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  • Ellen Mary

Show Time Synopsis


As we head into Autumn and the majority of garden and flower shows are behind us, here are my thoughts on the shows I attended this year.

Perhaps it will help you decide which one to visit in 2019...

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Well, its Chelsea so you know what to expect! I went along this year on press day and rubbed shoulders with more celebrities in just a few hours than I have in my entire life. That’s just part of the fun really and I am a little torn as to whether thats a good thing or not. Do celebs go to say they are ‘going to Chelsea’ or because they really love gardening? Is that all a bit fake?! But anyone who does get the word ‘gardening’ out there from attending is helping to spread the word so from that respect its great. There is no other show like Chelsea. It is the most amazing place to marvel at perfect Sweet Peas, Dahlia’s, Cacti - you name it, the best of the best will be there. The show gardens are a sight to behold - some which I totally understand and others I just don't get - but this is an art form so its all down to your own eye and taste. Even if a garden didn't hit the spot for me (same as any design at any of the shows) the hard work, dedication and skill cannot be scoffed at. It’s a truly wonderful show.

Highlight: Finding Thorncroft Clematis and Peter Beales Roses representing Norfolk in the Floral Marquee.

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

Far more relaxed and down to earth than Chelsea, it has a feel good factor and my top recommendation for the newbie gardener. Its vast with a new layout this year which worked well. With so many show gardens, nurseries and exhibitions a day is almost not enough. I love how the grow your own area was packed full of inspiration and ideas, especially for small spaces and the talks were pretty good too. It would be nice to see some new faces on the stage but the topics were interesting and helpful. Of course there is plenty of food available and on a hot day you may even find a spot under a tree for shade. The iconic walk over the bridge looking down the water to the Palace is fantastic too - you might even get a welcome spray from the fountains!!

Highlight: The Alliums! Oh. My. Word. My video of them even went viral, watch it HERE.

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show

Set below Chatsworth House it’s a relaxed show in a stunning part of the UK. The drive itself to the Peak District is beautiful. There was a long bed full of Cosmos between the show and the house which was simply stunning, however, I felt it was lacking a little something. This year was the first time I had been, so perhaps I was all ‘flower showed out’ by this point but I did see lots of wonderful artsy garden sculptures and accessories I was tempted by. Despite this, my favourite show garden of this year was at Chatsworth, from The Off Grid Gardener Chris, with his ‘Hay Time in the Dales’ garden. I have never seen anything so incredible - I was honestly blown away. The meadow and naturalistic planting was fantastic, all grown on mats by Chris himself and the little cottage was like something out of a film from days gone by.

Highlight: I’ve said it…if you’d like to take a look at the ‘Hay Time in the Dales’ garden watch HERE.

BBC Gardeners World Live

Food and gardening all mixed into one fun day out. It has a totally different feel to it, firstly as it isn't an RHS show and secondly as it is at the NEC in Birmingham so an entirely different setting to most. Hop about between the food hall where you can see demo’s from the top celeb chefs to the stages around the hall where Alan Titchmarsh will tell you all about his top plant picks of the year. Outside meander the show gardens and stands before heading over to the nurseries where you can pick up a bargain…especially on the last day!

Highlight: The plant nurseries, just so many bargains!

Norfolk Show

Of course I am biased about this one, but rightly so because this year the RNAA invested a great deal of resource into revamping the horticultural area, building on the success of previous shows. Before all of the exhibitors, designers, charities and schools arrived I stood in the middle of the space and wondered how on earth we would make it happen but then it dawned on me…we (as in the team working to put on the show) don't make it happen…its the amazingly talented, creative and inspirational individuals and businesses that do. In the space of just a few days the whole area was transformed with wood carvings, roses, show gardens, beautiful exhibitions - even a community allotment and so much more. The Norfolk Show is a superb day out but the horticultural area is becoming a destination in itself which is hugely exciting, not just for me because I am involved and love it, but because its a growing, inspirational celebration of horticulture.

Highlight: All of it! OK, OK…if I have to pick…Lucy’s Garden and Kingdom Landscape show garden because they swept the board with the awards!

Bloom in the Park, Dublin

This year I made my way over to Dublin to present some talks on Plants for Women's Wellbeing in the Flower Marquee. It's a real feel good festival vibe, not just with some stunning show gardens and displays but also music, food and farming. Bloom in the Park is definitely more of a festival full of blooms...blooming good stuff! I had a great time meandering the grounds in Phoenix Park in-between my talks and had a great response as well from the audience, hopefully inspired to try growing plants for specific health issues.

Highlight: Meeting Conor Gallinagh, a great representative for young horticulturalists. Check out his blog HERE.

Suffolk Show

It’s big and floriferous. The garden and flower area is full of some of the best horticultural businesses out there and the flower marquee is just a fantastic place to get inspiration and pick up some lovely plants as well. The talks were really interesting and with plenty of food close by it was a lovely day out and well worth going along to enjoy.

Highlight: Norfolk Olive Tree Company Med Courtyard Garden & coming home with the Brugmansia on display!

Sandringham Flower Show

I’ve been a few times to Sandringham, but not this year. It’s Sandringham so expect to see Royalty, very exciting. It’s a large show on the estate with stands from clothing to art and of course plants. I even managed a selfie with John Challis on his stand promoting his book - all about his garden named Wigmore Abbey, The Treasure of Mortimer. It’s nice to have marquees offering something different so the art marquee was great to look around plus the food area, championing local food and drink makers. It’s a right nice royal day out.

Highlight: Bumping into Prince Charles of course!