – even if you don’t like them – and when people have spent so much time/effort/cash on designing and installing them, it seems at odds to arrange them so that it’s almost impossible to find them all!

      We actually didn’t make it to all of the plant stands this time – we lingered so long in the ones we did and then the marquee that between us we had run out of time/money/hands/stamina, so I hadn’t quite noticed the lack of shrubs – besides Acers which are always much in evidence at Malvern.

      My mum bought a lovely eucalyptus in the marquee though, there seemed a better range of nurseries in there than ever this year.

      It was a great day out. I could easily have spent a whole day taking in the sights, and another shopping…

  2. Sadly, I’ve never been – though the in-laws go regularly. I must tag along one year. Perhaps you’re meant to take a running jump at the chair? Glass of chablis in one hand, bowl of peanuts in the other? Dave

    • It’s a lovely show… Heh, I was thinking the dismount would be similar to that from any swing as a child – jump forwards at the highest point of your arc. Which would land you in the rill in this case, unless you’re very quick with your feet. Entertaining…

  3. Sounds like a good day and you were lucky with the weather. Sadly due to illness and work commitments I didnt get there this year but sometimes a change is as good as a rest. I have to say what I saw of the showgardens on TV made me think that they werent that great. It is interesting that graduate gardeners won again – I think that is 3 years on the trot but then they know how to plant for a showgarden with no earth showing etc whereas I think some of the other designers are planting as they would a clients garden. The two are very different. Love your list of plants – so exciting, though I always get home and look at my group of purchases and wonder why there seemed so many in the car and so few on the patio, I am sure the weight and cost makes me think I have bought more

    • Ah I’m sorry you didn’t make it this year, though as you say it’s good to take time out now and then to avoid things becoming stale. Hope you are feeling better and work is easing off.
      I agree with what you say about show planting vs client planting. The garden with the rill and woodland-style pond was planted more realistically than the GG garden, with lots of space as you would expect at this time of year for things to fill out. It would translate well to a real garden on any scale. GG’s garden had a good mix of showmanship and planting that although perhaps unrealistically full for this time of year was rather glorious, other gardens were too showy for me.
      I’m still thrilled by our new plants, and for once their number seemed to match the expenditure and weight pretty well. Then I go into the greenhouse and see all the seedlings I’ve grown and wonder where on earth I will fit everything! 🙂

  4. An ‘annual pilgimage’ is what Malvern has become to us too and it felt like it by the time we got there this year 🙂 I have been fortunate enough to visit all the big gardening shows over the years and much prefer it to Chelsea. Glad to hear that you enjoyed your day. Now I was wondering about the show gardens – with getting to the show later than usual these were my last port of call and by then feet and enthusiasm were flagging. I did think that there were very few of them but I obviously did not search hard enough. Would be interesting to see somebody launch themselves into that swinging chair. What gems returned home with you – I was nearly tempted by the bunny tails too which are so soft to stroke but wondered about whether they would seed everywhere. I will await your verdict before deciding.

    • I’m glad that it wasn’t just me!
      I’ll keep you informed on the bunny tails – I half want them to self seed around the front of a border if I plant them there, although if I keep them in a pot on the path then it will restrict their spread… I suspect I’ll put them in the border though, so I’ll only have myself to blame if they become a pest! (But what fine strokable pests they would be?!)

  5. I’ve never been (I was a Chelsea baby for some years, and it rather put me off visiting shows), but it does look good and I think you were quite restrained… Really!

    • I didn’t mention the Camassia, Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’, Angelica gigas and Rosa Paul’s Himalayan Musk that we bought a week or two before from a more local nursery… 🙂

  6. I’m gutted to have missed the show as I so wanted to go this year but it clashed with going down to Devon for the River Cottage cookery course. Hopefully I will make it to Malvern next year…look forward to hearing how your new plants get on!

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