We had promised ourselves some garden treats this year and so after much shopping on the internet and even more diarising, we decided on two trips to garden shows. For some reason Chelsea still escapes us. I think the timing just doesn’t sit easily with our work commitments. Dear RHS, please could you move it into half term?
We started off with Gardener’s World Live at the NEC in Birmingham. It was our first event of this kind together, another first. A swift getaway on a Saturday morning in June, sausage sandwiches and a flask of tea in the car on our way up the M40 saw us in a breezy Birmingham at 8.30am. Well, it’s always best to be early. I don’t know about you but I always get theme park-itis on days like this, you want to see everything, in one day but have no idea where to start. However, we had a map and a growing bag of freebies. Getting a coffee and a planning session was our priority.
OK, Good Food Show first; we stormed in, realised no one was up and running with the free samples, marched out and went into the gardening hall to gaze at massively pricey but beautiful, powder coated greenhouses, dumpy fairy tale summer houses, seeds, tools, wellies and everything gadgety. We wandered towards the food and entered a twilight zone of stalls which offered bizarre exercise options, jewellery to make your eyes hurt, scarves, wind chimes and face cream. Yes, face cream. A man offered us a sample ‘for the bags under your eyes’. Great sales pitch. I don’t have eye bags, don’t address my eye bags. Anyway, I took up his offer, just in case I ever do get eye bags. How did that feel? Can I feel a tightening? ‘No’, I reply, ‘I can feel it stinging’ ‘Oh,’ says man ‘You have to suffer to look beautiful….how would you like to pay, cash or card?’ ‘Neither thanks, it stings.’ We leave.
A swift graze around the food. It seems every independent food retailer in Britain is making either sausages, fudge, cheese, gin or flavoured vodka. We collected many free samples including much toothpaste and then head out to tackle the plants. The floral marquee was wondrous, we bought some bunny tail grass, ultra cute and some carnivorous plants, less cute. We also picked up a Streptocarpus ‘Falling Stars’ from Dibleys and a pretty Briza Media. By now we were flagging but there was very limited seating. If you ever plan on going either take your own seat, share a seat with a stranger or be prepared to flop down on the grass which could be mud dependant on the weather. It was all we could do to lick an ice-cream. Dear NEC, please can you put out some more chairs?
The afternoon whizzed by in a flurry of ogling show gardens (not as many as we hoped for), lots of stalls selling many many plants and sculptural objects. I succumbed to a three for £10 offer and we took home a pretty Verbascum ‘Cotswold Queen’, a wonderful Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’ and a Salvia ‘Amistad’. I have a growing obsession for umbellifers and the dark stems of this variety of Queen Anne’s Lace set off the pinkish flower heads so sweetly. The saliva replaced two magnificent plants we had right up until the first frost last December. I vow to take cuttings this year.
At 3.30 we admitted defeat and returned home to plant up and regroup before RHS Hampton Court. Oh yes, we were messing with the big boys now.
Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; Two Shows for the Price of Two – Part 2