RHS Tatton Park may have been the final flower show of the season but it was a new experience for me last week. A friend kindly gifted me two tickets so I set off with my Mum on the tram to see what it was all about. Neither of us had ever been to a flower show before and it didn’t disappoint.
The show seemed huge but I soon felt at home when I spied the crocheted art works dotted about – combining two hobbies for me, although it will be a while before I can create anything as beautiful as this giant watering can.
The awarding of the medals for the show gardens and exhibitors passed us by a little – I can’t help feeling they are more for the benefit of people within the industry rather than the general public – but we were very taken by a few of the show gardens. I’m not sure we found them all and we were surprised by how small they are (they look much bigger on the TV) but we enjoyed discovering a few of them. We both loved the Manchester-themed garden (you can take the girl out of Manchester etc. etc.). The intended client was a young urban couple and I could well imagine my youngest sister and her fiancé sitting in this garden enjoying the plants, the bees and the art works.
It is amazing what you learn about people at a flower show. My mum is a list-maker extraordinaire – it is where my sister and I get it from. However, I hadn’t realised how deep this need for order ran. Where I saw overflowing exuberance in the cottage garden-style show gardens, Mum saw mess and confusion. She was drawn to the symmetrical, structured gardens, especially one called Ginspiration – although that might have had something to do with the fact that the water feature looked like it ran with pink gin and there was a bar in the centre! I loved the fuchsia stand in the floral marquee, while she preferred a display of stately alliums. It really is true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that a garden is a very personal thing.
There were a couple of highlights that we did agree on. The Poison Garden was fascinating – who knew that catnip and the castor oil plant could be poisonous in large quantities? This garden was really stunningly designed. Corridors decorated in old-fashioned wallpaper led down to the plants, some of which were caged to emphasise how dangerous they were. Foxgloves and poppies nestled next to much scarier looking plants, some of which were carnivorous to add an extra frisson of danger.
Our favourite section of the show was RHS Campaign for School Gardening gardens. Each primary school taking part had designed and created a garden inspired by an artist. As a cross-curricular activity, it covered art and science and probably a lot of other things too. For example, one school had a QR code on display to give more information about the creation of the garden, pulling in IT. And the best bit of all, the gardens were staffed by the children who had created them. We met so many confident young people that day, some apparently very young, all articulate and enthusiastic, delighted to share their knowledge and experience with us. My favourite was the Lowry garden (see above for not being able to take Manchester out of the girl!) while Mum was drawn to the Andy Goldsworthy garden. Other artists covered ranged from Monet to Banksy. We even got to vote for our favourite in a visitors’ poll. All the gardens were bright, fun and with lots to look at. It’s the part of the show that I think will stay with me for some time to come.
Towards the end of our day, we sat and watched the world go by, sipping a glass of wine, enjoying the sunshine and chatting to an old hand at show-going. All around us, bees were humming (I have never seen as many pollinators in one place as I did that day) and people were talking, laughing, sharing experiences and advice. It was a truly joyous day and I can’t wait for next year.