Saturday, 15 June 2013

Gardener's World Live comes to town

Compost-stained finger folk take heed - you've got one day left to get over to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham to catch the last day of BBC Gardener's World Live  (12-16th June 2013) and to visit the RHS floral marquee.

I went on Friday, thankfully - tickets for Saturday were sold out about a week ago - and I was relieved to have chance to get there ahead of the crush. Especially when the heavens opened and everyone herded en masse towards the RHS marquee and exhibition hall to take cover from the elements.

The Floral Marquee was a treat with so many exhibitors to choose from it was essential to proceed in military fashion to make sure all areas were covered. That was the theory at least, but I repeatedly got dragged off course, lured by  a tempting colour here and an unusual form there, or by the urge to tail the contents of a trundling trolley being lugged along by a compulsive plant buyer  - a quick interrogation about the source of particularly lovely specimens was as useful as any show guide.


As always, there were some plants that seemed to be EVERYWHERE, on virtually every stall and featured in the majority of the gardens.  This year's favourite seemed to be astrantias of every height and hue: the one that crept onto my wish list (if only I could get rid of the leaf miner that plagues the genus) was the one below,  from Letham Plants.

My notebook records it as Astrantia Species (but this sounds far too bland to be correct for such a stunner?)

Another revelation was that my very own plant of the moment, centaurea, can be found in different colour variations beyond the normal electric blue. I was very taken with the dark 'Black Sprite' variety exhibited by Morton Hall nurseries which looked marvellously moody against its lime green leaves.

'Black Sprite'
Pink centaurea 'John Coutts' from Barnsdale Nurseries

Also spotted  pink and Cadbury purple variations on this cornflowery theme, so I wonder what other colours are out there.  Something to investigate for the future...

The Floral Marquee is always an inspiration when it comes to eyeing up plant combinations to try in your own garden. You may find collections of new 'must-haves', or you may just alight on the ideal companion for a homely soul you already possess.  I left the show clutching a pot of cirsium, eager to set up blind date for it with my existing angelica, having seen the billowing display on the Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants stand.


I've also taken away some ideas for the garden.  I shall have to keep drinking steadily to recreate Hopley's fountainesque garden feature....

...but am perhaps more likely to undertake the easy project of using old step ladders as plant supports.

Show Gardens

There were two gardens which jumped out and grabbed me this year, even though they are polar opposites in style.  The first was the rural idyll 'Hay Time' by the Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust, who want to get out their message that 97% of the UK's meadowlands have been lost in the last 50 years. Their garden aimed to raise awareness of the need to save those meadows that remain, and to encourage gardeners to incorporate wildflower areas for pollinators in their own grassy spaces. The  enthusiastic helpers on the stand gave loads of advice in response to questions about how best to achieve a meadow effect on a domestic scale.

The second garden, Tony Smith's 'In Perspective' was a different beast. Very sleek,  emphatically 'designed' and undomestic - the diminutive lettuce bed at its heart was really appealing.  It's huge black towers topped with massive gunneras made even me feel lilliputian and the glowering grey day with bright stormy sun made the contrasts more stark. It's completely unlike my own (or anyone else's) garden but I thought it was a brilliant bit of design.

Fun things 

I left the show with only a few purchases (iron will, restraint and lack of available planting space remaining) but with a lengthening list of things I covet:

This van for my flower stall (but Tuckshop Flowers Van doesn't have quite the same ring as 'The Plant Van'.)....

...... these brilliant beasties from Twigtwisters....

.....and finally the enormous, super-squishy (and amazingly quick drying) Beachbums bean bags in the Garden Lounge.....


  1. Nice report of the Birmingham Flower Show. The new Astrantia looks very special and I like the old flowervan and the pig of Twigtwisters. You had a lovely day!

    1. It was fun - much less frenetic than I bet it was on Saturday. Good to beat the rush!

  2. We're really pleased you enjoyed the Hay Time garden. Our rustic Dales meadow certainly wasn't your normal show garden but thanks to the fantastic work of Chris Myers we got a Silver Gilt medal and much love from everyone who visited us. The garden was also a hit with the bees!

    Of course our main aim was to inspire a few more people to help protect the precious few hay meadows we have left in this thanks for helping to spread the word.

    1. My pleasure! I have been inspecting the ragged robin in my garden very closely since my chat with your volunteer - it is definitely more campion like in its flower form, but I think some of the new ones opening have a more ragged flower. In my garden today, the angelica heads are smothered in bees so they have plenty of plant choices even if not a meadow! Thanks for putting on a great show at GWL and for having such great volunteers.