Get some show garden style

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.

plant sale
Chicory will be on sale

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.

plant sale
The 2016 Dogs Trust garden

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.

plant sale
The garden is being restored

“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.”

plant sale
Slad Valley House is hosting the sale

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.

Colour-fest at RHS Hampton

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.

rhs hampton
Colours in the border echo those of the hard landscaping

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?

rhs hampton
Campanula lactiflora ‘Pritchard’s Variety’ with Echinops ritro ‘Veitch’s Blue’

Or pink – the bees were loving it.

rhs hampton
Oregano and perilla

Who says green is dull?

rhs hampton
Alchemilla mollis with the vertical lines of Liatris spicata ‘Alba’

Simple but really effective.

rhs hampton
Nicotiana sylvestris adding height to the planters

I really loved these Achillea ‘Summer Berries’.

rhs hampton

They come in a mix of colours that Paul had carefully separated out to give different effects. Here is the cream with bronze variant.

rhs hampton
Cream and terracotta achillea with Aster lateriflorus ‘Lady in Black’ and Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldschleier’

And Persicaria bistorta is given a whole new feel when combined with carex.

rhs hampton

I was glad to see I’m ‘on trend’ as I’ve just planted up an old wine box with this erigeron.

rhs hampton

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.

rhs hampton

I really liked the colours in this garden – rusted steel, oranges, creams, yellows and the odd touch of purple from buddleia.

rhs hampton

The attention to detail was superb.

rhs hampton

rhs hampton

While my Cotswold neighbours are using refined colour combinations, two of the show gardens are unashamedly brash.

rhs hampton

Bright, primary colours dominate the ‘Journey of Life’ garden by Edward Mairis, which has an acrylic wall in rainbow colours.

rhs hampton
Charlie’s garden is all about colour

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.

rhs hampton

“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.

rhs hampton

I also liked the peep-through architectural wall from Stark and Greensmith.

rhs hampton

And the way the plants were set off against it.

rhs hampton

Here are some of the other things that caught my eye.

rhs hampton
Beach huts on the ‘Fun on Sea’ garden

There was more than a touch of the seaside.

rhs hampton
Southend Council’s ‘By the Sea’ garden

And some boats.

rhs hampton

rhs hampton
Hoyland Plant Centre’s Floral Marquee exhibit

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.

rhs hampton

A nifty way to grow strawberries on the RHS Kitchen Garden by Juliet Sargeant.

rhs hampton

And an edible green wall.

rhs hampton

Finally, at the end of a long day . . .

rhs hampton
Plants, Shoots and Leaves’ stand

there are some tempting places to sit and rest . . .

rhs hampton
Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants’ annuals display

or even lie down.

rhs hampton
‘A Bed of Roses’ by Fryer’s Roses

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.

RHS Hampton 2017: roses, butterflies and melting ice

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.

RHS Hampton
Rosa ‘Lovestruck’

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.

Show Gardens

Naturally, top of my list of ‘must-sees’ is Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brookes’ garden for show sponsors Viking Cruises.

RHS Hampton
Paul’s garden is inspired by travel

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.

RHS Hampton
The Manzano paving has an intricate 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.”

RHS Hampton
A willow vine sculpture will enclose the Blind Veterans UK garden

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.

RHS Hampton
The Colour Box garden is being built with donated products and help

‘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.

RHS Hampton
Will Williams’ garden uses natural flood prevention measures

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.

RHS Hampton
Managing rainwater in a garden

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.

RHS Hampton
There’s ice at the heart of Joe Francis’ design

Tom Massey has interpreted the title as “finding sanctuary in a storm” in his garden for Perennial.

RHS Hampton
The Perennial garden

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.

RHS Hampton
Martyn Wilson’s design

“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.

Conceptual Gardens

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.

RHS Hampton
Mark Whyte is putting the spotlight on the plight of elephants

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.

RHS Chatsworth 2017: a soggy start

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.

chatsworth
Dressed for the weather – the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire talking to designer Paul Hervey-Brookes

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.

chatsworth
The IQ Quarry garden has stark lines . . .
chatsworth
. . . set against soft planting

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.

chatsworth
The hot end of the Palladian Bridge

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.

chatsworth
The IQ Quarry garden is one of many with a water feature

As such, it is a garden of contrasts: soft planting, so typical of Paul’s style, set against angular rock and concrete.

chatsworth
Cool grey set off many plants on the garden . . .
chatsworth
. . . including foxgloves

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.

chatsworth
A dramatic end to the IQ Quarry garden

Indeed, plants silhouetted against hard landscaping seemed to be a theme of the show as did water – and not just from the sky.

chatsworth
Stone sets off aeonium in the Wedgwood garden
chatsworth
More water this time on the Cruse Bereavement Care garden

The Cruse Bereavement Care garden is set around a central wall-enclosed seat area, with a long rill running through the garden.

chatsworth
The sheltered seat was welcoming

On a grey day, the yellow lupins stood out and the curved seating area offered a welcome retreat.

chatsworth

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.

chatsworth
One of the ‘windows’ on the garden

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.

chatsworth
Moveable containers and a great green roof on a store cupboard

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.

chatsworth

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.

chatsworth
Butter Wakefield’s idyllic retreat

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’.

chatsworth
Jackie Knight’s garden
chatsworth
I liked the way Jackie picked out the colour of the hammock in the planting

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.

chatsworth

RHS Chatsworth 2017 runs until Sunday June 11. For more details, visit the RHS

In the frame – RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2017

RHS Malvern Spring Festival – a sneak preview

I admit to being a little unsure about this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival. It was so good last year: stand-out gardens; a marquee full of tempting flowers; perfect weather. Would Jane Furze manage to meet let alone exceed that in her first year running the festival?

rhs malvern
Peter Dowle’s best in show garden

I was lucky enough to be allowed a sneak preview before it opens and first impressions are good, very good.

For the first time in the nearly 30 years that I’ve been visiting, Malvern seems to be looking outwards and finally making the most of its enviable setting. From nearly every point on the Three Counties Showground you are aware of the Malvern Hills in the background.

rhs malvern
The hills are a backdrop to the gardens

Continuing a move started a couple of years ago, the show gardens are positioned to be against the hills and elsewhere views have been kept clear of tents, stands and trailers, the necessary but ugly mechanics of a garden show.

Then there’s the feeling of space. Obviously, this was helped today by the fact that visitors were not on site but there’s the sense that even when the crowds arrive – advance ticket sales are already up on last year – there will be none of the past cramped atmosphere.

It is, says Jane with a smile, exactly what she had hoped for.

“We’ve opened the site up and created much more open space.”

rhs malvern
The festival seems to blend in with the hills

Permanent showground trees have been incorporated into the vista, filling the middle ground and linking the site to the hills.

“We’re in a really beautiful site and I wanted to make sure that location stood out. Everything is placed in the frame of the hills.”

Exhibitors’ vehicles, which used to occupy a fairly central area, have been banished out of sight and a vast swathe of grass has been left in front of the Floral Marquee.

rhs malvern
I love the detail on the gardens – this is from Sue Jollans

And what of that marquee? When I spoke to Jane a few months ago, she was excited about one of her major rejigs, namely the design of Malvern’s equivalent to Chelsea’s Great Pavilion.

It has changed shape and site on the ground several times over Malvern’s 32-year history. I think it’s finally right. The long 190m vista from one end to the other is knockout – even when the exhibits were still being put together – and the shape means nurseries are no longer in danger of being tucked away in a corner and easily missed. And as for the space outside, the marquee now has room to breathe, while keeping trade stands to a minimum means the hills are beautifully on show.

rhs malvern
The flowers are always a favourite with me

Jane confessed that her main worry before the festival had been the weather. Even that has worked in her favour. Today was a perfect sunny day with the forecast looking good. The forecast for the festival also seems to be set fair.

So, what are the ‘not-to-be-missed’ features? Here are just some of the things that caught my eye.

The gardens

The best thing about RHS Malvern gardens is the chance to get up really close – and usually from more than one side.

rhs malvern
Part of Villaggio Verde’s garden

Small enough to be relevant to the average gardener, they are nonetheless packed full of ideas.

And don’t miss Jekka McVicar’s Health and Wellbeing garden. She’s completely revamped what had been a rather neglected permanent feature. Now it’s full of edible and medicinal herbs with plenty of places to sit.

rhs malvern
Jane Furze (right) chats with Jekka on her garden

The garden, with a greenhouse donated by Hartley Botanic, will be cared for in the future by Pathways, a day service for adults with learning difficulties,

“I’m very pleased with it,” says Jekka. “It’s come up really well.”

Edible borders

rhs malvern
The Incredible Edible Bristol border

In the same vein, there are edible borders at this year’s festival. Created by community groups, including Incredible Edible Bristol and Garden Organic, they are putting the spotlight on community projects that promote food-growing.

The flowers

rhs malvern
The lupins are beautiful

For me, the Floral Marquee is the highlight of RHS Malvern. There’s plenty to see with exhibits of everything from cacti to clematis. At its heart is the Plant Finders Parlour, designed by Joe Swift, and set to be the stage for talks.

rhs malvern
Fibrex Nurseries is the featured Master Grower

Don’t miss the special Master Grower exhibit by Fibrex Nurseries. Part of a rolling programme across RHS shows, it explains a bit about the history of the family nursery and the behind-the-scenes work.

I also spotted stand-out lupins on W&S Lockyer’s stand and some irresistible peonies.

rhs malvern
I loved the peonies

British Flowers

rhs malvern
Jonathan Moseley is celebrating British-grown flowers

British flower growers are back at RHS Malvern in force. The austere surroundings of the Wye Hall have been cleverly disguised by Peter Dowle, giving the hall a Victorian street market feel.

rhs malvern
The floral fountain is spectacular

Don’t miss the spectacular floral fountain, designed by leading florist Jonathan Moseley. Hundreds of blooms in glass holders hang from the ceiling, slowly rotating as they catch a breeze. Simply mesmerising.

rhs malvern
Some of the glass holders

RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from May 11-14. For details, see the website

For show garden results see here

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2017 – the results

Top honours at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival have gone to Peter Dowle’s tranquil Japanese-style retreat.

‘At One with . . . A Meditation Garden’ has won gold and the coveted Best in Show award.

Peter, who runs Howle Hill Nursery in was delighted with the win – his second best in show at RHS Malvern.

results
Peter Dowle on his award-winning garden

“It’s absolutely fabulous news and great for all the team – it was a huge team effort as always.”

And despite it being his 12th RHS gold, the thrill has not diminished: “Every gold is special,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to a fabulous festival.”

results
Sue Jollans won gold

There was gold also for Painswick designer Sue Jollans on her second time at Malvern and after a gap of 10 years.

The Refuge highlights the plight of refugees and the journey they take in search of sanctuary.

results
Villaggio Verde’s garden

A Mediterranean retreat by Villaggio Verde picked up a silver-gilt. There was silver for Buckfast Abbey’s Millennium Garden and the Treehouse Garden by Tim Lawrence.

results
The Treehouse Garden by Mark Eveleigh
resutls
Buckfast Abbey’s garden celebrates its millennium

A Garden Framed by Tim Lawrence, inspired by the idea of gardens as art, won bronze.

results
A Garden Framed won bronze

In the Spa Garden category, gold and Best in Show went to Russian duo Denis Kalshnikov and Ekaterina Bolotova. They were invited to exhibit at Malvern as part of a collaboration with the Moscow Flower Show.

results
A Russian design duo created the Molecular Garden

Annette Baines-Stiller got silver for her garden inspired by the poetry of Ted Hughes.

results
The poetry of Ted Hughes inspired this garden

There was bronze for The Ocean Garden by Damien Michel and Keith Browning’s eye-catching Bubble Drops.

results
The Ocean Garden by Damien Michel
The brightly coloured Bubble Drops by Keith Browning

The RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from May 11-14. For details, visit the website.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017 – the Cotswold link

RHS shows come fast and furious at this time of year and while RHS Malvern may have only just closed, work on building gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is nearing the final judging deadline.

And there’s plenty of input from the Cotswolds this year with exhibits from the region across the show.

The gardens

rhs chelsea

Cheltenham-based designer Chris Beardshaw will be planting to the sound of music on his third show garden for Morgan Stanley.

Members of the National Youth Orchestra have produced a piece of music based on their interpretation of his garden and this will influence where individual plants are based.

“That piece of music will help to direct how we formulate the drifts of plants in the planting of the garden itself,” explains Chris.

The garden has three distinct areas and, unusually for Chelsea, can be viewed on three sides. At one end is a naturalistic woodland, while the opposite side has a formal sun terrace garden. Linking the two is a green oak asymmetrical building.

Like his previous two gold medal-winning gardens for Morgan Stanley, the design has been inspired by one of the three strands of the firm’s outreach programme.

rhs chelsea
Chris on last year’s garden

The 2015 design looked at well-being and was part of a much larger community garden in Poplar. Last year’s garden, which was relocated to Great Ormond Street Hospital, focused on health and this year’s entry explores education, with a basis in fractal geometry.

“There is an assumption that nature is chaotic and a garden is ordered and in fact that could not be further from the truth. Everything in nature has a pattern and order it’s just that it does not necessarily conform to an artificial geometry that we impose,” says Chris.

And in a move back to his horticultural roots, he’s growing more than 2,000 herbaceous plants himself in borrowed glasshouses at The Nursery at Miserden rather than leaving it to a commercial grower.

“Looking after the plants is obviously very time consuming when we are so busy with everything else. And is quite challenging as we have to work with the changing weather conditions – holding back some species, while coaxing on others. But for me the planting is the aspect of any show garden creation I love the most and this year will be even more special and rewarding.”

rhs chelsea
Sculptor Darren Rumley

Concrete isn’t usually thought of as beautiful but Darren Rumley turns it into art.

The sculptor from Stroud is making his RHS Chelsea debut on award-winning designer Sarah Eberley’s artisan garden.

Spotted by Sarah at the RHS Tatton show, he has been commissioned to produce a seat for her garden for Viking Cruises celebrating Gaudi and Barcelona’s modern arts movement.

rhs chelsea
The Viking Cruises garden

“I am a massive fan of concrete as a material and his work stood out for me,” explains Sarah.

The glass fibre reinforced concrete will be shaped using a silicon mould to produce a sculpted seat.

“It’s something very different and not what I’ve done before,” says Darren, of One Artisan

With fewer show gardens than in previous years – eight down from 17 in 2016 – the RHS has brought in five gardens to fill the space, a move last seen in 2009 with the ‘Credit Crunch Gardens’.

Celebrating Radio 2’s 50th anniversary, the ‘BBC Radio 2 Feel Good Gardens’, which won’t be judged, will be half the size of a show garden and aim to demonstrate the role gardens have in promoting a feeling of well-being.

rhs chelsea
Jo Whiley’s garden

Each has been named after a presenter and has a different theme. The Jo Whiley Scent Garden is designed by Tamara Bridge and Kate Savill, who have asked fragrance designer Jo Malone for help.

rhs chelsea
Sarah Raven has designed Anneka Rice’s garden

The Anneka Rice Colour Cutting Garden is being designed by Sarah Raven and will concentrate on plants that can be cut and will flower again.

rhs chelsea
Jeremy Vine’s garden

Matt Keightley is designing The Jeremy Vine Texture Garden with bold geometric forms against soft planting.

rhs chelsea
The Zoe Ball garden

James Alexander-Sinclair is aiming to reproduce the feeling of music vibrating through your body in The Zoe Ball Listening Garden. While visitors won’t be able to hear the music of the last 50 years of Radio 2, it will produce patterns in the water feature and will be felt through the floor.

rhs chelsea
Chris Evans’ garden

And Chris Evans will be broadcasting from his garden on Press Day. The Chris Evans Taste Garden has been designed by Jon Wheatley as an allotment-style plot with a range of fruit flowers and vegetables. Bake Off Queen Mary Berry has been consulted on the tastiest plants.

Great pavilion

The Great Pavilion will see its first fully revolving exhibit with a display by Linda Marsh from Cheltenham, which celebrates 60 years of the Hardy Plant Society.

rhs chelsea

In another first, each plant will have a QR code to enable visitors to access cultivation notes via their smart phones.

“We want to show that we’re innovative and moving with the times,” she explains.

rhs chelsea
Linda Marsh

Linda, part of the Worcester HPS, which was chosen to put together the exhibit, is using 60 different plants in a fiery palate of purple, red and orange, with highlights of white.

Members have been growing the plants since October both in their own gardens and in glasshouses lent to them by Cotswold Garden Flowers nursery.

Fibrex Nurseries are no strangers to Chelsea but this year will be extra special.

The nursery, based at Pebworth near Evesham, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its National Collection of Pelargoniums and fittingly the display will resemble a celebration cake.

Rather than its usual ‘against the wall’ pitch, the family-run nursery will have a free-standing display featuring pelargoniums in a tiered arrangement.

rhs chelsea
P. ‘Rushmoor Amazon’

Among the four new varieties being launched, is ‘Rushmoor Amazon’, with large yellow blooms.

Another nursery marking an anniversary at the show is Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, which will be putting on its 25th display.

rhs chelsea
100 years of The British Florist Association will be celebrated

Also celebrating is The British Florist Association, which will highlight its 100th anniversary with a 2.5m-high display using more than 6,000 cut flowers in pink, orange and green.

Visitors will be able to look through circles of flowers onto the RHS Chelsea Florist of the Year competition entries.

And Hillier is hoping to add to its 71 consecutive golds with a bold display, designed by Sarah Eberle, featuring a 4m-high metallic spring.

rhs chelsea
The Hillier display is built around a huge spring

Weighing in at more than a tonne, the coils will span the length of the display and will carry water into a pond at one end.

There will also be a ‘Memory Tree’ where visitors can hang a signed copper tag with a book below for them to add their favourite garden memory.

Alan Titchmarsh will be the first to add his memory to the Davidia involucrata, or Pocket Handkerchief Tree, and tags added by other designers and personalities will be auctioned after the show in aid of the Wessex Cancer Trust.

And there’s also . . .

Cotswold flower arranger Jayne Morriss, from Brimscombe Hill, near Stroud, is making her 10th appearance at the show with an entry in the Enchanted Garden class of the flower arranging competition. She’s interpreted it as ‘Puck’s Hollow’ and is planning to create a green and white display with a small pool, delphiniums and roses.

Mickleton-based Phil Britt, a member of Chipping Campden and District Flower Arranging Society, is also putting his floral art skills to the test in the same contest.

Cotswold wire sculptor Rupert Till from will be displaying his garden artwork and Cheltenham sculptor Chris Lisney will be unveiling three new pieces at RHS Chelsea. One is a sphere with a branch and a perched bird, while the other two show girls, one dancing with a perched bird and the other balanced on a book.

rhs chelsea
Chris Lisney working on one of his sculptures

There will be garden antiques from Architectural Heritage, based at Taddington, and artist Jaci Hogan, based at South Cerney, will be showing her flower paintings on everything from cards to tablemats.

The RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from May 23-27. For more details, visit the website.

This post was updated on May 18.

RHS Malvern Spring Festival gardens 2017

One of the joys of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival is the chance to get some design and planting inspiration from the show gardens.

Their new site at the festival gives them a beautiful Malvern Hills backdrop while plenty of space on the Three Counties Showground means they are easy to navigate.

This year, there’s the added bonus of the new Spa Gardens contest, which is billed as the perfect forum for up-and-coming new talent.

RHS Malvern Show gardens

Meditation, gardens as art and the plight of refugees are just some of the themes behind the show gardens at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

There are six gardens in the contest with designs from several former gold medal and Best in Show winners.

The Refuge

RHS malvern

The current refugee crisis has prompted Gloucestershire designer Sue Jollans to return to Malvern for the first time since winning a gold medal and Best in Show in 2008.

Designed to celebrate Britain’s history as a refuge for those in need, the garden features a boardwalk over wildflowers and corten steel pools with a ripple effect in the water. Moving through the garden over the boardwalk symbolises the journey across water many refugees make.

At its heart is a Middle Eastern-style bread oven and a communal area.

“It is a space that is intended to feel safe, grounded in the British countryside,” explains Sue, who is based in Painswick. “The oven was inspired by Help Refugees UK distributing bread griddles in the Greek refugee camps, which brought people together to make bread.”

Sue is hoping the garden will be relocated after the show at an organisation that helps refugees.

Tree House Garden 

RHS malvern

Last year’s Best in Show winner, Mark Eveleigh, is bringing a tree house and hot tub to the show with a garden inspired by Malvern’s history as a spa town.

Using the nearby Victorian St Ann’s Well as his starting point, he has given the theme a modern twist with an octagonal tree house and a wood-fired hot tub.

Although the garden is being judged by the RHS, it will be kept as a permanent feature at the showground.

“The fact that this will live on and evolve does appeal to me,” says Mark.

At One with A Meditation Garden 

RHS Malvern

The theme of spa is also behind this year’s design by Peter Dowle, which is designed to be a quiet retreat within a larger garden.

There will be three stone pieces by sculptor Matthew Maddocks, a 16m-long water feature and huge rocks from the Forest of Dean while planting will include Peter’s trademark acers and other large “statement” plants from his Howle Hill Nursery.

“We’re hoping for something quite dramatic,” he says.

The Retreat 

RHS Malvern

Olive tree specialists Villaggio Verde are regulars at RHS Malvern but this year sees a move away from their usual recreation of a Mediterranean scene.

Instead, they are using the spa theme to create a modern private garden designed for well-being and health.

Olives and planting associated with aromatherapy, including lavender, bay and rosemary, will surround a salt water hydrotherapy pool while a lounging area will be cooled by mist.

“It’s a step out of our comfort zone,” admits Villaggio’s owner Jason Hales.

Buckfast Abbey Millennium Garden

RHS Malvern

Devon’s Buckfast Abbey is making its flower show debut with a garden to celebrate its millennium in 2018.

Designed by Maia Hall, it allows visitors to look through a Gothic arch ‘windows’ onto a tranquil garden where a stag, echoing the abbey’s logo, drinks at a pool.

A meandering path, suggesting a river bed, a glade of silver birch and a planting scheme in blue and white contribute to the feeling of peace.

Head gardener Aaron Southgate says the idea was to combine a sense of spirituality and naturalness.

He explains that the gardens – which total 35 acres at the Benedictine monastery – are often used by local people.

“The gardens are a tranquil, peaceful space for prayer and reflection.

“We felt we wanted to tell the world about them a bit more.”

A Garden Framed

RHS Malvern

Designer Tim Lawrence is planning a something different for RHS Malvern with his exploration of gardens as art.

More an art installation than a typical show garden, it is a series of four framed ‘pictures’ of plants, rocks and wood set around large tree sculpture.

“This is a garden for people to find some peace and space to reflect,” he says. “It’s not necessarily a garden to walk around or go through but a garden where you sit and are still.”

It’s the first time Bristol-based Tim has made a show garden and he says the garden has been inspired by his love of not only plants but also Japanese art and design.

RHS Malvern Spa Gardens

The new Spa Gardens contest not only gives designers the chance to take part in an RHS show, the winner will also get the opportunity to exhibit at Russia’s top horticultural event.

A link with the Moscow Flower Show means the Malvern winner will be invited to build a sponsored garden in Russia in June.

Meanwhile, as part of the exchange, one of the four gardens in the Malvern contest has been created by two Russian designers, who are being mentored by top UK designer Jo Thompson.

All the contestants have been asked to give a modern interpretation of Malvern’s Victorian spa heritage and were given a busary to help fund their entry.

Molecular Garden

RHS Malvern

Design duo Denis Kalashnikov and Ekaterina Bolotova are creating a garden for relaxing in after spa treatments at a Russian resort.

While it is enclosed to give seclusion for guests, the hilly landscape beyond is suggested in the curved shapes of loungers while a timber panel symbolises the rising sun.

Ocean Garden

RHS Malvern

The Art Deco architecture of Miami has inspired designer Michel Damien’s entry to RHS Malvern.

There are strong lines and sinewy curves throughout the garden, which is seen as a modern spa garden with links to the past, as well as water in pools and as ‘tram lines’.

To counterbalance the hard landscaping, Michel is using blocks of colour, with plants that have an architectural quality.

I Follow the Waters and the Wind

RHS Malvern

The poetry of Ted Hughes lies behind Annette Baines-Stiller’s garden, which explores the experience of countryside walks, such as those in the Malvern Hills, with the feel of the wind and sound of water.

Designed to look as though it is floating, the garden has undulating paths and water collecting in a rock pool.

The planting will include one ‘cool’ area of pink, lilac and spring and a ‘hot’ area of red, orange and yellow.

Bubble Drops

RHS malvern

One of the most eye-catching designs that this year’s RHS Malvern looks set to be Keith Browning’s entry.

He’s hoping to encourage visitors to think about shape, materials and structure with a colourful structure made of laminated timber.

Designed to be perplexing, it celebrates water, which is essential for life, and is inspired by natural Jurassic rock formations.

The RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2017 runs from May 11-14. For more details, visit the website.

Find out what Jane Furze, the new head of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival, has planned for 2017 here

Enjoyed this? Do leave me a comment and share this article.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show highlights

Gardens galore

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show has more gardens than any other RHS show this year with more than 40 in contests ranging from the big show gardens to cutting edge conceptual gardens.

Among the Show Gardens are a design by Bath-based Emma Bannister, working with Ben Donadel, to raise awareness of premenstrual syndrome, which affects around 30 per cent of women. It is designed to reflect the mood swings of PMT and has a centre of corkscrew hazel set into Bowles golden grass.

In Cancer Research UK’s Life Garden, visitors will be able to put on a headset to experience a ‘virtual reality’ garden with more than 10,000 flowers representing those who have left the charity a bequest.

hampton court palace
The Cancer Research UK garden includes a virtual reality element

Floating waves of turf will represent the unpredictable lives of children in poverty and disaster-hit countries, such as Sierra Leone, in a garden by John Warland for World Vision. The turf ribbons run through an ox-eye daisy meadow that symbolises hope and the support of World Vision’s community projects.

Summer Gardens will include celebrations of the Arts and Crafts movement in A Summer Retreat, which champions simplicity and craftsmanship; the work of cancer support charity Katie’s Lymphoedema Fund with a cut flower garden; and the 60th anniversary of housing and care charity The Abbeyfield Society in a garden designed for a care home.

hampton court palace
A cut flower garden highlights the work of Katie’s Lymphoedema Fund

A design by Andrew Fisher Tomlin and Dan Bowyer is raising awareness of Crohn’s Disease and the research that is being carried out. Described as a contemporary plant-lover’s garden, it will feature tree ferns and unusual exotics.

Water Gardens return to RHS Hampton Court after an eight-year break. The wild beauty of Scandinavia has inspired a design by Stephen Hall with a pebble beach and wildflowers, while Jeni Cairns is creating a garden for the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust that shows how using water runoff from buildings in water features and mini wetlands can enhance a garden and help wildlife.

Hampton court
The Perennial ‘Immerse’ garden

First time show garden designer Cherry Carmen is creating a garden to celebrate the work of gardeners’ charity Perennial. Cherry, who has just had treatment for cancer, has designed a garden with cascading water walls and plane trees trained to form a parasol.

The 10th year of Conceptual Gardens includes Sheena Seeks’ group of five greenhouses, filled with air, water, soil, plants and sand that illustrate the needs of plants and the dangers of the greenhouse effect. Amanda Miller explores living with depression in Inner Demons and Wormhole, by John Humphreys and Andy Hyde is inspired by theories of time and space. Border Control by Tom Massey and John Ward will highlight the plight of refugees and the risks they take to reach safety.

hampton court palace
Greenhouses will highlight the threat of global warming

New this year are City Gardens, designed to showcase ideas for small spaces. New Horizons features drought resistant planting and an Art Nouveau-inspired pergola and stained glass windows.

hampton court palace
The New Horizons garden features colourful stained glass

The Drought Garden marks the 40th anniversary of England’s 1976 drought with a dried river bed as a central feature, and Will Williams celebrates the landscape of Sussex in a garden for Streetscape, which provides landscape gardening apprenticeships. Will, aged 20, is the youngest designer at RHS Hampton Court.

Also new this year are the Capability Brown Gardens, which celebrate the 300th anniversary of the landscape architect’s birth. Capable of Reinvention is inspired by his use of reflection in lakes, Mind the Gap gives a modern take on the ha-has he used in many designs and Reflecting the Landscape uses serpentine landforms in a contemporary homage.

hampton court palace
Reflecting The Landscape uses serpentine landforms

Visitors will be transported to America with World Gardens that will roam across the USA taking in Austin in Texas, Charleston and Oregon.

hampton court
The Oregon Garden

There will also be a design inspired by the Incas and another that follows the journey of pilgrims on the camellia-lined route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

In addition to the professional designers, the amateur winners of the RHS and BBC Feel Good Front Garden contest will be building their entries at RHS Hampton Court.

SS Great Britain and the Victorian era are the inspiration for BBC Bristol’s winner, Simon Judge. Sarah Morgan, the Kent winner, features a beachscape; BBC Cornwall’s entry, by four designers on Eden Project Learning courses, is a place of relaxation for an office worker; and Lee Burkhill, winner of the BBC Manchester contest, is designing a space for neighbours to meet and chat over a cup of tea.

Other highlights

Butterflies return to RHS Hampton Court for the first time since 2013. Thousands will be housed in a dome with around 30 different species represented.

hampton court
The butterfly dome will have thousands of butterflies

Plant Heritage will celebrate National Collections with exhibits of iris, including Bliss iris from Cotswold grower Anne Milner, echiums, and Hakonechloa macra.

Also at the show will be the popular Festival of Roses marquee with this year’s design inspired by Beatrix Potter’s garden at Hill Top, marking the 150th anniversary of her birth. The Rose of the Year will be announced at the show.

There will be 62 scarecrows entered in the annual scarecrow contest; this year the theme is space.

Finally, one of the most eye-catching displays is likely to be from Franchi Seeds who are bringing in three classic Fiat 500s for their Cook and Grow exhibit.

They will be surrounded by olive trees and Italian vegetable varieties grown from the Franchi range with a market scene backdrop.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show runs from July 5-10. Tickets are available from http://www.rhs.org.uk/hamptoncourt

Find out what Cotswold designer Paul Hervey-Brookes has planned for the show here

Main picture © RHS.

• Enjoyed this? Do share via Twitter, Facebook or email.