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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A day at RHS Malvern Spring Festival

It was a very early start on Thursday - I was off to Worcestershire for the RHS Malvern Spring Festival. As I sped down the M6 and M5, the sun was shining, I was singing along to songs on the radio, and there was that delightful sensation of anticipation.

What gardens would I fall in love with? Which plants would knock my socks off?  And what would my overall impression of the festival be?

The Malvern Hills are a wonderful setting, and it's such a spacious and well laid out festival .Wide paths too and flat grass.....bliss, as it was my first week of walking without crutches after fracturing my ankle.

First stop was a meet up with other members of the Garden Media Guild just inside the Floral Marquee  in the Plant Finder Parlour. Just past ten o clock  in the morning and quite a few were standing happily chatting with a glass of ice cold prosecco in their hands. How wonderful I thought, so promptly took a glass and joined them.

It was good to catch up with a rather formidable looking Matthew Biggs again .

He was dressed for his role as plant hunter Ernest Wilson who brought such an eclectic collection of beautiful and rare specimens back to the UK at the beginning of the twentieth century. I knew of how he'd found the ghost tree or handkerchief tree, ...see here

but Matthew really brought his work to life in a dynamic and humorous way which the audience loved. Unfortunately though, I didn't have time to watch his interpretation of the life of George Forrest in the afternoon.

I loved Jekka McVicar's garden at last year's Chelsea Flower Show so was rather keen to see the Health and Wellbeing Garden she's designed which will be a permanent feature at the Three Counties Showground.

A circular garden protected by a dry stone wall, there was lots to look at. I always love lavender edging and there's so many herbs planted here in the raised beds by Woodblocx, I lost count.  Tashkent mint is a new one to me which I liked. But this isn't just a calming garden for reflection, it's a working one too a learning space for Pathways, a day service working with adults with learning disabilities

I made my way to the Grow Zone where gardening charities and organisations were showcasing their edible beds. I  was keen to see Sara Venn and her team from Incredible Edible Bristol. They've created 35 food community gardens in the last three years. It's a wonderful achievement -  Sarah is so passionate about her project, she's a real dynamo.

 But this venture isn't just about plants, it's about people too. Luke, one of the volunteers , was telling me how he joined within a few hours of coming to live in Bristol. He's found a great bunch of friends who share his love of gardening and he's an enthusiastic advocate  for what they're trying to achieve.

The raised bed from  Rush Farm Biodynamic in Worcestershire was a picture of vitality and health. Sebastian Parsons who farms there and who is Chief Exec of the Biodynamic Land Trust was just as perky as his plants, eagerly explaining how he and his sisters have transformed Rush Farm.

Hotfooting it back to the Floral Marquee, before it got too hot, there was almost sensory overload from the sight and scents of so many plants and people. So much to admire, but if I had to choose three plants which I coveted...two of them were paeonies from Primrose Hall...the beautiful "Sarah Bernhardt" 

And the elegant "Mothers Choice"


And thirdly , this pretty as a picture Phlox...."Clouds of Perfume" from Hardy's Plants.

Wandering outside, the first show garden I looked around was this...The "At one with ...a meditation garden from Howle Hill Nursery. With Japanese maples, three springs, statement pieces and a cooling pool harmonising so well, I'm not surprised that this garden won best in show. There was such a sense of timelessness and serenity here...


But it was the Villaggio Verde garden "The Retreat "that I wanted to sit in. A hot saltwater spa, the clean lines of the terrace, the large olive trees, leading into a Mediterranean  planting of olives and lavender, were so evocative, so delicious, I could have set up camp there with a picnic of prosecco, olives and nuts.

Itching as I am to be near the coast at this time of year, I liked the vibrancy of "The Ocean "spa garden designed by Michel Damien

There was a queue to walk around the Buckfast Abbey Millennium Garden. This detail intrigued me as I waited but time was pressing, I became aware of everything I hadn't yet I moved on....

Other visitors however were relaxing and tucking into street food and picnics by the bandstand....

That's something I like about Malvern...plenty of benches and places to sit down and take the weight of your feet, and just watch the world go by.

Joe Swift found the perfect place to sit a while, but he wasn't relaxing , he had some pieces to camera  to do for Gardeners World.

As for the shopping at Malvern.....there's so much to tempt you into spending far more than you should. Plants, clothes, paintings, food, and of course the bigger items too. Now my old ash tree no longer stands centre stage in my garden due to Storm Doris, there's no shade.  I was very impressed with these huge parasols from Instashade which use Australian fabrics which know how to withstand the searing sun . One day, one of these shall be mine!

So, a rather successful festival ......and I 'm looking forward to the RHS Malvern Autumn Show, which takes place on the 23rd to 24th September.
See you there....