A little bit of show garden magic will be coming to the Cotswolds this weekend as leading designer Paul Hervey-Brookes sells plants from his gold medal-winning design at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (pictured top).
Hostas, beautiful blue chicory, Verbena bonariensis, asters, myrtle and some large shrubs that last week were being admired by the Hampton show crowds are among the plants on sale. The Garden of Discovery, for Viking Cruises, won Paul his ninth gold medal, six of them consecutively.
The plant sale is raising money for the Dogs Trust in memory of Paul’s husband, Yann Eshkol, who died a year ago.
“Yann was always very keen on animals and them being cared for and our dogs are all rescue animals,” says Paul, who is based in Stroud.
The Dogs Trust was chosen because Yann died just weeks after last year’s Hampton show where Paul won gold with a dog friendly garden for the animal charity.
Slad Valley House in Stroud is hosting the plant sale as part of two National Garden Scheme open days on Saturday and Sunday July 16 and 17.
The one-acre informal garden is set around an 18th house and is gradually being restored by the owners, Debbie and Michael Grey.
“The garden is interesting because it’s turning what was a mill owner’s house back into a home after being used for a variety of different things over the past 40 years,” says Paul. “It is bringing a garden back to life.”
What was a lawn at the front of the house is now a flower garden, there are mature trees and shrubs.
“It also has some challenging terraces to garden on.”
Some of the Hampton Court plants have been added to the garden this week and it also features elements of Paul’s earlier work, namely two sculptures by Andrew Flint that were used on his 2013 Chelsea show garden for Brand Alley.
While some plants were sold in the traditional end of show sell-off at Hampton, many have been brought back to the Cotswolds.
“It seems right to bring them back to where we made our home and where people have been so supportive over the past year,” says Paul, who runs garden and home shop Allomorphic in Stroud. “The whole thing feels right, not as though we’re doing it for the sake of it. It has got a good purpose.”
• Slad Valley House, Stroud, GL5 1RJ, is open for the National Garden Scheme from 2-4.30pm on Saturday and Sunday July 16 and 17, 2017. Admission is £3.50. There will be homemade teas for sale.
There’s simply no getting away from colour and – thankfully – plants at this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Many of the show gardens seem to have made a welcome return to putting plants rather than hard landscaping first while there are take-home ideas aplenty from pretty pastel combinations to in-your-face primary colours.
Now, I must admit to a bias towards Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brookes. I’ve followed his career since his first show garden – in a tent – at the Malvern Autumn Show back in 2008 but his gold medal-winning exhibit this year is one of his best.
Paul is known on the gardening circuit for his skill at planting up a border but even so he has excelled with his Viking Cruises garden. There’s a sense of movement in the planting that drifts under trees, with variations in height and some beautiful combinations.
How’s this for a mix of blue?
Or pink – the bees were loving it.
Who says green is dull?
Simple but really effective.
I really loved these Achillea ‘Summer Berries’.
They come in a mix of colours that Paul had carefully separated out to give different effects. Here is the cream with bronze variant.
And Persicaria bistorta is given a whole new feel when combined with carex.
I was glad to see I’m ‘on trend’ as I’ve just planted up an old wine box with this erigeron.
Another Cotswold success at this year’s RHS Hampton is Martyn Wilson, who also started his design career at the Malvern show. He has won his first RHS gold medal with a celebration of the regeneration of brownfield sites.
I really liked the colours in this garden – rusted steel, oranges, creams, yellows and the odd touch of purple from buddleia.
The attention to detail was superb.
While my Cotswold neighbours are using refined colour combinations, two of the show gardens are unashamedly brash.
Bright, primary colours dominate the ‘Journey of Life’ garden by Edward Mairis, which has an acrylic wall in rainbow colours.
In Charlie Bloom’s ‘Colour Box’ garden it’s the plants that sing out. Built with donations of time and products rather than financial sponsorship, it is dominated by plants in every colour.
“I think the public want to see plants at a horticultural show rather than lots of impressive hard landscaping,” explained Charlie. “The idea was to rebel against the concrete and box ball fraternity and go mad with colour.”
That said, it’s a garden that has plant combinations you could try.
I also liked the peep-through architectural wall from Stark and Greensmith.
And the way the plants were set off against it.
Here are some of the other things that caught my eye.
There was more than a touch of the seaside.
And some boats.
It was good to see vegetables weren’t forgotten. Here on the gold medal-winning Blind Veterans UK garden by Andrew Fisher Tomlin and Dan Bowyer.
A nifty way to grow strawberries on the RHS Kitchen Garden by Juliet Sargeant.
And an edible green wall.
Finally, at the end of a long day . . .
there are some tempting places to sit and rest . . .
or even lie down.
• RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2017 runs until July 9. For more details, visit the RHS website.
* Flower-filled Mini (pictured top) is part of Primrose Hall’s Floral Marquee display.
Roses, butterflies and how to garden in the face of climate change are just some of the features at this year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
There are nearly 100 specialist nurseries in the Floral Marquee – six of them, ranging from cacti to daylillies, new to the show – and there will be four new roses launched, including ‘Lovestruck’, the 2018 Rose of the Year.
Wildlife is a major theme and the popular Butterfly Dome will be surrounded by a wildflower meadow, with plants that provide food for butterflies and caterpillars.
Naturally, top of my list of ‘must-sees’ is Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brookes’ garden for show sponsors Viking Cruises.
Just weeks after winning Best in Show at the new RHS Chatsworth, Paul is making his third appearance at RHS Hampton; he won gold and best in show in 2012 for ‘Discovering Jordan’ and gold last year with a garden for the Dogs Trust.
He’s creating a small, urban garden for a couple who have travelled widely and incorporated ideas from those journeys into their plot. These include a triple arched feature wall based on Rome’s Arch of Constantine, a large Malaysian pot and paving that has an arabesque pattern.
The planting will also echo their travels with motherwort, found growing along the Danube, Italian alder and a species of mint from the Lebanon.
Herbs grown by Jekka McVicar will be woven into sweeping mixed borders in a white, yellow, mauve and blue colour scheme.
“Being influenced by travel is at the core of English gardens historically and this modern day interpretation is no different,” says Paul. “I hope people will see the various different influences and feel excited by that exchange of knowledge and ideas.”
Other show gardens include Andrew Fisher Tomlin and Dan Bowyer’s design for Blind Veterans UK, which explores the work of the charity and the sense of community it provides, represented by a willow vine sculpture that wraps around the garden.
Emma Bailey looks at dealing with depression in ‘On the Edge’ and the benefits of a sensory garden for children with autism is explored by Adam White and Andree Davies in the Zoflora Caudwell Children’s Wild Garden.
Designer Charlie Bloom is celebrating the people within horticulture with a garden built on co-operation and gifts.
‘Colour Box’ is being built with no financial sponsor, relying instead on donations of time and products from the horticulture industry following a social media appeal.
“I wanted to create something that credited ‘the team’ and not the designer or the sponsor’s wants,” explains Charlie. “I asked the different trades involved to be an equal part of the process and given appropriate credit, not forgotten sub categories.”
Bold, bright planting and limited hard landscaping are the key features of a garden that Charlie describes as “a celebration of people helping people”.
Tackling climate change
‘Gardens for a Changing World’ is a new category for 2017, designed to show how gardening is becoming more sustainable in response to changing weather.
Among the entries are a natural solution to flood prevention by designer Will Williams using trees and leaky dams and another by debut RHS designer Rhiannon Williams showing how to manage rainwater in a garden with storage systems and planting.
Perhaps the most unusual will be ‘The Power to Make a Difference’ by Joe Francis, which will have an ice block at the centre. The ice is intended to melt during the show, filling a pool below.
Tom Massey has interpreted the title as “finding sanctuary in a storm” in his garden for Perennial.
The charity provides support for people in the horticulture industry who are facing difficulties and the garden shows movement from chaos to sanctuary with the planting colours from reds and orange through to blues and greens echoing the journey.
I will be heading for Martyn Wilson’s design ‘Brownfield – Metamorphosis’. Worcester-based Martyn made his show garden debut at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival in 2014, having studied at the Cotswold Gardening School, and designs gardens for private clients across the Cotswolds.
Inspired by post-industrial gardens, such as New York’s High Line, his garden looks at what happens when a former industrial site is reclaimed by nature.
“What interested me initially was the changing nature of urban landscapes which are so often are in state of flux,” says Martyn. “There’s the process of demolition and reconstruction but between the two, before building work starts, you often find nature moves back in and a new, temporary landscape is created. “
Twisted steel monolithic structures suggesting decaying industry will be set against a mix of plants, including many that naturally self-seed on brownfield sites, such as ferns and grasses.
There’s also Cotswold interest in the category that sees designers push the boundaries of what constitutes a garden.
Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens have joined forces with wildlife charity Tusk to sponsor a conceptual garden that aims to highlight the illegal trade in ivory.
Designed by Mark Whyte, it will feature an arch of 200 tusks – the average daily tally of elephants killed by poachers in Africa.
Visitors will walk through the arch to the sounds of the African savannah, there will be African-style planting, and the bones of an elephant at one end will symbolise the risk to the elephant population.
Finally, the World Gardens will take visitors to Oregon, Northern Spain, Charleston and Florida.
• RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show runs from July 4-9, 2017. For more details, see the RHS website.
There’s no way of softening the conclusion that yesterday’s press day at RHS Chatsworth was quite simply a washout. Torrential rain was bad enough, turning parts of the ground into a swamp but high winds forced organisers to close the show early.
Was it the right decision? Yes, definitely. The Floral Marquees – split into two either side of an inflatable replica of Paxton’s Great Conservatory – closed just hours after the event began, such were safety concerns. Big wooden signs were laid on the grass as a precaution, the press tent was shaking ominously in the wind and I saw a large metal barrier blown over.
Still, on the first day of this new RHS show it was hugely disappointing for everyone involved and meant I saw but a small part of what is on offer. Like many others, I had opted to walk around the show gardens first, as the forecast for later in the day was worse. I did get to all of them but it meant that with only three hours at the show I saw little of the experimental Free Form installations and nothing of the nursery stands, well dressing or RHS exhibition on gardening in a changing climate – ironically named in the circumstances. It was also difficult to fully appreciate or photograph the gardens when they were being battered by the wind and rain.
Obviously, in such circumstances it’s difficult to fully assess this latest addition to the RHS line-up. However, there seems little doubt that it has potential.
The setting with the backdrop of Chatsworth House and its parkland is beautiful, although there was a feeling it hadn’t been exploited to the full, possibly due to restrictions on what could be dug up.
Many of the show gardens are difficult to photograph as any shot seems to include the bright white marquees, trade stands or food outlets; this is something that RHS Malvern has finally got right in recent years with the gardens sited on the showground so that the hills form a natural backing.
The Palladian Bridge, stunningly dressed by celebrity florist Jonathan Moseley and his team, frames not the house, but looks towards what seems to be a rear entrance at one end and the ‘Great Conservatory’ at the other; the latter divided opinion on press day with one person describing it to me looking like an overgrown bouncy castle. Having not managed to get inside, I couldn’t really decide its worth but pictures I’ve seen suggest it is striking.
So, what of the things I did see? Naturally, I headed first for the garden of Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brookes who heard this morning that he had won gold, Best in Show and Best Construction.
Designed for the Institute of Quarrying, it was envisaged as a garden for a professional couple and inspired by the life of a quarry.
As such, it is a garden of contrasts: soft planting, so typical of Paul’s style, set against angular rock and concrete.
Foxgloves and elder, are framed against grey, rocks are set into planting and a striking sculpture by Stroud artist Ann-Margreth Bohl, makes a dramatic end piece.
Indeed, plants silhouetted against hard landscaping seemed to be a theme of the show as did water – and not just from the sky.
The Cruse Bereavement Care garden is set around a central wall-enclosed seat area, with a long rill running through the garden.
On a grey day, the yellow lupins stood out and the curved seating area offered a welcome retreat.
For me, the highlight of the Wedgwood Garden was the ‘windows’ that gives glimpses of the garden. There’s loose planting in shades of blue and yellow with splashes of red, and a long canal of water. It is just a shame that the main window also ‘looks out’ onto a restaurant.
There are good ‘take home ideas’. Tanya Batkin’s Moveable Feast garden cleverly showcases how mobile planters can be used to create a garden anywhere.
Aimed at ‘Generation Rent’, it demonstrates how fruit, veg and flowers could transform an area of paving, while the large containers are on wheels to make them easy to move around.
Meanwhile, Butter Wakefield has produced a dreamy idyll with the Belmont Enchanted Gardens with wild flowers and vegetables, grown at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
Jackie Knight has created an informal water and rock garden to celebrate her silver wedding and the 25th anniversary of her first show garden. Aptly, given the conditions at Chatsworth, it was called ‘Just Add Water’.
And Jonathan Moseley follows his success at RHS Malvern with another stunning display of how fresh flowers can transform a space. The Palladian Bridge takes visitors from cool greens and whites through a rainbow of colour to fiery shades of red and orange, while a willow snake – based on the Cavendish coat of arms – slithers through the display.
• RHS Chatsworth 2017 runs until Sunday June 11. For more details, visit the RHS
Several months into her new role heading up the RHS Malvern Spring Festival Jane Furze still seems surprised at her good luck. It is, she explains, a perfect job.
“I’m a keen gardener and I’ve been coming to Malvern for nearly 25 years. It’s a dream job for me, turning a very loyal visitor into running the show.”
She’s putting her first-hand experience to good use in shaping Malvern’s future course. It has, she believes, the potential to be somewhere that can offer something different to the other RHS events.
“I want Malvern to be increasingly a place where you walk around and think ‘Gosh, I couldn’t have seen that anywhere else’,” says the former head of Cheltenham Literature Festival.
Key to achieving this is the introduction of features that go beyond the show gardens, expert talks and nursery stands for which RHS Malvern Spring Festival is well known.
Running as a unifying thread through this year’s show is a spa theme, harking back to the town’s heritage as a Victorian spa resort.
“We have a number of people who have produced key horticultural features based on that theme,” says Jane. “These are very new and very much an addition to any sort of content we’ve done in the past.”
Herb expert Jekka McVicar is building a garden that explores the use of herbs in health and well-being. A permanent feature, it will be used after the show by a day care service working with people with learning difficulties.
“They will be the main caretakers of the garden so it has a longevity to it.”
British flower growers will again have a big presence. Growers and florists from across the region will put on displays and talks in the Wye Hall, which is being decorated to resemble a Victorian arcade by award-winning designer Peter Dowle.
At its heart is what Jane hopes will be a show-stopping spectacle by top florist Jonathan Moseley. The ‘Floral Fountain’ is a 7m-high cascade of flowers, greenery and crystals that will flow down from the roof into a fountain and lily pool.
“I’m just looking forward to walking in and that scent just hitting me. It will be amazing.”
The Floral Marquee will also have a central display, this time designed by Joe Swift who has drawn inspiration from Victorian plant hunters. His Plant Finder Parlour has a central space for hosting talks and what Jane describes as ‘window displays’, including an auricular theatre, showcasing plants that were brought back to this country.
The marquee itself, which will house nearly 70 nurseries, has been redesigned following several years where it drew criticism from growers and visitors who found it difficult to navigate. Now it is a simple rectangle with a vista down its 190m length.
“It makes it easier for visitors and for the nurseries because they are not in a corner that people might miss.
“It will be a really stunning feature in its own right.”
And it’s not just flower-growing that Jane wants to promote. Grow your own is also high on the RHS Malvern Spring Festival agenda with the Grow Zone hosting a country and wildlife garden designed by Jon Wheatley and ‘edible beds’ produced by a range of organisations, including Incredible Edible Bristol. Meanwhile, designer and RHS judge Paul Hervey-Brookes is hosting a Growing Challenge to encourage novice gardeners.
It fits well with RHS Malvern’s image as a launchpad. It has long been the place for young designers – Chris Beardshaw, Diarmuid Gavin and Paul are among those who started their design careers at the show – and Jane believes it’s an important part of the Malvern ethos.
There will be an international flavour to the new Spa Gardens with the start of a three-year link to the Moscow Flower Show. Top designer Jo Thompson will mentor a Russian design duo building a garden at Malvern and one of the Malvern designers will be given the chance to show in Moscow. There will also be a Russian school taking part in the school garden contest.
“I would love more of that in the future,” says Jane. “Cultures do have different perspectives, different ways of thinking about design and as a visitor that’s interesting.”
There are 10 show gardens this year among them one celebrating the millennium of Buckfast Abbey, spa-themed designs by Peter Dowle and Villaggio Verde, and a garden highlighting the plight of refugees by Painswick designer Sue Jollans, 10 years after she won Best in Show at Malvern.
Jane has kept their location the same with the Malvern Hills as a backdrop: “I see no reason to change that as it’s really good location.”
What she has done is tweak the layout elsewhere to ensure visitors encounter garden features as soon as they arrive; feeling she sometimes had to walk a long way to find the gardening was something she disliked as a visitor in the past.
Changes are also planned to ease congestion that has resulted from more visitors: “I think one of the joys of Malvern is the space so I’ve just been keen to open up areas.”
With a month to go until the four-day show Jane is quietly confident except for one thing: the weather.
“I’m just praying for sunshine. It’s the one thing I want.”
• The RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from May 11 to May 14 2017. For more information and ticket details, see here
• I’ve been looking at what’s planned for gardens at the festival.
• Enjoyed this? Do leave me a comment and share this article.
There’s a new contest at the Malvern Festival this year. I’ve been talking to Paul Hervey-Brookes about his plans.
Cotswold designer Paul Harvey-Brookes may be well known for his award-winning show gardens but at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2017 he’s launching a contest on a much smaller scale.
Rather than large, carefully composed herbaceous borders he’s challenging gardeners to combine growing skills with display flair by showcasing just a few plants in an innovative way.
Although Malvern has always had amateur classes including for alpines and pot plants, Paul believes this contest offers something different.
“The Growing Challenge is about how you present things not just how you grow them,” he explains. “It’s about how you can do it creatively so it’s a thing of beauty and has a narrative story.”
The first of the five categories in the contest is for a collection of ferns or shade-loving plants, presented in a stylish way while the second is for a terrarium or group of plants that are growing in a sealed unit.
“It could be with soil or without,” says Paul, who is based in Stroud. “It could be ferns hanging from Kilner jars just with moss.”
Houseplants have seen a recent resurgence in popularity and the third category feeds into this trend. It asks for a trio of houseplants in an imaginative display.
“You can grow them in anything you like so long as it can get to Malvern. It could even be in an old grandfather clock or a tea plant growing out of a teapot.”
Paul’s hoping the fourth category in the Growing Challenge will appeal especially to younger gardeners. It asks for a fruiting plant, such as an avocado, grown from seed, and in a suitable container. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been grown, although the sowing date is needed to gauge the growth rate and condition.
The final category is ideal for those with a small garden or no growing space at all. Competitors have to produce a collection of culinary plants that can be harvested in the kitchen, again with the emphasis on creativity.
“People don’t necessarily have a garden but it needn’t stop you growing things,” says Paul.
And to prove it can be done, Paul is taking the challenge himself and growing something for each of the categories, which he will exhibit at the show in May.
He’s hoping the innovative approach, which is looking for creativity as well as growing skills, will encourage newcomers to have a go.
“I’m really interesting the benefits of nurturing plants and how they can make you feel good about things.”
He will be judging the entries with first, second and third prizes in each of the categories. Among the prizes are Sneeboer hand tools, tickets for a lecture and lunch with Paul, and £50 vouchers for Allomorphic, the gardening and lifestyle store he runs in Stroud; an Allomorphic concession is due to open later this month at Jekka’s Herb Farm in Alveston. The best in show winner will receive a £200 border fork.
It all makes for a busy few days as Paul will also be taking the RHS young designers he mentors to Malvern to pick up ideas and chairing the RHS judging panel looking at the Festival’s show gardens, the first time he’s headed a group.
“It’s a huge honour to be chairman of the judges especially as it’s only my second year as a judge,” he says.
“It’s rather apt that it’s at Malvern as it’s where my design career really launched.”
And it’s not the only show where he will be leading a judging panel as he is chair of judges for the Artisan and Fresh categories at this year’s Chelsea and will be chair at the Tatton show as well.
With a big show garden for the Institute of Quarrying at the new RHS Chatsworth Show and a Hampton Court garden for show sponsors Viking River Cruises, he’s also got a hectic design schedule.
“It is going to be a busy year,” he admits, “but I think it’s good to see a judge who’s active in the business of making gardens commercially and putting my money where my mouth is and making gardens at the shows.”
• The deadline for entries to the Growing Challenge at RHS Malvern Spring Festival is Friday May 5, 2017. Details can be found here
• The Malvern Spring Festival runs from May 11-14 2017. Ticket details here
Gardening experts are heading to the Cotswolds this year offering advice on everything from early spring bulbs to the meaning of flowers.
Want to know how to build a pond and plant a bog garden, or perhaps pruning trees is a puzzle. Workshops, lectures and a garden festival will give gardeners ample opportunity to pick up tips and advice.
Here’s a round-up of the gardening talks on offer.
Stroud-based home and garden shop Allomorphic is also the setting for a series of day courses and lectures with lunch.
Award-winning designer and RHS judge Paul Hervey-Brookes will be sharing his design expertise in three courses covering planting for winter, gardening in a small space and the basics of creating a show garden.
Other courses include how to make beautiful hand ties, summer door wreaths or arrangements to suit every celebration.
The ‘Queen of Herbs’, Jekka McVicar will be sharing her knowledge of plants medicinal and culinary while container planting expert Harriet Rycroft will explain how to have pots that look good all year-round.
The magazine’s second festival at Westonbirt School has a line-up of some of the gardening world’s best-known faces.
Designers Cleve West, Tom Stuart-Smith and Arne Maynard are among those who will be looking for paradise, exploring the health benefits of gardens and the use of beautifully crafted materials in gardens, while Sarah Raven will be showing how to combine colour in borders.
The roses of Sissinghurst, how to be a green gardener, and the canals and water gardens of Birmingham are just some of the subjects that will also be explored during the two-day festival.
The event on March 25-26 also has tours of the garden and a plant and design clinic alongside the gardening talks.
The Generous Gardener near Cirencester is launching a new series of evening lectures alongside the usual daytime gardening talks.
Among those speaking at the evening events at The Coach House Garden are Bob Brown, of Cotswold Garden Flowers, with advice on new garden-worthy plants and Helen Picton talking about growing asters.
The lecture days, now in their fifth season, include two speakers and lunch. Among the double acts are Alan Street from Avon Bulbs talking about early spring treasures and Tony Kirkham, head of Kew’s arboretum, giving advice on everything to do with trees.
Leading designers Julian and Isobel Bannerman will take you through the making of their gardens while Derry Watkins, of Special Plants nursery, will tempt you to grow plants that are borderline hardy.
Designer Rupert Golby shows how to bring the garden indoors and writer and plantsman Stephen Lacey will suggest plants to introduce scent.
Bog gardens, ponds and how to create and plant them is explained by Timothy Walker, former director of Oxford Botanic Garden, while Telegraph columnist Helen Yemm will be choosing plants for a stunning summer show.
Plantsman Roy Lancaster shares his lifelong passion for plants and Helen Dillon will give an insight into the making of her famous garden in Ireland.
IfChelsea is the grown-up, sophisticate when it comes to flower shows then RHS Hampton Court Palace is definitely the fun-loving younger sister.
The atmosphere is more relaxed: there are fewer celebs, last minute preparations and even parties of schoolchildren being shown around on press day.
The show gardens more accessible both in terms of design – these are gardens you can imagine making – and literally, thanks to Hampton’s generous site size compared with the space restrictions at Chelsea.
And when it comes to making you stop and think this year’s Hampton has the edge for me.
Aside from Paul Hervey-Brookes’ gold medal-winning design that drew universal admiration – and not just for the very cute dogs from The Dogs Trust that kept visiting – there were several other gardens that caught my eye.
I loved the simplicity of idea and execution of the World Vision garden. Undulating ribbons of green represent the difficult lives of children caught up in war or disaster-hit countries while the delicate wild meadow planting underneath gave a glimpse of hope.
The Cancer Research UK Life Garden takes garden design right into the 21st century with a virtual garden for visitors alongside the more traditional planting of echinacea, hemerocallis and alliums.
Don the special headset and you are transported into a bigger version of this garden, as I discovered, complete with birdsong and the sound of bees. Each of the 100,000 flowers pictured represents one of the legacies that have helped the charity.
It was a novel twist on the usual garden experience and great fun – apart from the sensation of being high up above a sunken area, as I discovered when I ‘looked’ down. Not great when you don’t do heights.
My favourite among the smaller gardens, was the Drought Garden, which won the well-deserved Best in Show for this category.
It was a clever mix of drought tolerant planting and wildlife friendly features, such as a bee hive, and well within the capabilities and budget of the average gardener; designer Steve Dimmock used reclaimed stone and old pebbles for the hard landscaping.
Other easily copied ideas included a herb-enclosed seat in the Witan Investment Trust Global Growth Garden, which also featured colourful vegetables among the planting. Who says borders can’t be productive as well as pretty.
And the Wildfowl and Wetland Garden showed how simply using the run-off from our homes could help stop flooding and provide an attractive wildlife friendly element to our gardens.
Here are some other things I liked.
There was plenty of colour.
Some of the gardens were also very colourful.
The Rose Festival is always a highlight.
‘Scent from Heaven’ was announced as the 2016 Rose of the Year.
Peter Beales Roses’ stand had a ruin at its centre.
There were also some lovely clematis. On their own . . .
. . . or mixed with roses.
This penstemon ‘Craigieburn Taffeta’ from Green Jjam Nurseries caught my eye.
Vehicles were a popular addition to displays.
Here, a Fiat 500 was used on Italian seed firm Franchi’s display.
The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show will see Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brookes challenging the idea that dogs and gardens don’t mix and that the colour yellow is difficult.
Designing for man’s best friend
He may be known for beautiful planting schemes but when I call into Allomorphic, his Stroud shop, designer Paul Hervey-Brookes wants to talk about origami. Not the paper kind but metal carefully folded to create dogs. They are going to feature on his garden at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and he’s justifiably proud of them.
“They’re made of powder-coated metal to look like origami and I’ve had them made to my design,” he says, adding with a glint in his eye that the dogs will be in a number of lifelike poses.
It’s just one element of the garden for The Dogs’ Trust that Paul hopes will challenge not only the idea of what makes a classic English garden but also assumptions about the sort of spaces he designs.
“I thought it would be very nice to make a garden that is contemporary English because the last two show gardens I’ve made in the UK have been traditional,” he explains.
“I want to show people the kind of garden I’m making abroad.”
These foreign designs have included both private and show commissions in America and France over the past 12 months.
So while the garden will have his trademark plant-heavy mainly herbaceous borders, there’s a modern edge with a metal pavilion and curved granite seat.
“It feels slightly more masculine and a little bit more edgy.”
It’s Paul’s second visit to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – he won gold and came top in the World of Gardens category for the ‘Discover Jordan’ garden in 2012.
The garden will celebrate the charity’s 125th anniversary and has been designed with dog owners and their pets in mind; Paul and his partner Yann have three dogs.
Making the design dog friendly has presented some challenges, not least when it came to choosing plants as many are poisonous to dogs, including bergenia, foxgloves and yew.
“It’s been a challenge,” admits Paul, “but it makes you re-evaluate the plants you are using. You can’t just rely on your three favourite plants.”
Then the colour is not the more commonly seen pastels but a blend of blue and iridescent yellow; both colours that dogs are believed to see most clearly and the charity’s colours.
Yellow, I suggest, is often viewed as a difficult colour to use.
“I did a big planting scheme in Philadelphia of golden yellow and aubergine colours. It just looked amazing. So many people said ‘I don’t really like yellow but I really like this.’”
What is well within his comfort zone is the scale: the deep herbaceous borders will have just over 3,000 plants.
“True to my character, it will have a lot of plants, a lot of varieties,” he smiles.
Bringing blue tones will be agastache, agapanthus, nepeta, and salvia, while yellow comes from anthemis, cosmos, kniphofia, and Cephalaria gigantea.
Ammi, calamagrostis, green fennel and mint will give the planting a loose, relaxed feel and there is height with a grove of birch and in the centre of the garden, three Acer saccharinum, which have distinctive trifoliate leaves.
“Most people don’t realise it’s an acer.”
The garden follows a dog’s journey from first being taken in by the charity to finding a new home; the Trust prides itself on never putting down a healthy animal.
More dog sculptures, this time made from wire by artist Paul Tavernor, are in a long canal of water.
“It symbolises a dog who has just come into the home. Everything feels quite bare, empty and abandoned.
The journey to a new owner is through the herbaceous planting with the origami dogs on ‘sniffer’ tracks through the border with a rill and metal water spouts from a rendered wall giving them somewhere to drink.
Finally, the dog and its new owner meet for the first time in the round pavilion, which provides a safe, controlled environment; the pavilion is going to be re-sited after the show at a Dogs Trust centre.
Yet, despite all the dog elements, Paul is hoping the garden will appeal to both dog owners and those without pets.
“A show garden should inspire. You should come away and re-evaluate your own garden with a fresh pair of eyes.”
There’s a palpable air of supressed stress when I arrive at Allomorphic. The final coat of earth brown paint is being applied to walls, boxes are being unpacked and carpet laid. It’s just days before the opening of Stroud’s newest horticultural venture and there’s still lots to do.
Stood in the middle of the maelstrom is designer Paul Hervey-Brookes answering questions from his team of helpers on prices, where to position pots, books and labels, and how to fill an awkward gap atop a cupboard filled with speciality teas. His quick, decisive solutions suggest he is working to some internal plan and already has a clear idea of the finished result.
It is, I venture, a little like being in the midst of a show garden build with the arrival of the judges looming.
“Yes, I feel like we will still be doing something just before the launch party guests arrive,” smiles Paul, although given his experience of hitting show time deadlines, that’s unlikely.
The first time we met it was to discuss gardening on a budget. Paul had just made his show garden debut and he enthusiastically explained how his design – which won silver-gilt at the Malvern Autumn Show – proved that it was possible to garden without spending a fortune by growing your own and using recycled materials.
Some eight years and numerous award-winning gardens later, including gold at Chelsea, the enthusiasm is undimmed but the project has come a long way from that low-cost start.
Allomorphic, which Paul is launching with his partner, Yann, offers unusual and, in some cases, exclusive items inspired by gardens and wearing a price tag that’s heading towards the luxury end of the market.
“They are high quality,” says Paul, “but that’s simply because I grew up with the idea that you buy cheaply, you buy twice.”
Yet, although at the top end there are Sneeboer tools – included because they “will last a lifetime and are a joy to work with” – the stock also covers garden essentials, such as plant labels and string. What makes Allomorphic different to the average horticultural outlet is that even these are beautifully presented in labelled glass jars, while the design ethic extends even to the choice of till.
It’s this creation of a beautiful space that is the driving force behind the project, which Paul sees as a natural extension to his work as a leading garden designer.
“People who come to us for gardens are looking for something beautiful, something they can escape into and so many of the things that are in this building are things that would naturally be incorporating into those spaces.
“It’s all part of what we already do and it just seemed really nice to offer these bits without a garden.”
Among the items on sale and also available online are hedgehog houses that Paul first designed for Marks and Spencer, wooden seed trays fashioned from old railway sleepers, books – many out of print – and antiques, such as a 1950s’ rose support, that have been sourced from all over the country and abroad. There will be fresh flowers, floristry accessories, such as driftwood, and a range of speciality teas.
Exclusive items include a range of greetings cards that the couple have designed in collaboration with artist Roger Ellis.
“If you buy one for yourself, you should love it and if you buy one for somebody, they should feel like they’ve had a real treat,” says Paul.
He bristles at the word shop – “I don’t see it as another gardening shop” – and in a way he’s right as there is much more to Allomorphic than mere trade.
The venture was born out of the need for new office space for the couple’s garden design business and discussions they’d had about running workshops and lectures. The property in the heart of Stroud seemed the perfect fit.
“A friend described Stroud as a blend of Brighton and Islington,” explains Paul, “and it’s got a really good broad mix of people and a really fresh vibe around it at the moment.”
Work began on the rundown building at the beginning of January and it now houses not only the design office but a space that will be used for workshops and plant-themed events such as an agapanthus festival; the monthly lectures will be held in a room nearby.
It’s been a tough few months to get everything ready, made all the more difficult by having to also juggle three private design projects, a huge garden at this year’s Hampton Court show, mentoring RHS young designers, work on RHS plant trials, and judging at the Malvern and Tatton shows.
“I like to be busy,” explains Paul, when I question the wisdom of taking on yet another enterprise. “I’m not someone who likes to stand still and I’m constantly looking for new sources of inspiration and ideas. This just seemed very natural.
“I love making show gardens but I don’t particularly want to make four a year, as I have done in the past three years. This gives us the opportunity to say this is what we’re about without constantly being on that treadmill.”
Eventually, Paul and Yann will move into a flat upstairs. And it’s this sense of putting down roots after years of building show gardens across the world that appeals to them.
“Since 2012, we’ve had quite a nomadic existence. This feels like coming home and I really like that.”
• Allomorphic, 11 Lansdown, Stroud, opened on Saturday March 12. Opening hours will then be Wednesday to Saturday, 10-4.30pm. Details: http://www.allomorphic.co.uk/