26 Feb 2013

RHS Plant and Design Show - a good day out

Stop Press!  Free Day Friday: if you're interested in visiting any of the four RHS gardens, have a look at this link. It would appear that entry is free this Friday, 1st March.


Primula belarina
~ Primula belarina Cobalt Blue ~
If asked, I'd say that I dislike shopping but last Tuesday at the RHS show was my kind of shopping. I'd taken the time off work to attend the RHS Plant and Design Show in Victoria (first time I've been) and, as a bonus, the weather that day was fantastic - warm sunshine and no wind.  I couldn't resist spending most of the day outdoors in an unscheduled bout of gardening, getting jobs done including putting together a new protective cloche to house my plants as bitterly cold temperatures were forecast.  As we had flurries of tiny snow at the weekend, this turned out to be a good move.

So the day was already a success when I tore myself away mid-afternoon to head off to the show. It was open until 7 so I thought I'd left myself enough time for a browse round... and, naively, I thought I'd get away with just window shopping!  (Several carrier bags on the tube home disproved that theory.)

Traders selling their wares don't overlook the opportunity to introduce the public to more unusual cultivars and planting. I bought an Ugni molinae Flambeau, or Chilean Guava, having been told that it has white flowers in the summer, aromatic leaves (make tea with these) and red edible strawberry-flavoured berries in winter. A perfect addition to the veg patch. The fruit was apparently Queen Victoria's favourite and, if you could buy it, would retail at about £9 a punnet.  Apart from anything else, it's small, edible and rather pretty.

Snowdrop display
Displays of bright blue primulas and iris had me hovering, snowdrops planted up with honesty and black Lily Turf (Ophiopogon planiscarpus) were visually inspirational, a row of winter stems from the Sir Harold Hillier gardens reminded me to add a visit there to my Bucket List and I didn't dare stop at the second-hand bookstall, gardening books being a particular weakness of mine. I bought a trio of agapanthus for my mother's garden from Hoyland Plants, the holder of the national agapanthus collection, as they were able to give good advice as to soil, flowering, hardiness, etc of each cultivar. I took these down at the weekend; Mum was thrilled as she's wanted Agapanthus in her garden for ages.

My downfall though was Pennard Plants.  Plates of heritage potato tubers set among vintage garden paraphernalia first grabbed my attention - and then I saw the trays of heritage and heirloom flower and veg seeds.  I think I may have even trembled with excitement.

Veg seed tray

A jolly conversation ensued; Pennards people were so helpful with their advice that, despite best intentions of keeping my growing list simple this year, I came away with a paper bag full of seed packets. (And the aforementioned Ugni plant.)  I'm particularly excited at having found red flowered broad beans and a short/cold season sweet corn which has a pretty good chance of maturing even in a bad summer. Pennards will be at the Garden Museum's Potato Day on 10th March, by which time I'll have chosen which tubers I want to buy from them.

The "design" part of the show was held in the second Horticultural Hall; I didn't leave myself enough time to fully appreciate all the displays but, for my resource book, I made a note of the makers of this very stylish cloche.  Possibly a thing of beauty for my own garden one day ...

cloche

But the most useful discovery was Oxford Green Roofs, a husband and wife team who are passionate about sustainable living and displayed a variety of green roof possibilities on their stand. I'd love to introduce their ideas into my garden designs.  I thought the Pocket Habitat was especially brilliant, see it here transforming the urban landscape of the Ove Arup offices in London.

Pocket Habitat
The Pocket Habitat: a felted pebble pocket made of recycled materials
and filled with bio-diverse plants - good for the environment on all counts!
As a member of the RHS, entry to the show was free for me and, on the following day, I could have taken a guest in with me, also free.  As with Chelsea, any remaining plants are sold off on the final day.

I was recommended to join the RHS by Jekka McVicar, mainly because the membership fees fund research into plants, pests and diseases.  It's proved to be a wise move representing very good value as I've more than recouped the cost of my membership in garden visits to Wisley and various shows (free or discounted), as well as the extremely readable and informative RHS 'The Garden' magazine which members receive every month. There's free seeds as well if I order before 31st March.

Upcoming shows that I plan to visit are the 'Grow Your Own' weekend at Wisley on 23/24th March, the Great London Plant Fair on 26th March in Victoria and the Spring Craft Fair on the 2nd - 6th May at Wisley - and, of course, Chelsea and Hampton Court shows. More information on the RHS website, here.

Pennards Plants
~ Jovial conversation with the team at Pennards Plants.
He even pointed out the RHS bigwigs and television scouts! ~
P.S.  Read more about the show at Out of my Shed blog, here.

16 comments:

  1. What a great (if costly?) day out! I've ordered from Pennard Plants before, but you don't get the personal touch via mail order, do you? Love the cloche thing - you could almost do a Geoff Hamilton and make one yourself, now that you've seen the principle! Funnily enough Green Roofs are a concept that I sometimes find myself explaining, because one of the subjects I teach is Green IT, and the green roof is recommended as a way of maintaining constant temperature and conserving energy use in a Data Centre. They haven't yet caught on much here in the UK, but I think they are common in Scandinavia.

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    1. Hi Mark, Costly? Let's not go there! I work on the assumption that it's all stuff I absolutely need for the garden and therefore justify any expense!! I love the idea of a green roof - did you have a look at the link? I'm amazed at how those pebble planters have transformed what would otherwise be a fairly brutal concrete landscape. Green IT - what a great subject to teach! I wish my son could have studied that at school as I'd love it if he was interested in environmental engineering, such a worthwhile subject.

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  2. A most enjoyable, and interesting, post and thanks for the links. As for books and seeds what can I say...
    For some people, like yourself, RHS membership is well worth it. Flighty xx

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    1. *chuckle* I knew the books and seeds would appeal to you Flighty! I recognise a fellow bibliophile! Yes, RHS membership is of most benefit if garden visits are used but the magazine is a jolly good read to and recoups the cost of membership (at £4.25 per issue) over the year.

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  3. That looks like a great day out, and being open till 7pm gives lots of time for a good look round. Shopping is my pet hate, especially for clothes, but I'm with you on gardening shopping, it's entirely different and I could spend all day doing that. My RHS subscription has lapsed, mainly because we're not allowed to take the dog in to the gardens. Now we've got Archie, our days out have to be dog friendly.

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    1. Oh what a shame - I hadn't realised that dogs weren't allowed in the gardens which, actually, makes a lot of sense I suppose but is of little comfort to dog lovers and walkers. We share shopping tastes, Jo; I resent the time it takes to trawl around the shops (clothes and the weekly food shop) especially in the summer when I could otherwise be outdoors. I feel the same way about housework ...

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  4. I agree, the membership of the RHS is well worth it, as well as the four RHS gardens that you can get into free, there are lots more that are affiliated where members get free entry but others have to pay.The magazine is a very good read each month, worth the membership alone. Would love to get to one of the shows one day!

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    1. Pauline, if you ever plan on visiting one of the RHS shows, do let me know - I'd love to say hello in person! The RHS magazine is something I look forward to getting each month, along with Gardening Which?, another good read. I also love the RHS website for the wealth of information it provides. I guess I'm something of an obsessive when it comes to plants and gardens!!

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  5. Sounds as if you were lucky to escape with so few carrier bags!! That image confirms that I need to plant the snowdrops on their way here with some of the ophiophogon that I have inherited. The honesty will have to wait until next year...

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    1. Janet, battling home on the tube is a sobering thought when carting home lots of shopping! The snowdrop display was my absolute favourite; the black, green and white worked so well together and, of course, would make a stunning winter display in the garden. The black leaved honesty is not a plant I've been able to trace although the marker nearby said "Lunaria" but I stupidly forgot to photograph the cultivar name!! Duh!

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  6. Hi Caro

    Glad you enjoyed it so much. I was smitten by the irises near the entrance. Managed to walk away with just one plant, partly through steely resolve and also being beaten back by some RHS members with pretty sharp elbows!

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    1. Claire, I'm impressed that you managed to resist! I went in the late afternoon-early evening and found the halls much quieter. Apparently just a few BBC tv touts and RHS senior staff plus a few punters at that time which made it all rather pleasant! The irises were gorgeous - I'm lucky to see plenty of these in the grounds of my college - and so many to choose from!

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  7. Sounds like you enjoyed yourself - I think if I had been there I would have had to keep my purse padlocked - I am on an economy drive at the moment and daren't go anywhere near a garden centre or wonderful show. Love that double primula I have one in pale lemon, although it doesn't seem to be as vigorous as the singles.

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    1. I promised myself at the beginning of the year that I would try to resist too many garden purchases but keep thinking of things that I need! (That doesn't include essential seeds of course!) I had a wonderful time at the show, partly due to being able to chat to fellow enthusiasts, and it's definitely whetted my appetite for the shows still to come!
      I'd agree that the primula is bred for beauty rather than hardiness - it's seems we can never have it all!

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  8. Sorry that our paths did not cross Caro - maybe next year? I really enjoyed the show and came home with snowdrops, an iris and seed potatoes from Pennards. Could have made more purchases but the fact that we were not getting the train home until 9.00pm was a good restraint. We got there about 2.00pm and I was pleasantly surprised that it was not at all crowded but ideal for leisurely browsing. By the way I still have a ugni with your name on it if still required. I did not know you could use the leaves for tea. Might be a few years off though before I am able to have enough leaves to spare to do that :)

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    1. Ah, if only I'd known you were going to be there Anna! It seems we were in the room at the same time as I got there around 3 and spent quite a while looking around. It would have been lovely to say hello, perhaps over a cup of tea - next year, definitely, yes, let's meet up - that would be such fun! I didn't realise until I got home with my Ugni that it was the same plant that you had offered me! I would still love to have a cutting of yours, very kind offer, much appreciated. I think my plant might make a very small cup of tea and I've heard other folk talking of Monarda/Bergamot tea, another plant in my veg patch. (Excellent for bees.)

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Caro x

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