I went to the Malvern Spring Show with Gardening SIL yesterday. It was wonderful, if totally exhausting. I’d been to Malvern before, for a VW festival.
The setting was the same, nestling in the shadow of the beautiful Malvern Hills, but everything else was a little different…
BIL dropped us off at the entrance, relieved not to have to feign interest in plants, and headed in to Malvern to find coffee and WiFi. We set off for the show gardens.
It wasn’t the most auspicious greeting to my first ever gardening show.
Happily things rapidly improved – though I was disconcerted by the high volume of what I would personally call “Garden Tat”, not to mention a vast number of clothing stalls. It rather reminded me of one of those large chain garden centres, which seems to have more tartan and kitchenware than plants and tools. Thankfully there were plenty of plants, and tools, and who am I to criticise someone wanting a shiny arbour to train their roses over.
My head is buzzing with the things we saw, good and bad. I had planned to start with a kind of overview, first impressions of a newbie show visitor etc., as I am definitely going to have to blog about this more than once, if only to get my own thoughts straight. However, going through my photographs I couldn’t get past my excitement about the show garden that won Best in Show. I am just going to have to start with that and get it out of my system!
“A Garden for Life” was designed by Stuart Gibbs of Graduate Gardeners, which is a Gloucestershire-based design and build company that also won a gold medal and best in show at last year’s Malvern Spring Show. And in 2009. The beautiful multi-purpose wooden building sits at the heart of a space that is so crammed with great ideas it set my head spinning. For me it started before we’d even seen the garden proper, when we walked past the lovely hornbeam hedge that marks one of the boundaries:
I think it would be even better if the framework was made from coppiced hazel poles, but I love this idea, you get privacy from a living boundary but it doesn’t take up the space that a conventional hedge would.
Rounding the corner I fell in love with the shady planting alongside the brick path. This yellow aquilegia was everywhere at the show, and somehow made its way back to my own garden too – of which more anon.
The path skirts a wildflower meadow – no lawn in this garden – which was buzzing with insects.
I loved it. I’ve never really thought of myself as a romantic, but it became clear to me wandering around the show gardens that I love loose, naturalistic planting, and this garden had that in spades. It also has a gentle change in levels, with steps running alongside some beautiful sun-loving planting set off by large rocks. Yet another idea that I came away feeling one could steal.
Around the side of the garden building were yet more clever ideas.
Every space has been put to good use. No green roof – far too steep – but photovolatic cells, rainwater recovery, and a built in coldframe. I’m not entirely convinced that the doors on the coldframe are very practical, I couldn’t immediately see how venting would work, but then again I couldn’t go and play with it!
Opposite the broad beans was a small but packed veg patch, bordered with “step-over” fruit. I’m not entirely convinced by how workable that would be in practice, I am far too clumsy, and would almost certainly end up knocking blossom off every time I had to get in to work the bed, but I liked the principle of showing that even the smallest space has room for some edibles.
All in all, I found it genuinely inspirational, and given how beautifully executed it was, the gold medal was no surprise. Now I’m off to work out exactly where to plant my new acquisitions. If you can get to the show, I’d certainly recommend it. I’ll blog about the other show gardens, the floral pavilion and some of the other things that struck me another day – and will hopefully use fewer superlatives!