Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Plants Galore!

From seeds to olive trees - gardening
delights at the the Spring Festival
I’ve talked about Show Gardens of all types over the last few weeks and yesterday (Tuesday 29th) in beautiful sunshine actually managed to see them taking shape – dozens of images which I am saving for the final preview post at the end of this week. Meanwhile today’s post is focusing on PLANTS and exquisite floral displays – drooling over them, talking about them, and filling those bags, trolleys and even wheel-barrows with purchases. What will be the ‘must-have’ plant for this year, I wonder? (All images are from the 2013 show.)

In the Floral Marquee in 2013
With the Show having been renamed ‘RHS Malvern Spring Festival’, solidifying the strong connections between the Malvern Show and the Royal Horticultural Society, there’s a new location and a fresh look for the RHS Malvern Floral Marquee.  Now located on Avenue D, by the North Gate and shaped like a gigantic elongated  ‘U’, it will be home over the four days (8th-11th May) to 80 of the best UK and international nurseries selling a huge range of plants. Refreshments and additional premium exhibitors outside of the ‘U’ will ensure that this corner of the Showground provides a whole new ambience.

Roses all the way ….
Innovative displays calculated to add that WOW factor within the 5,500 square-metres are sure to appeal. Knowledgeable exhibitors will be happy to offer advice on the best plants to buy for your own garden and situation. Show stands are always as varied as the nature of the plants on show, and additionally this year there is to be a huge central celebratory display specially created by Cook’s Garden Centre – their team won a gold at the 2013 Spring show.

Spring Show 2013 floral collage
Indeed, a remarkable 80% of exhibitors are awarded RHS Gold or Silver Gilt medals and a large number are shown on Gardeners' World, BBC2. Many of the nurseries this year are displaying symbols in the Show Guide indicating that their stock is either grown wholly or partially on their own premises, useful for anyone new to gardening. Visitors will also enjoy the ‘Potting Bench’ located just outside the RHS Floral Marquee, providing an informal platform for growers to hold short, interactive demonstrations for visitors. Sessions are running thoughout the Festival and more details can be found at the 'Potting Bench' itself. More gardening advice can be obtained in the RHS Pavilion, conveniently situated close the floral marquee area.

A packed floral marquee in 2013
There’s more to entice gardeners to visit the Show: you’ll also love the Plant Pavilions, between Rows 2 and 3, floral art in the Avon Hall, Plant Village Plots in Row 4, and the show garden created by Warwickshire College through its Pershore campus in the floral marquee area. The Pershore marquee alongside their garden will provide visitors with information on the many courses available in subjects related to Garden Design, Landscaping, Horticulture and land-based learning. 

Stunning displays in 2013
Don’t forget the Wye Hall which will be home to National Specialist Plant Societies, the Alpine Garden Society Show, ‘Open Gardening’ and ‘Get Going Get Growing’ - details for which appeared on the Blog on 7th April. In brief, this last section will offer “Practical planting workshops for first-time gardeners allowing you to discover how to sow, grow and harvest flowers, fruit and vegetables”.

This is the penultimate post of the 2014 Show previews; the final post with latest news and  images of the show garden  build-up will appear at the end of this week. Have you bought your tickets?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Spring Festival launches Festival Gardens

Each 'Festival Garden' designer is offered a space of 4m x4m 
(16 square metres) and a grant to support the cost of the build. 
This garden is 'A Game of Contrast'.
As part of the exciting transformation of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival, celebration TCAS is introducing a new competition category of creative show gardens. Working with the Cotswold Gardening School, ‘Festival Gardens’ offers students the opportunity to stage a garden by giving designers an open brief, coupled with free guidance and practical support, both through the development stages and the actual garden build. 'Festival Gardens' can embody any concept through the medium of plants and the garden and may well embrace new technology, trends and materials.

'Levels: A Garden Come Rain or Shine'
In brief, there are four Festival Gardens which will be located at the heart of the Festival next to our new Village Green with its Celebrity Theatre. Shown and described above the opening paragraph is ‘A Game of Contrast’ (OS5554) which portrays a very different message to ‘Levels: A Garden Come Rain Or Shine’ (OS551). Levels is a garden that faces the challenges created by climate change – particularly increased rainfall – and showcases ways in which new and old technology can be used to offer solutions to these challenges.  

A garden that will resonate with so many visitors.
Different again is ‘The Journey supporting RAF Benevolent Fund’ (OS553) which has resonance for us all, as 2014 marks the year that British combat troops will withdraw from Afghanistan, 100 years since the start of the First World War and 70 years since the Normandy invasions.

Highlighting the relationship between nature and man.
The four Festival Gardens contrast well with each other, and our fourth preview is different yet again. ‘The Garden of Contrast’ (OS551) highlights the relationship between nature and man and offers somewhere to contemplate its contrasts. As I drove near Malvern yesterday (Friday 25th), I truly felt for the designers and garden builders – not just those of the Festival Gardens but all the other gardens and outdoor spaces. Didn’t it rain! So when you come to visit between 8th-11th May, think on what has had to be achieved, despite these downpours.

WANTED: brass musical
STOP PRESS: a plea for readers’ help has arrived in my inbox just in time for today’s post. Multi award-winning RHS garden designer Peter Dowle is appealing to members of the public to donate their unwanted brass musical instruments. (The donated instruments will be used for his installation at this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival – 30th April-5th May – and will later be donated to the charity, Brass for Africa.)

The RHS Malvern Spring Festival enlisted Peter’s help to dress various areas of the Jazz Festival as part of a partnership deal between the two events, prior to the Spring Festival itself (almost upon us: 8th-11th May). Entitled ‘Jazz Jungle’, Peter’s garden concept will see him transform an antique piano into a stunning water feature as well as use various instruments in his displays. He will also ‘junglify’ the space with lush foliage, plants and flowers and jazz it up with original artwork using sheet music and colourful graffiti. Peter commented,  “I’m sure many people have an abandoned trumpet or saxophone hiding under the stairs or growing dusty in an attic.” For those with unwanted instruments to donate, please contact Peter Dowle on 01989 567726.

ON A FINAL NOTE: we still have much to preview for you for the Spring Festival with hardly any time left to do so. If conditions allow, we plan to bring you images of the build-up. Always an eye-opener as it demonstrates just how much hard work goes into creating these Malvern Shows.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Get Going, Get Growing – and Giant Welly Spotting!

Art installation 
up in the hills
In the vernacular, I think it’s known as “putting the boot in” – but no way is that the case here. At the moment, an amazing and specially commissioned Giant Welly art installation has been walking the hills, or transiting between iconic venues and shopping malls around Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire introducing anyone who sees it to the RHS Malvern Spring Festival. What a marvellous visual invitation to explore the delights of what this year’s Show has to offer. It’s already been to Malvern’s Morgan Car Factory and Holywell Water, as well as Worcester Cathedral and the Crowngate Shopping Centre until April 10th (see image below).

In the Crowngate Shopping 
Centre, Worcester
The Giant Welly will appear at the Showground at Countrytastic – a great family day out – on April 17th and will move onto the National Trust’s Croome Court, before visiting Malvern Theatre. The welly will also put in a special appearance at The Cheltenham Jazz Festival where it will sit in a show garden setting for music lovers to enjoy. During the Giant Welly Tour, the public is invited to take a picture of themselves with the boot then post that image into our Facebook page.  Those who do so will be entered into a competition to win one of three VIP packages to the RHS Malvern Spring Show. Happy welly spotting!

Read on for this week’s preview installment: 

Adult workshop participation is to be a new theme at this year's Show
Greater emphasis this year is being given to LEARNING and DISCOVERY, and the new topic of ‘Get Going, Get Growing’ for visitors of any age who are keen to experience ‘grow your own’ for real will surely appeal. Practical planting workshops for first-time gardeners will allow you to find out how to sow, grow and harvest flowers, fruit and vegetables. It’s never too late to begin, or to learn.

Eager to talk to visitors, and already knowledgeable 
about creating a garden
Fortunate indeed are the children at those schools who have taken on the School Garden Challenge this year with a new patron – Chris Collins, formerly resident ‘Blue Peter’ gardener from 2004 to 2013. Along with Phil Eves from sponsors BAM Construct UK Ltd, Chris joined a panel of experts when youngsters from across the region descended on the Showground in February for a series of workshops aimed at helping them put together their competitive Show Gardens which they are building for the RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

Excited participants at the 2013 Spring Show
The RHS Malvern Spring Festival, is the only RHS Show in the UK to have a collection of Show Gardens designed and built entirely by school children. This year sees a record number of 21 schools from Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Wiltshire and Warwickshire creating gardens on the theme ‘A Great Moment in History’ with youngsters from playgroups up to pupils in Year 13 taking part. 

2014 school garden design: Meadows First School, Bromsgrove
Speaking about the workshop, Chris said, “It has been a superb way to kick off the School Gardens Challenge for RHS Malvern. The two days of workshops have put everybody in the mood and the ideas have been flying. I am so excited about the show in May and seeing the children’s show gardens come to life. These show gardens will give the kids a real insight into practical gardening and give them memories that they will treasure." Visitors can join Chris Collins on a tour of the school gardens - times to be announced in a future post.

2014 school garden design: Castlemoreton CE Primary School
(Malvern district)

Sue Verdeyen, Education Officer for the Three Counties Showground, commented: “At RHS Malvern, we are passionate about inspiring young people to fall in love with gardening and design. We are very proud to be the only RHS show that has a project specifically for schools. It’s a great opportunity for the children to get some hands on experience into the design, horticultural and construction industries. These youngsters are involved in every aspect of creating their gardens; the design, the sowing, the growing of their own plants and the hard landscaping."

2014 school garden design:
Abberley Parochial VC Primary 
School (north-west Worcestershire)
It’s always interesting to see how children interpret any theme and this year will be no exception. Visiting their 4mx4m square gardens will be a revelation with ‘Great Moments in History’ as the theme. Topics chosen are extremely varied and include: ‘The Mouse’s Web’; ‘Dr Foster went to Gloucester’; ‘One Small Step for man, One Giant Leap for Mankind’; ‘Double Helix Garden’; ‘The Wheel Garden’; ‘Growing our Future’; ‘It’s a Ming Thing’; ‘Digital Growth’; ‘An Explosion of Colour’; ‘Never Forget’; ‘What have the Roman’s ever done for us?’; ‘Creation of the Union Jack’; ‘The Battle of Tewkesbury’; ‘400 Years of The Elms’; ‘Game, Set and Match’; Interesting, ingenious, and some will leave you guessing – so do visit (8th-11th May) and support these young gardeners (and historians) in-the-making.

Garden designers of the future … please support their endeavours
at the 2014 RHS Malvern Spring Fetival