Inspiration at the Malvern Spring Gardening Show

Tulips in my Potager - a bright splash of colour in a dull week
Reading Debs' post from Elephant Farm it seems that the weather is good down in sunny Devon, whereas up here in the north Cotswolds, it is dull, dreary and SO cold, as it has been for weeks on end. The early potatoes are looking good in the allotment-plot, and first batch of veg seed now transplanted into the potager. Albeit with cloches over the mixed lettuce. There’s spinach romping away in readiness for my new hens and one sad climbing bean solitary in the bean bed – rest were a failure and I have sown some more in the greenhouse. The joy has been the bed filled with spring bulbs, perfect blooms in various varieties over the last month – how I love the flamboyance of the parrot tulips.

Perfect blooms in the Floral Marquee at Malvern
I have just returned from the Malvern Spring Gardening Show from whence I had planned to publish this post, but had problems with importing images, so am now re-writing. It’s always a pleasure to be in that marvellous location, and – as with any show – inspiration for your own garden is all around you. We certainly cannot grow roses like these, but our micro-climate and soil suit shrub roses - the petals make delicious jam.

Cottage garden flowers
My garden is something of a wilderness right now, having been sadly neglected through force of circumstances, so I was intrigued to see that wild flowers, or flowers that give that impression, are increasingly on offer, and are being used in the show-garden plantings. Certainly they thrive more readily, provide food for wild-life and withstand the blustery winds that blast the garden and orchard from the east. (I deliberately grow weeds that will provide nectar for early bees, and now they have moved onto the pear blossom we already have a good set.)

'Best in Show' and a gold-medal winner at Malvern
The show-gardens at Malvern always attract attention – there were more gold-medals awarded than previously and we learned that many a would-be designer ‘cuts his teeth’ at Malvern. There was an interesting mix of styles and planting – this ‘best in show’ was sp packed with trees and shrubs that you could not see the soil; though that evidently is an important criteria with RHS judges. Seeing it like this, it was hard to believe that but three weeks before it had been a bare plot of grass and that only a week before it had looked more like a building site on which tons of stone had just been delivered!

wicker baskets are practical and attractive for displaying herbs
Wandering around the showground, I was able to pick up many ideas that can be adapted for use in any garden, and particularly those that are too small for all you want to grow. Herbs – or vegetables (or flowers) look quite beautiful when planted in wicker log baskets; either set a pre-planted plastic pot inside, or line the basket with tough rubble sacks in which you have punched holes for drainage. Use a good compost and ensure that what you plant is watered according to type.

Sweet-smelling lavender - but is it fully hardy?
Come the end of the Show, and many show-gardeners sell off their plants, as these beautiful lavenders. How many will still be alive come next spring is a moot point for they are half-hardy in the UK. Sitting in on a talk on plant-hardiness, it was suggested by the speakers that such plants are protected with fleece and the like until all danger of frost is past. I wonder how many gardeners want to see their bed swathed in fleece for most months of the year (we had a sharp frost here in south-Warwickshire two days ago – mid-May!)

Double-click on this scrapbook image to view it at a larger size
For those who live too far away to have visited, this scrapbook-collage gives you an overall feel for what inspired me. Maybe you saw it on BBC Gardener’s World, which I missed, but caught the BBC crew filming my favourite show-garden. There are of course other shows around the country – national, regional and local. I was privileged this year to be able to visit during the build-up and engaged to write the (new) official Malvern Show blog which will give you an insight into much that is involved in running these magnificent events. Shame the organisers can’t control the weather, but that does not deter the intrepid gardener from visiting. Or does it?

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