Looking at show gardens can be like a spaghetti western

or part 2 of an Unexpected Journey

As I explained in a previous post, I won a ticket to go to Gardeners World Live at the NEC, a show I have not visited in recent years but that this time I rather enjoyed.
I also explained that when the show gardens were first introduced I hardly noticed and when I did notice, I was not that overwhelmed.  Partly this was caused by the perceived habit to repeat gardens I had recently seen at Chelsea Flower Show.  Now I fully understand that not everyone can get to Chelsea, so part of me liked the idea of widening the audience for the gardens, yet somehow it did not seem to quite work.
So guess what, this was a repeat from Chelsea Flower Show!  But in my usual inconsistent fashion I did not mind this overly as this was a display from Birmingham Libraries and we were very close to Birmingham.  This felt a little more allowable.
I loved this VW van garden 'The Plant Van' designed by Erica Ward.  I liked it, it was put together well and had nice stuff. 
Vehicles in gardens was clearly a theme as further along I found this:

It was designed by Charlie Bloom and the planting was excellent.  I mourned the demise of such a beautiful car and worried a little about what was going to happen to it next.  I get easily distracted by such things.
Along a bit further, The Austerity Garden, crikey I liked this garden.  I am not a huge succulent fan but this was beautifully put together, well planted and just a cracking bit of design in general I thought.
Next door to this was Lavender Island by Pip Probert.  The paving was used to really good effect, the planting was good and oh look, a heuchera.
This next garden I neglected to make a note of the name of, which might have been a bit subconscious as I did feel it was a bit too much structure, not enough planting.  But, and this is a genuine but, the mass planting of Cirsium occidentale venustum was amazing, I really liked it and so did the bees.  I also liked the orange walls, though I am not sure they went to well with the Cirsium, but there was too much wall not enough Cirsium in my un-designer opinion.
At the back of the show, almost missable were the Birmingham borders (just past the doors in my previous post).  These borders were brilliant, a good small size as a sort of starter for ten and I think they worked really well.
This one (below) won the prize for the best use of a heuchera (I awarded this prize, apparently no one else wanted to do so).
This one (below) also involved a heuchera to great effect (I was by this stage convinced it was not possible to have a garden without them).
This one did not involve a heuchera, but I am sure it would have it had been around when they were being handed out.
I also awarded my own 'Best in show'.  I loved this garden below best of all.  No I would not have anything similar in my garden, but I loved the boldness, I loved the use of gunnera and just the general madness of the whole idea.
I loved the way as you walked around the garden you could see different angles.  I liked how the Gunnera caught the light even on this dull rainy day.  I liked the under planting and the landforms that surrounded the garden.   I thought this garden showed imagination and wit, two things always to be encouraged, it was designed by Tony Smith and I salute you.

So that is my brief wander wander the show gardens, I wished I had had a poncho (mainly for the rain) and I was thinking it was a bit like a spaghetti western as I mentally categorised the gardens as the good, the bad and the ugly (actually in fairness I did not think any were particularly bad or ugly, some just worked better than others, but that just would not work for this theme).  This also led to a bit of wishing that I had boots with spurs on, sometimes my mind wanders just a little too far.


  1. Dear Papaver
    Thank you for sharing your visit. I was expecting some coverage on Gardeners' World last Friday, but, disappointingly, there wasn't any. I used to go to Gardeners' World Live every year, but felt it was a little too 'samey' so stopped going (especially when they added the food show to it as well). I agree about the gardens - good, bad and ugly says it all!
    Best wishes

  2. The Austerity garden -Wow! that is beautiful design. I also liked the planting in the Lavender Island garden and the one with the white beehive took my fancy too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with those of us who weren't able to go.

  3. Snap - it seems we share a favourite mad black towering garden! I wasn't deeply moved for good or bad by a lot of the gardens but really enjoyed plant scouting in the floral marquee. Is it my imagination, or has the gardening bit shrunk as the food has expanded? I'm reckon the trade hall bit was a lot sparser this year, even taking into account the moving of the plant stalls to the outside area.

    1. Yes it seemed a lot smaller, fewer nurseries not inside the marquee, shame really.


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