The Malvern Autumn Show has always marked a turning point in the gardening year for me. It’s a time to look back at the season that’s drawing to a close and somewhere to start planning for next year.
There’s the chance to stock up on plants, seeds and bulbs from some of the country’s leading nurseries, pick up tips from experts and marvel at displays of fruit and veg.
And if monster carrots weren’t enough of a spectacle, this year Strictly Come Dancing fans will get the chance to see Anton du Beke as he dances in the Vintage Village.
I’ve been taking a look at what’s on offer at The Three Counties Showground this weekend.
Time to plug those gaps
For me, the very best garden shows have the chance to buy plants and talk to the people who have grown them. Malvern has more than 40 different nursery exhibits in its RHS Flower Show, covering everything from perennials and climbers to bulbs and roses.
Like many, I’ve got some gaps in my borders and plants I’ve spotted during the summer that I want to try growing. So, I will be heading for the nursery displays with my shopping list.
My first port of call will be Green Jjam Nurseries, which specialises in penstemon. I’m determined to improve my late summer colour and penstemon are an easy way to do that and, unlike echinacea or helenium, seem to be ignored by slugs.
Hayloft Plants will also be displaying autumn-flowering perennials, Old Court Nurseries will have asters and there are several nurseries with heucheras that give important year-round colour.
I may also be tempted by dahlias from Pheasant Acre Plants, who had a stunning display at this year’s Hampton Court flower show.
Vegetables play a big part at the Malvern Show – in size as well as numbers.
The UK National Giant Vegetables Championship has been held at the show since 2013 with classes that include the heaviest pumpkin and longest beetroot.
This year, there are new categories for the heaviest bell pepper and red cabbage.
The show saw three world record-breaking entries last year and there are hundreds of entries for this season’s contest.
Amateur growers will also be vying for prizes in the Harvest Pavilion with Grow to Show, the Vegetable Trug National Championships and the National Vegetable Society’s Midland Branch Championships.
Having a cut flower patch is becoming increasingly popular in gardens I visit and the Malvern Autumn Show will again be putting the spotlight on British cut flowers.
Floral designer Jonathan Moseley will be working with some of the country’s leading growers to promote ‘grown not flown’ flowers in the ‘Floral Fiesta’.
There will be demonstrations, talks and hands-on workshops, showing visitors how to make the most of seasonal blooms.
“Autumn is the most magical time of year and for me as a floral designer there is a wealth of rich colours and stimulating textures to work with,” said Jonathan, who was the floral judge on BBC2’s Great Allotment Challenge.
“Visitors can enjoy a riot of sensational colours from bold dahlias in rich reds, burgundies and tangerines to vivacious sunflowers, nostalgic chrysanthemums with that scent so evocative of autumn, all married with some unusual choice blooms from my own Derbyshire garden.”
Several members of the British flower co-operative Flowers from the Farm will be there, including Great British Florist and Wild Bunch.
Dahlias take centre stage
The flower market of Mexico City is the inspiration behind a dazzling display of dahlias at this year’s Malvern Autumn Show.
Leading horticulturalist Jon Wheatley is decorating the theatre stage with hundreds of blooms, including cut flowers from the National Collection in Cornwall, and varieties that he has raised himself at his nursery in Chew Magna.
Dahlias are the national flower of Mexico and Jon visited Mexico City earlier this year.
“I have never seen so much colour in my life,” he says. “I’m going to try to encompass a little bit of Mexico City’s flower market in it.”
He will be unveiling a new single white called ‘Stroma’ at the show, as well as using species dahlias, dwarf bedders and garden dahlias.
“We’re celebrating the dahlia’s diversity,” he explains.
Flowers will be arranged in bands of colour with accent plants such as miscanthus, box, artemesia, and banana.
“It’s not just going to be dahlias and will demonstrate how you can grow plants with them.”
Jon, who has won many RHS gold medals for displays of dahlias and chrysanthemums, will be on hand to answer queries throughout the show and is also giving a number of talks.
Pick up some tips
Expert growers will be offering tips and advice in a series of talks at the Malvern Autumn Show.
Gardeners’ World presenter Carol Klein, expert veg growers and members of the RHS’ tender ornamental plant committee will be offering help on everything from container gardening to carnivorous plants.
There will also be ideas on how to use your homegrown produce with BBC TV chef Tom Kerridge and Mark Diacono from Otter Farm.
They will be appearing in the Cookery Theatre along with Mark Stinchcombe, winner of MasterChef The Professionals.
• The Malvern Autumn Show is on Saturday and Sunday September 24 and 25 from 9am to 6pm.
• Tickets are available on the door. More information and details of talks at here
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