RHS Malvern Flower Show

Last Friday I took a day off work (well, I’m actually calling it a work’s outing) to go to the RHS spring flower show at Malvern. It was the second day of the show, and while the weather might have been better than the first, it was still cold, with the odd shower. There was some sunshine too though.

Couldn’t get a prettier setting – the Malvern Hills, from the showground

The RHS flower shows seem to get ever more popular and hence, ever more crowded. There’s a lot of shuffling and jostling to get to see what you want, particularly the most popular areas, which are generally the floral marquee and the show gardens.

The floral marquee was as well turned out as ever, even if most of the stalls were familiar – immaculate and unfeasibly colourful displays of tulips, bougainvillea, chrysanthemums, streptocarpus and the like. I was taken with the stand by Grafton Nurseries, also known as Hardy Eucalyptus. They had so many varieties of eucalypts, including many hardy enough to be grown in UK gardens, and some that are even suitable for patio pots (not all eucalypts are giant trees). I particularly liked the narrow-leaved varieties, such as E. moorei (also known as ‘Little Sally’) and E. nicholii (‘Narrow-leaved black peppermint’) which has leaves that smell, as the name suggests, of peppermint.

I also saw this…

… a plant I’ve seen in photographs but without any captions, so I didn’t know what it was. I had assumed it was a form of Trachycarpus, but it is in fact called Brahea armata. So now you know. The combination of silver/grey foliage with that astonishingly spikey structural form is incredible. Unfortunately it’s native to Mexico, so I won’t be getting one for my garden any time soon. According to the RHS website its common name is ‘Big Blue Hesper Palm’, which sounds very Sesame Street.

Seen from outside, the floral marquee looked immensely long, which perhaps explained why it tool me so long to get through it!

I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the show gardens. This year there was a category called ‘Green Living Spaces’, in which five designers had created small living spaces inside shipping containers, with gardens attached. I found these underwhelming. It was an interesting idea, but as is often the problem with show gardens these days, plants didn’t get the leading roles. There were a lot of adobe walls in evidence. This was my favourite of the five (despite the plants looking as though they were an after thought):

You had to queue up to traipse through two of the main gardens, and I didn’t bother. The ‘Leaf Creative Garden’ by Peter Dowle of Leaf Creative looked stunning viewed from a ‘window’ into it at the back on the right-hand side…

…it’s the statue, together with the clever use of water, and the dark-leaved Japanese Maples that really makes it. I saw the main view of the garden on Gardener’s World later that evening, and it looked disappointing, so I’m glad I didn’t wait.

My favourite show garden was the ‘Macmillan Legacy Garden’ by Gary Bristow. I particularly liked the round adobe-style tower, with stained glass windows and a telescope on top (and there was me complaining that plants weren’t the most important aspects…)

The planting was superb too though, with colour themed island beds. The purple- themed bed was particularly beautiful (sorry: this photograph doesn’t do it justice). ‘Not sure if the guy in the hat and sunglasses was part of the display or not).

Sadly, I wasn’t in a position to buy any plants, as I’m hoping to move house this year. But I couldn’t resist one – a cute little purple-leaved acacia – Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’. Only about 40cm tall now, it will grow into a small tree, but as it’s only hardy down to minus 5, I’ll need to keep it pruned and in a pot so I can move it into a cold greenhouse each winter. I know – I’m making a rod for my own back. But it’s such a pretty little thing…

Text and images ©Graham Wright 2019

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