A day out yesterday at 'Gardeners' World Live' at the NEC in Birmingham; an event which describes itself as a show for gardeners by gardeners. And that I think is a fair description. Chelsea remains the creme de la creme of shows and Tatton considers itself the Chelsea of the North. This show, heavily promoted by the BBC, came across as very down-to-earth (appropriately) and user friendly. Familiar faces from the TV gardening show of the same name were much in evidence - and approachable. Monty Don, Diamurd Gavin and Alan Titchmarch - what more could a girl ask for?
Shopping was the order of the day - although I brought nothing home. People staggered under the weight of their purchases - those with an iota of sense came equipped with irritating little wheeled trolleys. And what were people buying? Lots and lots of plants: grasses - Briza maxima was popular judging by the number of nodding seed heads that trundled by, alliums, geums and peonies. The plant mall did a roaring trade.
The show gardens were at their best this being the first day. None were particularly stunning but there were ideas to pinch and some good planting here and there.
Reaseheath College's garden 'The Plot' in the Natural Gardens category deserved its awards: Gold, and Best Show Garden. Its emphasis was on promoting healthy living for children and building awareness of the origins of food in infant and junior schools. (I think children had grown some of the plants used in the garden.) I loved the bio-dome run on solar energy which housed, amongst other things, mature citrus and a fig tree and would enable groups of children to garden in all weathers all year round. Outside the planting was both edible and attractive. Environmental issues were nurtured through the use of peat free composts, biological pest control and wildlife friendly features. The recyled rubber used on the paths was brilliant. I wish I had taken photographs but the hoards of people made this impractical.
Unlike many show gardens it showed something we could all achieve - eco-friendly productivity in an attractive and harmonious setting.
At the other end of the scale this garden was another favourite. Sue Adcock's simple and stylish 'Dining Out'.
This is very much an outside room for relaxation and entertainment - an extension of the home, having a very covetable stainless steel kitchen/barbecue space and dining area under an airy wooden shelter. A cushioned bench overlooks a still formal pool from which a silver figure rises. The planting was muted and restrained, soft tones of silver, blue, purple and yellow - rows of lavender with juniper, bay and pear for vertical accent. Culinary and medicinal herbs featured too. I felt this was probably not a garden for our grey climate - but had I got a Mediterranean retreat this would be on my list. Next to the infinity pool. Dream on.
I'm writing this having come in to change my clothes - having just fallen in the pond whilst adjusting a newly planted water lily. I guess it had to happen and there was no one there to laugh. Although the dog was amused.