Two Shows for the Price of Two – Part 2

IMG_5631Here’s an idea; get hundreds, possibly thousands of people in the gardening business, several huge tents, a load of land, every outside catering van known to man and some show gardens. Add gazillions of people and get them to pay for every step of their day and hey presto, you have an RHS garden show at Hampton Court.

Up until now we had had very little to do with the RHS. By the end of the day we had joined the RHS, had an RHS shopping bag and were marvelling at how much cash they must turnover. This is big business. Following on from Gardener’s World Live, we had made a promise NOT to buy any plants today. How would that pan out I wondered? It was the last day, the big sell off day. All the stands were offering their display plants for sale, 3 for £10, 4 for £10, 5 for £10. It got better as the day went on.

But no, we are made of sterner stuff. That and the fact that I couldn’t find the right shade of Achellia or any corydalis, at all. Instead we made a visual shopping list.

We paced ourselves and took plenty of breaks but eventually our heads hurt from the total overload of colour, beauty and new ideas. Thankfully there were plenty of places to sit down and do some serious people watching.

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We spent some time looking at the concept gardens and discussing their place in a garden show. Glenn was of the opinion that they appeared to have very little to do with horticulture and I had to agree. What they did show was how utterly crazy you can be with some bits of hard landscaping. It was the couture of gardening; horti – couture. Do you see what I did there?

Once we had taken as much conceptual thinking as we could handle for a day we looked around the other show gardens. The front gardens were of particular interest as we had entered a design ourselves back in March. Obviously we didn’t win but we appreciated the variety of the winning gardens which surprisingly had many similar elements to our design. The planting themes for this year certainly seem to be grasses and floaty, delicate dotted flowers in speckled and multicoloured frothing. All very wispy and dreamlike.

By the afternoon we had run out of cash and determined not to pay to withdraw any more we skulked around making sure we had seen everything. We agreed we had seen as much as we could handle and so escaped into the grounds of Hampton Court which in itself was a blissful experience. The sun had come out and we found two deck chairs. Time for some snoozing.

The drive back home was a chance to chat and dissect the ideas we had seen. It had been a wonderful day and one that we would carry with us as we enjoyed a whole year of visiting RHS gardens. We panned to make Wisley our next trip. However, our biggest inspiration for our next major project was to come from an unexpected place.

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; The Good Life gone Wild

 

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Two Shows for the Price of Two – Part 1

IMG_5614We 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