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 by Maia Hall and the Treehouse Garden by Mark Eveleigh.

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 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 Malvern Spring Festival – a new direction

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.

rhs malvern spring
Jane Furze

“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.”

rhs malvern spring
Jekka McVicar’s garden will be a permanent feature

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.

rhs malvern spring
The Floral Fountain will celebrate British flower growers

“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.

rhs malvern spring
The Plant Finder Parlour will be used for talks

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.”

rhs malvern spring
The Wye Hall will be designed by Peter Dowle who won gold with this garden last year

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.

rhs malvern spring
Show gardens are one of the highlights of Malvern

“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.”

rhs malvern spring
The Malverns make a stunning backdrop to the show

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.

Paul sets a growing challenge

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.”

growing challenge
A display of ferns and other shade-lovers is one category

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.

growing challenge
Watering cans could be an unusual planting container

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.”

growing challenge
Prizes will include vouchers for Allomorphic in Stroud

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.”

growing challenge
The Growing Challenge will be a new feature of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival

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

Reflections on the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2016

There seemed to be a buzz about the opening day of this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival. Perhaps I’m biased – it is my ‘local’ show and I’ve been nearly every year. Maybe it was the weather, which saw the garden designers using watering cans rather than pumps and visitors suffering sunburn rather than wind chill.

Certainly the show and festival gardens, which moved to a more central position a few years ago, now seem part of the show rather than an afterthought, while the Malvern Hills make a far better backdrop than the top of trade stands.

malvern spring festival
The Malverns made the perfect backdrop

It was also good to see the Villaggio Verde entry doubling up as a theatre space; perhaps more thought could be given to having gardens that people can actually get into rather than gaze onto. Often it’s only from inside a garden that tiny details can be seen.

Mark Eveleigh’s unassuming Macmillan Legacy Garden took the Best in Show accolade, proving that large scale, big budget gardens are not the only route to RHS success. And it’s not that there was no competition as the other gold-medal winners were polished and varied designs that could easily have won.

malvern spring festival
No corner was overlooked on Mark Eveleigh’s garden

Space seemed plentiful in the Floral Marquee, although I’m assured the number of stands is down by only one or two on last year. The feeling is it’s probably due to a rejig in the layout.

malvern spring festival
Southfield Nurseries won the Best Floral Marquee Exhibit award

What hadn’t changed was the variety for those of us with a plant-buying habit and the increased space did mean that getting around and, more importantly, getting up close to the displays was easy, particularly at the beginning and end of the day.

malvern spring festival
Peter Dowle’s garden has a contemporary Japanese theme

There certainly seemed to be more interest in Malvern: the press pack had more than doubled on last year and for the first time the festival was used as the venue for TV weather reports on Good Morning Britain and Midlands Today.

Alan Titchmarsh, returning after an absence of some years, described the RHS Malvern Spring Festival as having “come on in leaps and bounds”.

It was, he said, a place with “people who know about plants, people who understand what horticulture and growing and gardening are all about”.

Certainly the gardening public outnumbered the celebs and even those ‘faces’ seemed to be mainly the green-fingered variety.

malvern spring festival
Villaggio Verde’s garden was used for a display of Royal wedding bouquets

Pictures from this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival are here

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

RHS Malvern in pictures

Malvern winners unveiled

Designer Mark Eveleigh has beaten three former Best in Show winners to take the top award at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

malvern spring festival
Mark on his winning Show Garden

The Worcestershire-based designer won over the RHS judges with his garden highlighting the work of Macmillan Cancer Support.

“Wow! What an immense accolade,” said Mark, who won gold at Malvern in 2008 and 2010. “I’m delighted to be taking the top title. This award represents an enormous pat on the back from the industry I’m so proud to be a part of.”

The top award in the Festival Gardens contest has gone to Gloucestershire’s Christian Dowle for his celebration of Malvern’s water spouts.

In the Show Gardens contest Graduate Gardeners from Bisley, Gloucestershire, Villaggio Verde from Worcestershire and Howle Hill Nursery, in Herefordshire, all previous winners of the Best in Show title, were awarded gold medals, along with Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, who has made his show garden debut at Malvern.

malvern spring festival
Christian Dowle won the Best in Show for his Festival Garden

Emily Sharpe of Garden Stories won silver-gilt, Milleflori and The Woodcutters Garden were both awarded silver and Martyn Wilson’s design for The Primrose Hospice got bronze.

Styling Homes and Gardens and Pro-Gardens both won silver for their Festival Gardens.

Ken Nottage, CEO of Three Counties, said: “Quite simply the talent speaks for itself this year. 2016 sees the Show Gardens take up more space than ever before and the talent has matched the bigger spots, going more grand and elaborate than we could ever have imagined.”

The gardens were assessed by a team of RHS judges, looking at delivery, design, atmosphere, planting and construction. The judges included top designers Paul Hervey-Brookes, Arne Maynard and James Alexander-Sinclair.

Still to be decided is the People’s Choice Award, which will be voted for by the public online at www.rhs.org.uk/malvernpeopleschoice

• For a more detailed look at the gardens see here

Details of what there is to see at this year’s show here

Malvern gets romantic here

For information about tickets and admission times, visit the Three Counties website

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

RHS Malvern Spring Festival

For many the RHS Malvern Spring Festival, which runs from May 5-8, is the true start of the gardening season. There’s the chance to see displays from top nurseries – and most importantly buy the plants – pick up tips and advice from experts, stock up on everything from plant labels to greenhouses and get ideas from the show gardens.

Over the past few years, food has become an important element of the show and Mary Berry will be among the celebrity guests while Alan Titchmarsh heads a group of gardening experts and CBeebies’ Ben Faulks as Mr Bloom will be at Sunday’s ‘family day’.

malvern spring festival
Alan Titchmarsh

This year, the British flower industry will be celebrated with ‘Grow Your Own Wedding’ led by top florist Jonathan Moseley (more details here ) there’s a look at Royal weddings and fierce competition in the show gardens with three former Best in Show winners competing (more details  here ).

Here are just some of the other highlights.

Get expert help

Writer and broadcaster Christine Walkden is just one of the experts giving advice in Get Going, Get Growing. She will be taking the mystery out of sowing seeds and explaining how to get plants for free using cuttings and division.

malvern spring festival
Christine Walkden

 

“I am so looking forward to being at Malvern at this important time of the year when everything is starting to grow,” she says. “Growing your own is so important as it connects you to nature, is easy, rewarding and great fun.”

Other speakers include Gardeners’ World presenters Carol Klein and Joe Swift, and RHS judge Jon Wheatley.

The Potting Bench in the Floral Marquee offers practical horticultural advice from nursery owners and celebrity guests on a stage designed by Howle Hill Nursery on the theme of Gardens Around the World.

Floral Fashion Show

Royal wedding bouquets including the Queen’s, Queen Victoria’s and Kate Middleton’s, will be part of a special display by the British Academy of Floral Art.

The leading professional floristry school has put together wedding flowers through the ages in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday.

It will feature modern designs as well as the Royal bouquets and will use British grown flowers. The catwalk show will take place on The Garden of Romance show garden on Thursday and is an exclusive preview before the school takes the display to America this summer.

Top Nurseries on show

Some of the country’s leading nurseries will be at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival offering unusual plants and advice on how to grow them.

malvern spring festival

The huge floral marquee and outdoor stands will have around 70 stands offering the chance to stock up on everything from bulbs, ferns, perennials, climbers and shrubs.

All the stands will be judged by the RHS and many of the exhibitors, including Avon Bulbs, Dibleys Nurseries and Fibrex Nurseries, will be showing at Chelsea later in the month.

Schools Celebrate Shakespeare

This year’s schools contest, headed by BBC Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins sees schools from across the Three Counties marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

malvern spring festival
Chris Collins

Eleven schools have created gardens inspired by the Bard including a storm scene from The Tempest, the witches from Macbeth, the Globe Theatre and a portrait of Shakespeare’s face.

From Plot to Plate

TV chef Valentine Warner and Otter Farm’s Mark Diacono will host The Kitchen Garden Theatre at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival where local chefs will demonstrate how to use your produce.

Bake Off queen Mary Berry will talk about health, happiness and horticulture, Pennard Plants will run a Grow It, Cook It, Eat It masterclass, and there will be talks on local and seasonal.

malvern spring festival
Mary Berry

There will be street food and stands from local producers with everything from sausages to gin.

“We are truly spoilt in this part of the country with each of the three counties famous for its food and drink produce,” says Ken Nottage, CEO of Three Counties.

For details of tickets and the talks timetable, visit RHS Malvern

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