Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A Show with Feeling

Quintessentially English is the wild foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), which this year symbolises the Malvern Spring Gardening Show – and the Malvern Hills themselves. Come the actual Show (from 9th to 12th May) they will be flowering on the steep slopes, and down sequestered lanes of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Displayed on Show posters and leaflets, their presence speaks of late-Spring, and Summer-to-come; and on the Showground, too, their pink spires will remind us of lazy days cycling in rural places, as I did as a child.

Foxgloves in a
Malvern  showgarden
Their flowers beguiled me (and still do) – as a little girl, I would collect the fallen tubular blossoms, each speckled in their throat, and place them upside down on my fingertips. A handful of the countryside, and many childhood memories; and, without realising it, a life-long love of plants. So often, what you learn as a child stays with you forever.

The new Three Counties Agricultural Society chief uses pedal power
Pedalling allows one to absorb so much more of one’s surroundings, and by now, the new Three Counties Agricultural Society chief, Ken Nottage, is proving that pedal power is just the ticket, when it comes to circumnavigating his new working domain. Ken, who officially took the helm at the Society’s Three Counties Showground  on December 1st, is not fazed by the 90 acre perimeter site at the foot of the Malvern Hills, and is literally getting on his bike – astride a fully restored 1957 Royal Enfield. He said: “I was reading a copy of  ‘Three Into One’ – John Lewis’s excellent chronicle of the Society - and was amused to read that years ago, a former company secretary carried out his ground inspections astride a pony! I was inspired to follow suit, but with no equine prowess to my name, opted for an arguably safer, and definitely less temperamental, mode of transport. This is a beautiful place to work, but it’s also a large area to cover on foot, so a bike is a great way of getting from A to B quickly, without polluting the fresh air.”

It's easy to find your way around
How I wish I could give all first-timers to the Spring Gardening Show a quick guided tour by bike, a leisurely and gentle introduction to all that you will find once you arrive; but instead will outline what I term the four main ‘quadrants’, each with a distinct characteristic. The Showground is divided by hard-surfaced roadways – Rows and Avenues, and all sections are clearly signposted with large-scale maps at most intersections. Avenues run north to south, parallel with the Malvern Hills (good for orienting yourself), and Rows run from east to west. Stand in your imagination (map in hand) at the junction of Avenue 5 and Row 5 (Elgar Avenue) facing the hills:

Bikes are 'in' this year!
The quandrant to your right is ‘home’ to the RHS/TCAS Members’ Pavilion, The Severn Hall and the new Three Counties Centre, the RHS Botanical Art Exhibition), the Bandstand, Show Office, Artisan Food Market, excellent trade stands, and lots of catering venues.

Ahead of you will be the magnificent ‘Malvern Floral Marquee’ and to your left, Plant Pavilions galore (many are specialist nurseries); undercover, the Avon Hall (floral art`), the Gardeners’ Shopping Pavilion and Allotment Theatre, the Wye Hall – home to plant societies, food and wine stalls, and the Three Counties Guild of Craftsmen’. Plus the Eco Art & Garden area and innumerable trade stands related to horticulture.

The Plants & People Theatre always draws a large audience
Swivel on the spot with the Hills at your back and walk slowly away from then down Row 5. To your immediate right is the ‘Country Living magazine Pavilion’ and lots more useful trade stands.

One of many excellent School Gardens:  the children are so knowledgeable, and keen to talk to visitors
Whilst to your left (with your back to the Hills) are the eclectic School Gardens, the Learning Garden and Discovery Zone and Spring Gardens Coffee Court and then – across Row 7 the Show Gardens (including the Themed Garden category inspired by the Tour de France), RHS Life, an Art Market and the Plants and People Theatre. So much to absorb, so many activities, and in my next posts (during March), I will be describing some of these in more detail as news emerges. Click on all the links to keep up-to-date with all that is happening. 

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


On the road to the Malvern Spring Gardening Show

What could be more exciting than setting out for Malvern, early on a Spring morning, the trees newly-budded and bluebells in the hedgerow verges? The buzz of excitement as you approach the busy Showground, wondering what the day will bring. Knowing that so much awaits you, no matter what your field of interest.

"We've each just bought the perfect plant!"
Is it that ‘must-have’ plant that you haven’t even seen yet? (It happens to us all, and many of us arrive with collapsible trolleys at the ready.) Or maybe some of the stunning collection of glorious Show Gardens – watch out for bicycles, for the theme this year, amongst others, is the ‘Tour de France’. How will talented designers interpret this cycling theme?  Or would you prefer sitting in the Show Garden Theatre listening to talks from celebrity specialists such as Carol Klein, Chris Beardshaw or Mark Diacono? Or searching for garden sundries, ornaments, a new greenhouse – or a rotavator to dig the allotment! Elegant clothes, perhaps, or just a wonderful day in the open air, away from it all. There’s so much crammed into this beautiful showground, and no matter what the weather, the hills cast their spell every time. Sit in the sunshine or stroll through the huge floral plant marquee. Whether you visit in a ‘garden club’ group, as a family, alone, or with a partner or friend, be assured that you’ll want to return. 

Now, the purpose of this blog is to bring you regular updates on what is planned, how the various aspects are progressing, and tips for making the most of your day’s visit.  A copy of the catalogue is sent a week before the Spring Show to anyone who has booked advance tickets, allowing you to plan your visit at leisure. Click HERE for ticket sales. But before you do, why not consider a complete break and plan to come every day: book into a local B&B, or local campsite if you are a caravan or motorhome owner. You can really cover all aspects of the Show and the whole Showground if you do so at you leisure.

The Plant Pavilions are always doing a roaring trade
 - and deservedly so
If you are a regular visitor, you will already be aware of what to expect, and where to seek what you are looking for; but ‘newcomers’ might find it all a bit bewildering. As I did on my first visit. I have it down to a fine art now: with catalogue in hand, I make for one of the eating areas, or the theatre, somewhere to sit and thumb through the catalogue to prioritise what I want to do. I suggest you do likewise; it's time well spent.

An award-winning show garden from 2011 where all materials 
and plants were sourced by the designer travelling around 
the local countryside on her bike 
From plants to gazebos - there is so
much to discover at the Show

To whet your appetite: In forthcoming posts, I’ll be introducing you to the Three Counties Agricultural Society’s new Chief Executive, and over the coming weeks will also be telling you more about some of the Showground areas – and highlights to expect in what has become known as ‘the plants and people show’.

So please ‘KEEP VISITING’: I’ll be blogging again in two weeks time, but meanwhile, I recommend regular clicks onto the Spring Gardening Show website for regular updates and more breaking news.