17 Nov 2016

RHS London Urban Garden Show 2016

Cactus light

Hoping that the weather forecast was accurate for the weekend, on my agenda for a very wet Saturday was the new Urban Garden show from RHS London.  What's that? A gardener hoping for a wet Saturday? I had my reasons; I wanted to get along to the show without having to choose between indoors or outside. The pull to be outside on a sunny day is strong.

As you all know, I do love a gardening show, especially when it's new. It's good news to see the London shows being extended again with this new addition for small space gardeners. (The early summer Rose Show was added in 2015.) We've recently had the Harvest Festival and Shades of Autumn shows at either end of October, the Christmas Show is still to come (17th/18th December) and now the Urban Garden Show has been sandwiched into November. The RHS Westminster shows that I've been to in the past have allocated a lot of space for the usual retailers and plant displays, with (I'm sorry to say) an uninspiring small café area squeezed into the gallery. Would this one be any different?  Happily, yes, I believe so; indications are good. The plant displays were still much in evidence - amazing cactus and tropical plant installations by Cityscapes (see top photo), styled by garden designers Jarman Murphy - and a new host of retailers too.  Entrance to the show was by navigating a path through a tropical jungle of potted plants, creating a contemporary ambience which matched the theme of urban and indoor gardens.


Cakes
Cakes with fruit, veg, flowers and herbs ...
Seedlip bunny
Surprisingly delicious non alcoholic spirits from Seedlip.  The bunny approves.

Reluctantly leaving the cake and delicious eats to one side for the moment, the show was all about encouraging and inspiring people to garden, even if space allows for just the one tiny plant. Preferably stylish and in a funky pot or glass bauble. That might sound a tad cynical but actually the show was visually rather exciting. Smaller, nicely understated and with lots of really good artisan eats (vegan or otherwise) and drinks on offer and, crucially, the space to comfortably take a seat and enjoy your food. We gardeners like to linger over a cup of tea and a good slice of cake.


A cactus retailer named Prick seemed very popular!
Naturally, there was plenty of retail therapy with the focus on indoor gardening: terrariums, air-plants, cactuses and succulents in abundance, books, apps, bulbs, wooden planters and seeds.  It was good to reconnect with Joy Michaud from Sea Spring Seeds; I've been perplexed as to how best to use the tiny Fairy Lights chillies that are still growing on my balcony. Joy makes a delicious freezable sauce with hers; she cuts off the stalk, leaving the rest of the chilli intact (seeds as well), combines with other veg (courgettes, onions, tomatoes, etc) and cooks the mixture to a pulp before cooling and freezing for winter use.  I was told that my other round chillies, Tangerine Dream, are best hollowed out and the firm pods stuffed with a savoury filling such as seasoned mince.  I was getting hungry just listening. Joy had a beautiful chilli plant on show called Apricot; the fruits are perfect for eating raw in salads as they're mild and perfumed. I was sold on the idea and came away with seeds for next year, plus a small bag of fruits for my kitchen and a big smile on my face.  Lovely people, lovely produce.

The show would have been sadly lacking if it was only about shopping but there was also an excellent programme of talks and workshops - and advice from the RHS On The Road campervan. There was a very tempting sounding 'behind the scenes' tour of the Lindley Library exhibition 'The City Gardener' but, silly me, I stupidly didn't realise that it had to be booked in advance; disappointment levels were high and lessons learned. This time all went to plan as I got to the show in time for 'Green is the new Black', an illustrated talk on the relationship between fashion, culture and gardening. The talk was by Tom Loxley, the editor of Rakes Progress, a new contemporary gardening magazine. His take on the upsurge of interest from a younger generation of would-be gardeners was interesting and I was able, like many at the show, to have a further chat to him afterwards. His words had put thoughts into my head and afterwards I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of twenty-somethings wandering the hall, engrossed in plants. It seemed everyone wanted to take home a cactus or Hippeastrum.

I didn't have time to attend any of the craft workshops but serendipitously bumped into a friend who was proudly showing the two macramé holders that she'd just made at Grace + Thorn's workshop. Apparently, they're the latest trend for household plants. I might have to rescue the ones I made in the 80s from my mother's house!

I would have liked to return to the show on Sunday to take a look at workshops on making flower crowns and botanical jewellery, kokedama and succulent frames plus talks on the benefits of a plant based diet, maximising space for food growing and successfully growing indoor plants.  I've heard this show is a trial run but I also overheard people remarking on the success of the event - I hope the RHS feels the same way and will be back with this show again next year.  It could just inspire a whole new generation of urban and small space gardeners  - and it was great that the show tapped into the trend for healthy plant based food and drinks.


RHS bus

13 comments:

  1. Sounds as if you were in your element! I'm looking forward to hearing how chilli "Apricot" performs...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They have a very mild taste, Mark, like a spicy bell pepper - and such a pretty colour. As my chilli plants have done so well this year, I'm hoping for great things with these next year. Of course, I have a way to go until I can even remotely approach your chilli growing expertise but I'm beginning to see the addiction!

      Delete
  2. It certainly looks and sounds like it was a good show well worth visiting.
    I've always found cacti and succulents fascinating plants although I've never grown any. Flighty xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was very interesting for a winter show where the focus was on indoors rather than out. I especially liked the cake! You would have been in your element looking at the cactuses (cactii?) - there were all shapes and sizes, and very well displayed.

      Delete
  3. It's a pity such events are not more widely available in other parts of the country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think so too, Sue. I always enjoy the information to be got at these events. The RHS have been trying to address this with a 'roadshow' visiting farmers' markets but, again, I think this has concentrated on the south. How do you feel about getting on your soapbox about this? I'm sure many other people would agree with you!

      Delete
  4. Sounds like an excellent show, and as you say, great that the food and drinks were plant based as well. I tried growing apricot chillies, I saw on a programme that they are the mildest. I didn't end up with any, can't remember why, possibly they didn't germinate. I might give chillies a try again next year. CJ xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, how disappointing that your chillies didn't work out. I tasted a few of the chillies at the show and loved the Apricot ones, more of a salad chilli than for spicing up cooking - but definitely worth growing. I hope that the Apricot seeds will germinate for me, CJ. Watch this space in springtime! I'll definitely be revisiting the show next year (if it happens), it was very relaxing without the pressure to think about what to grow.

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. Thank, Endah - it was a lovely relaxing time with good food and talks. Do you have anything similar to bring gardeners together in your country?

      Delete
  6. You are lucky to have so many RHS shows to visit, as they are too far away it is lovely to be given an insight by you! Joy's chilli plants always look huge and I agree they are both lovely people to talk to and so knowledgeable. I am so impressed that your Mum still has your macramé holders' the one I made for my parents was thrown out years ago! sARAH X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thanks, Sarah - I'm glad you enjoyed reading about it and to know that you're another fan of Joy and Sea Spring Seeds. (I think they're near to you geographically?) Yes, I'm amazed at Mum hanging on to the macramé; she's usually the queen of decluttering!

      Delete
  7. We're hoping to visit this year for the first time, very excited!

    ReplyDelete

Comments on my posts are much appreciated and help to build an online community of blog friends. Everyone is welcome! I love to discover new blogs so please leave a comment to introduce yourself.
Caro x

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...