Cardiff flower show is magic

A 12ft willow giant, wheelbarrows brimming with plants and a bubbling chocolate lake will bring a touch of magic to the RHS’ Cardiff flower show this year.

RHS Flower Show Cardiff is celebrating the centenary of the birth of Roald Dahl in the city and from show gardens to a school competition his influence will be felt throughout the event.

flower show
Gardeners can stock up with plants at the show

Visitors will be met by a BFG (Big Friendly Giant) willow sculpture, there will be a ‘Danny Champion of the World’ gypsy caravan for storytelling and a ‘Golden Ticket’ family quiz trail around the showground.

The public can also vote for their favourite in a competition to plant up a Roald Dahl-themed wheelbarrow. Sixty schools in the area have taken up the challenge and there will be prizes for the top three in the visitors’ vote.

flower show
One of last year’s wheelbarrow entries

The three-day flower show will also have a programme of talks, hosted by Toby Buckland, the chance to buy from some of the UK’s top nurseries and stalls selling gardening sundries.

Last year, the show, which opens on April 15, attracted a record 25,800 visitors and organisers are confident of success again.

“We have so much planned for this year,” says flower show manager Katie Draper. “It’s set to be a truly spectacular event and a fantastic way to step into spring and get some outdoor inspiration.”

Show gardens

Show gardens are always a great way of getting ideas and the Cardiff flower show has a wide-ranging selection.

One of the most eye-catching promises to be ‘Pure Imagination’ by designer Tony Smith, named after a song in the film of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It will offer a ‘chocolate box selection of colours’ with dried seed heads and cut flowers set around a chocolate lake.

flower show
A chocolate lake will be the focal point of Tony Smith’s design

The history of herbal healing and the Physicians of Mydfai are celebrated by designer Anthea Guthrie with a garden that is based on plants that have medicinal qualities while Jim Goodwin has created a space that highlights the work done by the George Thomas Hospice and the importance of gardens in palliative care.

That sense of tranquillity and escape underpins the entry by Lea Reynolds, which uses traditional Japanese garden design to take visitors on a journey. Minimal planting in shades of green with white highlights feature in this collaboration between students at Bridgend College and Pyle Garden Centre.

Art and horticulture are brought together in ‘The Alfresco Gallery Garden’ with picture frames pinpointing different elements of the garden. Paul Melvin has woven a series of spheres into the design from a round wall panel of sedums to a circular water feature.

Finally, Melinda Thomas and Fleur Porter will evoke a sense of nostalgia with their garden that blends elements of the past, seen with sections of ruins, and the need for a practical space for relaxation. Planting has been chosen as a wildlife haven and a sunken area offers a secluded place to sit.

Inspiring features

As well as show gardens, Cardiff will have feature designs that celebrate everything from gardening for wildlife to grow your own.

A basking willow shark and a dolphin created from beach litter are the focal points of ‘Surf our Turf’, which marks the partnership of Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre and the Wildlife Trust South and West Wales. Native coastal plants and a turf sofa will also feature.

flower show
A basking shark is one of the features on ‘Surf our Turf’

Fossils and the evolution of plants underpin a display by the National Museum of Wales, with some of the fossils from museum’s collection on show and experts at hand to identify and explain them.

The RSPB and Cardiff Council have joined forces to promote gardening for nature with a display that shows how you can create a wildlife friendly garden with areas of wild flowers, woodland and wetland.

Meanwhile, Grow Cardiff is a kitchen garden that aims to promote healthy eating and growing your own fruit and vegetables and has been put together using plants grown by people across the city. Demonstrations throughout the show will give ideas on food that can be grown at home.

Specialist growers

Buying online is all very well but there’s nothing quite like talking to the grower and Cardiff offers the opportunity to quiz some experts.

The Floral Marquee and Plant Village will host 58 nurseries and specialist growers with everything from fuchsias and bonsai to streptocarpus and bougainvilleas.

flower show
The floral marquee hosts dozens of specialist nurseries

Among the award-winning nurseries will be Floyds Climbers & Clematis, Pennard Plants with vegetables and unusual edible plants, and The Botanic Nursery, with spring-flowering shrubs.

RHS Flower Show Cardiff runs from April 15-17 at Bute Park, Cardiff. Details and advance tickets http://www.rhs.org.uk/cardiff