Monday, 29 April 2013

"Overture and Beginners"

This is how most Show Gardens look when work starts
(all the images in this post were taken on Mon 22nd April)
My theatrical analogy used throughout many of these posts is apposite, and will perhaps be apparent to anyone who has been involved in stage or concert hall. In the gardening fraternity, too, here at Malvern, even though the performance is on such a large scale and, basically, an outdoor event. You have the Hills as a backdrop and the Showground as the stage, with so much action taking place simultaneously that you, the Theatregoer / Show Visitor, will be hard-pressed to organise your day. What you do will depend to a large extent not so much on what is put before you, but on what you most want see; and on the Programme in your show guide.

Another 'beginning' - a bare plot of ground from which a 
spacious garden is being created
Outside there are the immaculate Show Gardens and ingenious School Gardens, each and every one telling their own story. And under cover two Theatres: the Allotment Theatre in the Gardeners’ Shopping Pavilion, and the Plants & People Theatre in a large and spacious marquee. The scene will have been set; you will wait in eager anticipation for the show to begin – will there be music? Visuals? There is no script and you, the visitor, are not just audience, but vital participants.

A garden takes shape - buildings and 'props' are moved into place
Special effects are called for by many a playwright or composer - Shakespeare's Prospero initiates a tempest, in The Tempest: (ACT I SCENE I: a tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard)! Or the atmospheric music depicting a storm in the last of four Sea Interludes composed by Benjamin Britten in his opera, Peter Grimes. At Malvern, whatever weather the Showground is blessed with will be entirely natural, not conjured out of the imagination. Everyone concerned in any way, exhibitor or visitor alike, hopes and prays for sunshine and perfect temperatures.

Think sunshine and hot weather - these olive trees create a
restful atmosphere
There: after all these posts, I have at last alluded to it: WEATHER. I am not being pessimistic; but this is England, in Spring. Forecasts need not deter you (did you know you can obtain a Met Office  forecast specifically for the showground?) Gardeners are used to weather! Come prepared - sensible shoes anyway (ladies) for there is a lot of walking, a lightweight raincoat and maybe a brolly. None of these precautions may be needed and there are plenty of under-cover activities should the heavens open. I am of the opinion that it is better to be prepared than disappointed. I have visited the Spring Gardening Show on all four days for the last seven years and nothing would stop me from continuing to do so; the weather is a part of it, but in the immortal words of Morecombe and Wise, "Bring me sunshine."

All hands as the Show approaches: the Showground is kept in immaculate condition
'Overture and Beginners': the call to actors or musicians to make their way to the stage or orchestra pit. Some will be waiting in the wings, some will be backstage staff, some ‘front of house’; and innumerable others going unnoticed, yet without whom the Show could not go on. It is a huge logistical event when everyone and everything dovetails to bring delight, fun and happiness, to make you smile as you joyfully fill your trolley with plants, plants, plants, gardening sundries, art, elegant clothes, local food, anything and everything connected with a splendid day out in the Malvern countryside. And perhaps, first and foremost for you, listening to expert advice in the two theatres, chatting to experts - don't forget the helpful and knowledgeable RHS staff in the RHS / TCAS members' pavilion.

Gardens ARE finished on time -
though this is one of the permanent
gardens through which I love
to wander.
I, too, am waiting in the wings and one more pre-Show visit before writing the final pre-Show post – and then 'Curtain Up' on 9th May: the most magnificent occasion, long anticipated, months in preparation and production. Keep up-to-date by visiting the Show Website. I look forward to saying hello again in my final pre-Show post next week, and then I will be blogging live throughout all four days at the Show.

I'm contemplating the
theatrical feel I want
to convey, and how to pull
it all together
Helpful Informtion: Opening times - 9am - 6pm; FREE Car parking.Children go FREE (0-15yrs) – it is recommended that children aged 12 and under are accompanied by a responsible adult. FREE Shuttle bus from Great Malvern Station to the Show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday runs continuously from 9am - 6pm. Bus stop just outside station entrance. Show bus stop is by Red Gate. SatNav Postcode: WR13 6NW.

WHY NOT ALSO TAKE A LOOK AT THESE PAGES, TOO?  (Just click on the links):
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Malvern Autumn Show

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Behind the Scenes

Build-up to a Show Garden begins here
It’s all happening. I’ve blogged already in various posts about the 2013 Malvern Spring Gardening ‘Show Gardens’ and a couple of days ago had the privilege of being on site and watching some of the build-up. I’ve been to build-ups of previous shows, but this was something like no other year; the gardens will truly WOW you when they are landscaped and planted, with every last detail according to each designer’s submitted brief.

Giant-sized stone slabs remind me of clapper-bridges
The garden themes this year are so diverse it is hard to imagine just how much work is going into their creation. On Monday the ‘Show Garden’ area by the ‘Plants & People Theatre' truly looked as if you were on a very large building site! Each garden was already pegged out (work began last week) and designers, their teams and contractors were excavating soil, sculpting the flat ground into hillocks and paths, levering stone or gigantic slabs of rock into place, creating pools and streams, planting an olive grove and carefully manoeuvring into place the remains of a once river-worthy rowing boat. And more.

Summer house in the Caves Folly
Nursery's permanent garden
Not to be forgotten or missed are the two ‘Permanent Gardens’ situated near the West (Brown) Gate. Now, with all this talk of build-up, seems a good time to mention them; a Spring re-fettling is taking place. Caves Folly Nurseries maintain a modest-sized triangular area with a whalebone archway made from English oak, a summer house, a small pool and raised alpine bed. Caves Folly’s interest in environmental care and organic gardening is reflected in their design and construction of the garden, which uses reclaimed materials such as brick paths and stone edging.

Where is she?
Very different is the somewhat larger space utilised by Alchemy Gardens who have created an atmospheric series of inter-connecting ‘rooms’ through which visitors can wander. Native planting has been used throughout to attract beneficial insects, yet there’s a hot-Summer patio-feel to one side of the garden, entered through an archway and stone moon gate. Then you amble along a winding path through mature trees where shade-loving plants thrive in crevices at the side of a stream. Rustic materials and tumble-down stone is used to create gothic-follies reminiscent of many literary works. And can you spot their latest acquisition – the mythological Gorgon Medusa, with snakes for her hair?

Working with Chestnut
A brand new feature at this year’s Show is the ‘Garden Crafts Demonstration Area’, just near the permanent gardens, where visitors can enjoy demonstrations of garden-related crafts and skills. You can watch garden art being created by professional blacksmiths, see traditional woodcraft in action and learn about the latest arboricultural issues.

Also in this area, as in previous years, is the Caves Folly marquee in which you will find a number of exhibitors, including Caves Folly Nurseries with their locally grown herbaceous perennials, alpines and grasses, and The Cottage Herbery whose herb varieties are hard to find elsewhere.

Just arrived on site - start of the School Garden build-up
Latest information on the 2013 Malvern ‘School Gardens’ is surprising. Children always have their own interpretation of any theme or topic, and despite the theme for the 2013 gardens being books, all 16 of the participating schools feature edible plants within their design. (Well, designers whether adults or children have to eat!) And edible plants seem set to become a recurring phenomenon in gardens of the future, both front and back, for there is evidently more interest in grow-your-own amongst children than adults.

Setting to work immediately - no messing about!
Recycled materials and environmental concerns also recur throughout the pupils’ literary-inspired gardens focusing on issues that affect everyone, with a desire to make the world a better place to live. And even better news is that Horticulture is to become a part of the national curriculum from September 2014; a timely introduction and a move welcomed by the RHS.

Staircase to the stars, or a
bird's-eye-view (note-taking actually)
My whole day was all so fascinating (and educational) that my photographer took well over 100 images for me to remind me of my visit and to add to my Malvern Scrapbook.

The Marquees are going up already, and I will be returning next week to report on progress on the Show Gardens and the Showground in general. There are only two more posts before the Show opens on 9th May, so do return for ‘Overture & Beginners’ and ‘Curtain Up’ and as much news as I have space for. Oh, and have you booked your tickets yet?

WHY NOT ALSO TAKE A LOOK AT THESE PAGES, TOO?  (Just click on the links):
Love our Shows, Like our Facebook Page -
Malvern Autumn Show

IS THS YOUR FIRST VISIT to Ann's Malvern Jotter? May I suggest you begin at the beginning and read all the blog posts to obtain a better picture of all that I have been writing about over recent weeks. I also recommend regular clicks onto the Spring Gardening Show website for regular updates and more breaking news.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Starting young ...

School children ready for a day at the Spring Gardening Show
Have you ever considered as you walk around the Showground, absorbing the beauty of the gardens and so many plant nursery delights, from whence stems all this inspiration? We all have to begin somewhere, and so very often, what we are introduced to in childhood becomes first an interest, and for some the passion of a lifetime. For me there were many triggers which began over 70 years ago walking with my grandmother in the Surrey woods. What I unknowingly absorbed then and later now fuels much that goes on in my eclectic garden and orchard, my writing, my travels, my creative journals; in fact these childhood beginnings have taken over my whole life.

Enthusiastic, bright-eyed children explain to me their participation at the 2012 Show
Why this preamble? I want to introduce you to the educational side of  Malvern and to the Society's commitment to working with children through all ages and stages of education - over the entire year. Marvellous work is undertaken on the Showground and in schools under the auspices of Education Officer, Sue Hodgson-Jones. 

The children just love talking to visitors about their garden
A culmination for many youngsters is their fantastic work at the Spring Gardening Show – gardens designed by school and college groups and created under much the same conditions as those you will see by adult and professional designers. The children’s enthusiasm is boundless; talk to them about what they create – they are knowledgeable and dedicated, as are their teachers and tutors; what they do goes far beyond curriculum specifications.

These pupils, with their classmates, based their whole exhibit 
on a storybook
This year the theme is truly inspiring – and even more educational than usual. Sixteen gardens are to be created by pupils from nursery age right through to college students. Their chosen theme will be based on 'Storytelling': book titles, or aspects thereof. The uninitiated may not realise the significance of this; a book has to be thoroughly understood before it can be interpreted in a creative, living format.

The style of school gardens often takes you by surprise - ingenious use of recycling in this one

No children? There was so much detail in this garden 
that we could only photograph it during their lunch break 
- and this is only a part of it
The ‘School Garden Project Challenge’ is a regular event at the Spring Gardening Show and all participating establishments are as keen as ever this year to be involved. Their remit this year is to “Design, plan and build you a 24sqm Show Garden.” 

Many schools also displayed additional work from school and even set up shop!
The project is extremely rewarding and offers pupils and students the chance to learn a wide range of skills (planning, gardening, communication and team work). It also encompasses many National Curriculum subjects; and many schools display some of their classwork at the Show.

In safe hands: BAM Construct supply help and support
(see green display board in the background)
Support is offered throughout the whole process, and particularly from Show Sponsors BAM Construct who are available throughout the show garden build-up, which for schools begins on 18th April, just three weeks before the opening day of the Show.

Always popular is the 'Discovery Zone' with plenty of hands-on activities
Apart from the youngsters’ show gardens, there is educational fun for all the family within the adjacent ‘Discovery Zone’ marquee. Take a look here at some of the activities on offer.

Notebook at the ready - and a fund of knowledge to impart to visitors
I was pleased to have the opportunity at a previous Show to talk
to Chris Beardshaw about his views on the importance of
educational participation at these shows.
The Education Section is situated between Rows 5 and 7, next to the main Show Gardens. With the Spring Gardens Coffee Court alongside, there’s no excuse for neglecting the work of pupils and students! So please find time to visit this important and pleasurable aspect of the Show; your support will encourage the children and help them to discover just how passionate we ALL are about gardens and gardening. Or we would not be at Malvern, would we?

For more details on Three Counties Educational Activities, please visit the website.

WHY NOT ALSO TAKE A LOOK AT THESE PAGES, TOO?  (Just click on the links):
Love our Shows, Like our Facebook Page -
Malvern Autumn Show

AND PLEASE KEEP VISITING Ann's Malvern Jotter: I’ll be blogging again every week during the Show build-up, and daily 'live' during the actual Show. I also recommend regular clicks onto the Spring Gardening Show website for regular updates and more breaking news.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Gardens, Garden Design, and more ...

A Show Garden from a previous year, peaceful and naturalistic
As the Malvern Spring Gardening Show approaches ever nearer (only four weeks away now), advance information flows thick and fast. Spring really does seem to be unfolding, though last week when I was at the Showground for the fantastic ‘CountryTastic’ it was so cold (with snow on the hills), it was hard to believe that all would be transformed come Thursday 9th May. But it will be.

Bicycles are 'in' (read on)
Knowing how much readers enjoy looking at Show Gardens, and pulling them apart, or disagreeing with the judges’ opinions(!) - I trawled through the Show image archives for gardens from the past that really inspired me for one reason and another. You will not see any of these designs at this year’s show, of course, but news of what is on offer arrives almost daily in my inbox.

A nostalgic planting - this reminds me of childhood
First – and a first for Malvern - the Malvern Spring Gardening Show has teamed up with the Cotswold Gardening School to offer gardening enthusiasts the chance to win a fantastic 'Introduction to Garden Design' or ‘Planting Day’ course at the school. This superb opportunity is only open to visitors who pre-book their tickets (saves £s on ticket prices anyway). You will have the chance of winning one of five day courses and there will also be another set of five Planting Day courses up for grabs for anyone signing up to the Three Counties Showground e-newsletters. What are you waiting for?

You could happily sit all day in this garden
As for an update on the Show Gardens: The 2012 Olympics has had a considerable impact on gardening. Of the 14 show gardens this year, 50% have a sporting theme whilst all of them mirror the naturalistic planting in the London Olympic Park; a must for those gardeners keen to keep ahead of horticultural trends.

Equally inviting
THEMES are varied, though Sport – particularly cycling – is predominant taking inspiration both from Team GB’s cycling success as well as this year’s Tour de France, which celebrates its 100th anniversary. Sustainability, up-cycling and the environment continue to be popular themes with a natural burial site and solar paving the subject of a further two gardens. One of the show gardens pays tribute to the beloved Timelord complete with Dalek, for this year is the 50th anniversary of the cult TV programme, Dr Who.

A touch of quirkiness, and wild flowers, too.
Naturalistic planting is common to all of the gardens; herbs, vegetables and fruit trees are no longer segregated but feature within flowerbeds and throughout the gardens themselves. Formal trees and topiary provide strong, architectural lines in many of the gardens. Grasses are popular, too, whether they have an English woodland or Mediterranean theme to them. Herbs, especially lavender and those that provide scent, are much in evidence. Edible flowers, such as calendula and courgette blossoms – anything which looks and tastes good will be a challenge, and salad plants happily grow in flowerbeds alongside more formal planting.

Such fun!
You will find inspiration all around you in all the Show Gardens. And to further whet your appetite, the newly designed (for 2013) Malvern Spring Gardening Show website goes from strength to strength, so keep checking it every day, or you might miss something truly intriguing.

WHY NOT ALSO TAKE A LOOK AT THESE PAGES, TOO?  (Just click on the links):
Love our Shows, Like our Facebook Page -
Malvern Autumn Show

AND PLEASE KEEP VISITING Ann's Malvern Jotter: I’ll be blogging again next week; and as the Show builds, I recommend regular clicks onto the Spring Gardening Show website for regular updates and more breaking news.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Time for Garden Spotting

This design cleverly sets the scene, with the Malvern Hills 
as a backdrop
In around two weeks time, intrepid designers will be digging the first sod – the first ‘on-the-spot’ live action in their bid to create Best Show Garden. Undaunted by weather or ground conditions, knowing that come what may, their garden has to be in tip-top condition by the first day of the Show when judging takes place. The build-up is the culmination of many months of work, and a dream for some, in a bid to become a recognised garden designer. As Chris Beardshaw – well known to Malvern gardening enthusiasts – writes in the 2013 Showguide: “As well as welcoming back old friends, it is exciting to see so many new designers launching their careers at the show, offering visitors the perfect opportunity to spot up-and-coming talent.”

Curvaceous lines add interest
(many areas to explore)
I guess that visitors are all too often unaware of the behind the scenes stages – a little background knowledge will surely augment your enjoyment.  So let’s look at what is involved. NEW for 2013 are the Themed Gardens, and following on from a fantastic year for cycling, designers will pay homage to the Tour de France. All the gardens are outdoors, in the same area as the ‘Plants & People’ Theatre. This week's post will give you a sneak preview of the diversity of show gardens this year, with the designers themselves showcasing their gardens-to-be through their sketched garden layouts.

Simplicity of detail is intriguing 

Ingenious use of mono for this design leaves one wondering about plant choice
Geometric shapes are challenging
Each show garden takes around three weeks to build and all are judged for RHS medals. Before judging, each garden exhibitor submits a client’s brief which details the scope and theme of their garden. Detailed assessments are carried out to evaluate the gardens, which are then used as the basis for the judges to make their awards. Assessors and judges take particular interest in the quality of the design, planting and construction. They also take account of the designer’s interpretation of the garden’s theme and its over all impression.

The scene is set ....
Points count. Bronze medals are awarded to gardens receiving between 45 and 54 points; Silver medals for between 55 and 64 points; Silver-Gilt medals for between 65 and 74 points, and Gold medals for 75 points or more. If an exhibit receives fewer than 45 points, no award is made. Visitors frequently disagree with the judges’ verdicts! A special award is given to the best show garden.

And a well-earned rest in warmer climes
It would be impossible to include and identify all the gardens and respective designers in so small a space – there are more than we can show here anyway. So we challenge you to work out which is which and which are not illustrated at all once you have the catalogue in hand (sorry, no medals!) – just enjoy yourself.

Discover more about ALL the Show Gardens on the website - lots more information to entice you to visit the Show; you will be amazed at the versatility and ingenuity of the designers.

AND PLEASE KEEP VISITING Ann's Malvern Jotter: I’ll be blogging every week during April, and as the Show builds, I recommend regular clicks onto the Spring Gardening Show website for regular updates and more breaking news.

WHY NOT ALSO TAKE A LOOK AT THESE PAGES, TOO?  (Just click on the links)
Malvern Spring Gardening Show
Love our Shows, Like our Page -
Malvern Autumn Show