RHS Chelsea 2018 – the Cotswold connection

With the announcement of a new gardens section, show debuts and the return of familiar faces, the countdown to RHS Chelsea 2018 has begun.

Initial plans for RHS Chelsea 2018 have been unveiled and the Cotswolds will be there with gardens by leading designers Chris Beardshaw and Paul Hervey-Brookes.

Chris is celebrating 20 years of making show gardens with a design highlighting the work of children’s charity the NSPCCC, while Paul, who is marking 10 years of show garden design, returns as an exhibitor after a four-year break, although he’s been a judge at Chelsea in the intervening years.

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The Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC

The Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC is the fourth show garden that Staverton-based Chris has made for the firm and aims to raise awareness of its current charity partner.

Based upon the idea of the emotional journey a child goes through when the charity helps them, the garden starts with a woodland where the path is unclear before moving on to a more open space filled with perennials and finally ending at a sheltering pavilion by a reflective pool.

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Chris on the first Morgan Stanley garden in 2015

“We want to raise awareness for the charity with a garden that is intrinsically a beautiful, healing and restorative space and which celebrates how a garden can make us feel,” explains Chris, who built his first show garden at the Malvern Show in 1998.

Among the plants he’s hoping to use are azaleas and rhododendrons along with specimen trees and perennials in a palate of purple, pink and blue.

RHS Chelsea 2018
Chris won the People’s Choice award for his 2017 garden.

As part of his research, Chris visited the NSPCC to find out more about its work, which includes running the children’s helpline Childline.

“It was extremely humbling to visit the NSPCC and to learn more about their incredibly challenging and broad ranging work with children.”

Paul, who also built his first show garden at Malvern, is exploring the link between mental wellbeing and the landscape in a garden for Viking Cruises in the Artisan section of RHS Chelsea 2018.

RHS Chelsea 2018
The Viking Cruises Garden

He’s taken his inspiration from a Norwegian spa, and a wooden sauna and a Brutalist-style concrete plunge pool are at the heart of the garden.

“The Norwegians are much more in tune with the landscape than we are,” says Paul, who is based in Stroud. “I’ve taken the Norwegian spa and the cycle of interaction between the water, the landscape and the mind as the wellbeing point.”

Wooden platforms will ‘float’ over rocks and planting with a semi-wild feel that will include many herbs; most of the plants are being grown by South Gloucestershire herb specialist Jekka McVicar.

RHS Chelsea 2018
Paul is returning as Chelsea exhibitor after a four-year absence

Paul’s last appearance at RHS Chelsea as an exhibitor was on Main Avenue when he got a bronze medal for an Italian-inspired garden for BrandAlley.

Four years on, Paul says he has put that disappointment behind him: “I think I’m a very different person. Back then I felt that I had everything to prove and now I’ve been chairman of judging at Chelsea and I’m quite a few gold medals on, it’s much more about the idea and not about reception.”

It’s his second garden for Viking Cruises – he won gold at RHS Hampton Court last year with a travel-inspired garden just weeks after getting gold and Best in Show at Chatsworth with his Institute of Quarrying Garden, the biggest RHS show garden ever created.

RHS Chelsea 2018
Paul’s 2017 RHS Hampton garden for Viking Cruises won gold. Photo: RHS/Neil Hepworth

Exhibiting in the Artisan Gardens rather than making a show garden was, he says, a deliberate choice.

“Most people don’t have large gardens. They want solutions for small spaces and Artisan fits that, it’s an average garden size. On a personal level, I haven’t really got anything to prove – I made one of the biggest gardens. It’s much more about what interests me.”

Other features at RHS Chelsea 2018 include Space to Grow gardens, a new section of smaller gardens with take home ideas that replaces the Fresh garden category, and the first ‘Chelsea Late’ with Ranelagh Gardens open from 8pm-10pm.

The RHS will be unveiling more about the show in the New Year. Tickets are now on sale via the website.

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.

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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 Chelsea 2017: the gardens in pictures

In the frame – RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2017

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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

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

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.

A Russian design duo created the Molecular Garden

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

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.

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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Jeremy Vine’s garden

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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Malvern show gardens

Malvern show gardens are one of the highlights of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival. More accessible than those at Chelsea – both in cost and ease of seeing them – they are a source of ideas and the chance for designers to show off their skills. This year’s contest sees nine gardens, three of them built by former Best in Show winners.

Festival Gardens, now in its third year, is for designers who have never built a show garden before. Each is given a £3,000 bursary, expert mentoring and a theme. This year’s is ‘Hidden Gems’.

The festival will also feature a celebration of British flowers, see here for more details, top class nurseries and advice from expert speakers, see here for more details.

Show Gardens

The Garden of Romance

Visitors will be able to experience the romance of Italy first-hand on Villaggio Verde’s Malvern show garden which will double as a theatre for talks and floral workshops.

malvern show gardens

It has been inspired by an old monastic cloister garden, neglected in the past but now used for blessings; designer Jason Hales encountered a similar place at a family wedding in Italy.

“The planting has spread and matured and is almost overgrown in some places,” explains Jason, whose firm sells olive trees. “It’s bringing the space alive again and putting it to good use.”

Fittingly, a 400-year-old olive is at the heart of the garden, which will also feature cork oak, Italian cypress, rosemary and roses. Visitors will be able to look into it from the theatre and the cloisters. Adding to the atmosphere will be fantail doves in two dovecots.

The firm is well known at Malvern for its theatrical Mediterranean gardens, which have won three golds and Best in Show last year.

The Sunken Retreat

Fresh greens, cool whites and warm tones of orange will feature in Graduate Gardeners’ Malvern show garden.

malvern show gardens

‘The Sunken Retreat’ has been designed by Ann Walker as a family entertainment space.

In the middle is a sunken seating area and fire pit under four large Turkish hazels, giving a sense of enclosure.

“You can sit out by the fire pit when it’s a bit colder in the evenings,” says Ann, who won gold and Best in Show for her 2012 Malvern garden.

A second seating area at the front is designed for sunny days and two water features give reflections and movement.

The planting includes shade-tolerant dicentra, Euphorbia Robbiae, ferns, luzula and aquilegias, moving out into orange geum and Anemone sylvestris in the sunnier area along with iris, alliums and clipped yew.

The colour palette is echoed in the hard landscaping with pale York stone and a Corten Steel fire pit and wall, their rusty tones adding to the feeling of warmth.

A Japanese Reflection

The Japanese tradition of shakkei or ‘borrowing the landscape’ will be put to good use in Howle Hill Nursery’s design with the Malvern Hills forming a backdrop to the garden.

malvern show gardens

This contemporary version of a Japanese style won’t have stone lanterns and deer scarers but will rely on planting to give a sense of place.

At the heart of the garden are a large pool, water cascade and a cedar tea house. Forest of Dean stone will be used as stepping stones, a terrace and paths. Some is sawn to give smooth outline, while other pieces have been gathering moss at the nursery over the past few years.

“It’s going to be a garden that visitors won’t believe has just been put up for the show because it will have that very naturalistic look about it,” explains nursery owner Peter Dowle, who has designed the garden with colleague Richard Jasper. The firm won Best in Show in 2013.

Height will come from acers, bamboos and Scots pine; one is a multi-stemmed specimen that is making its third major show appearance having been used in gardens at both Chelsea and Malvern.

Hakonechloa, ophiopogon and ferns will form a textured understorey of planting along with azaleas, pittosporum, Nandina domestica, osmanthus and euonymus.

The UCARE Garden

Historic oak paneling in Broughton Castle has inspired Emily Sharpe’s garden for cancer charity UCARE.

malvern show gardens

Box hedges echo the pattern of the drawing room paneling at the home of the charity’s patrons Lord and Lady Saye and Sele.

Angular lines and a formal feel are softened by planting that includes geraniums, camassias and urns filled with pink tulip ‘Caresse’, emblem of the charity, which helps patients with urological cancers.

It was the tulip that inspired the colour scheme of pink, purple and bronze, explains Emily, who won silver gilt and People’s Choice for her Malvern Festival Garden in 2015.

“The planting is quite bright, optimistic and uplifting.”

Height in the garden will be provided by Cornus controversa with structure from Viburnum plicatum and a hornbeam hedge giving shelter.

Milleflori ‘A Garden of One Thousand Flowers’

Glittering glasswork from the Staffordshire Hoards will be depicted in flowers and coloured foliage in the Milleflori garden.

malvern show gardens

Heuchera, red-leaved malus, acres, germs, euphorbia and dicentra will represent the Milleflori, or one thousand flowers, a type of glasswork made of tiny pieces.

The domed shape is echoed in a central arbour with a stained glass top and a water feature in the middle; access to the garden will be via stepping stones across rills of water.

It’s been designed and built by horticulture tutor Carole Webb and her students on the RHS Level Two course.

Carole is hoping that the sun will light up the glass as the judges approach: “Hopefully, it will shine down and reflect all the beautiful colours on the paving.”

Gardening Amidst Ruins

There will be fauna as well as flora on a garden designed to celebrate the legacy of Capability Brown. As well as the more usual roses, the garden will have a netted area filled with birds.

malvern show gardens

“We’re not quite sure what yet,” says designer Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, who has created gardens for Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace Gardens. “They will be fancy fowl.”

‘Garden Amidst Ruins’, Todd’s first show garden, celebrates a little known aspect of Brown’s work, creating gardens among ruins, such as old moats, often with birds or animals as part of the design.

Recent archaeological work has uncovered more about these long vanished plots and this is the inspiration behind Todd’s entry in partnership with Historic Royal Palaces and Wyvale Garden Centres.

The roses, which were still fairly novel at the time, are in pots which are partially sunk into the ground and set along gravel paths that snake into the circular plot.

Adding to the feeling of a gardened ruin will be the stump of a 200-year-old black poplar with ivy and geraniums growing out of it.

“There will be a sense of antiquity,” adds Todd.

Macmillan Legacy Garden

His garden may last for only a few days but designer Mark Eveleigh is hoping it will have a timeless quality.

malvern show gardens

It highlights an appeal for people to remember the cancer charity in their wills and the design reflects this idea of a lasting influence.

Rustic materials and loose, naturalistic planting suggest a garden that was first created in about 1911, the year the charity was founded.

“I’m hoping to achieve a feeling that it’s been there for some years,” says Mark. “I wanted it to be like a lasting legacy, continuing through to the present day.”

Central to the design is an old summerhouse, inspired by a garden he has worked in near the Worcestershire showground.

A gnarled old apple tree, multi-stemmed lilac, soft ferns, red campion, foxgloves, geraniums and sweet woodruff will be used alongside yew and box that will be loosely shaped rather than tightly clipped.

Time Is a Healer

The idea of a garden as a healing space underpins Martyn Wilson’s third Malvern entry.

malvern show gardens

‘Time is a Healer’ promotes the work of The Primrose Hospice in Bromsgrove and in particular the counselling given to bereaved children.

It’s based on the five stages of grief, as outlined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, and the planting reflects the anger and confusion people go through before finding acceptance.

There’s a dark pool for reflection and a specially commissioned sculpture at the centre represents a clock face while its four entrances and exits suggest the different ways people work through grieving.

“The path through the process will not be the same for everybody,” explains Martyn, who got silver gilt for his first show garden last year and silver for a Festival Garden in 2014.

The planting is divided into contrasting palettes: dark coppers and reds for anger and early grief with heuchera, ajuga and black phormium and an element of shock from bright geum; a kaleidoscope of blue nepeta, yellow geum and orange verbascum to suggest confusion; cool white and green across the front with tiarella, Orlaya grandiflora and euphorbia.

The Woodcutter’s Garden

Sustainable living is the theme of Mark Walker’s design for a garden on the edge of woodland.

malvern show gardens

Wild flowers, including foxgloves and violets, euphorbia, heuchera and geraniums will give a cottagey feel around a central wooden hut and patio made of yew logs.

“It is almost a rural Arts and Crafts garden,” explains Mark, who is based in Somerset.

The Woodcutter’s Garden portrays the home of characters in The Woodcutters Story, which he has written to raise funds for Cancer Research, and is designed to encourage people to think about recycling and sustainable living.

Festival Gardens

Hidden Gems of Worcestershire

The diverse strengths of Worcestershire are celebrated in Nikki Hollier’s garden, which blends historic agriculture with space-age technology.

malvern show gardens

Nikki, from Styling Homes and Gardens, is promoting Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, and the variety in her home county.

A circular seating area is inspired by the concentric rings of a telescope while granite setts represent solar panels used on satellites , both drawn from the work of hi-tech Malvern firm QinetiQ.

The county’s ancient wool trade is depicted with wire sculpture sheep grazing in a meadow-like planting of grasses while Evesham’s horticulture is shown with a dwarf apple tree and the River Severn becomes a ribbon of Festuca glauca and metal trout.

There’s history too with plants, including silver birch, drawn from Capability Brown’s garden at Croome while the overall black and white theme is in tribute to Berrow’s Worcester Journal, the world’s oldest continually published newspaper.

“It’s quite a diverse topic to cover,” she admits, “but I think I’ve done it.”

Water Spout

Christian Dowle, of Garden Inspiration, is building a garden inspired by the historic water spouts of the Malvern Hills.

malvern show gardens

Designed as a low maintenance space, it will be filled with the sound of water as a water spout, set into a dry stone wall, fills an old stone trough and then overflows into a pool.

There’s a gazebo in one corner made from coppiced wood and looking over a wildflower meadow that leads down to the water. Other plants include azaleas and rhododendrons and grasses are placed to give reflections in the pool.

“It’s all very natural, very rustic,” says Christian, whose brother, Peter, is building a show garden. “It’s a space where you can relax after a hard day.”

The Low Line

A garden high up above the streets of Manhattan was the starting point for Pro-Gardens’ Malvern Festival Garden.

festival gardens

Designer Jamie Langlands explains that the rejuvenation by Piet Oudolf of the High Line, once part of New York’s transport system, was one of his favourites.

“It’s got a slick, contemporary design but with little nods towards the history.”

It’s this fusion of old and new that he is hoping to replicate in the Malvern design, which marries a modern Perspex and aluminium tumbling water feature with an old coach wheel and saddle stone.

Multi-stemmed silver birch will be underplanted with ferns and grasses to give a naturalistic style and a sense of movement.

Surrounding the garden will be solid and slatted fencing, hinting at an urban setting, while decking will give access across the garden.

• For RHS Malvern Spring Festival admission times and prices see Three Counties

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