My visit to the new RHS Urban Show

The RHS launched a new show this year, the RHS Urban Show: new venue, new concept - well, just mainly new.  Well of course I was going to go.

It is billed as an 'immersive gardening experience' and I have to say it was just that.  The show is almost completely indoors, there is some outside loos and food stalls but otherwise the show is inside a huge old building almost next door to Manchester Piccadilly station.  This location made it very accessible by train for me so I a nice relaxing journey there.
You enter via what is best described as a green tunnel and you do feel like you are being immersed.  As you get to the show itself it opens up and I was in a huge space and I do mean huge.  At first I looked around and thought 'is this it?' but then I realised that the space goes on and on and it was full of stands, plants and people.  It was busy and I was pleased to see that so many people had taken the plunge to find out what the show was about.

There were lots of displays to enjoy - this is 'Punk Rockery - the New Wave by Amanda Grimes, made of reused wate materials and having a general base of rubble.  This is one of the first displays I saw as I walked in and it made the show feel like familiar territory except it wasn't familar, it did feel new and different.

The show itself is based in the Depot Mayfield which was built in 1910 as a railway yard.  It had various uses over the years until it lay empty for thirty years.  Last year it reopened as a 'cultural space'.  It is huge - both in ground space and height.  As someone who can get very claustrophobic this space gave me no such concerns at all.  In fact only when writing this now do I realise that it had no apparent windows, usually the first thing that spooks me.   This does mean that the show is all artifically lit and this was done to great effect.
But it also made it moody, grey feeling - urban feeling - it felt like what it is, part of a big urban landscape.  In our cities space is at a premium; growing and gardening can be a challenge and this show is designed for exactly this.  So there is all the usual stuff that us garden-show-goers expect to see - lots of plant stands, lot of emphemera and so on.  There seemed to be far more information to hand: lots of information boards that were this bright orange so that you wandered over to look at them.  I can be easily drawn by bright colours.
There were also workshops such as how to create a terrarium and lots of staffs selling the bits you need to make one and also ready made terrariums.  I really had to drag myself away from one stall as I very nearly made a purchase and now have that tinge of regret that I didn't.
There was a lot of moss on sale, all sorts of different types of moss.  Fascinating.
There was inspirational container planting. Did I mention I found the show a bit disconcerting at first?  I think it was because there were outside things inside.  Why I couldn't quite get my head around this makes no sense, plants are sold under-cover and yet....
There were wonderful displays and stalls of houseplants,
This enormous display from MAD (Mad About Land garden wear) who are partners with the RHS for this show.  
There were also educational/inspirational displays about many aspects of gardening including rainwater harvesting in small urban spaces.
I got fascinated by the robot dog who was featured on 'The Wider Web' by the University of Plymouth, Grown that Way and the Co-op Carbon foundation.  This robot is part of a system of soil analysis and this exhibit is about how technology can help us understand and grow better.
The Urban Forest was dark, moody and beautiful.  I really enjoyed this display that made the most of its indoor environment.
Did I mention the stalls?  There were lots of stalls selling all sorts of outdoor and indoor gardening stuff.
and there was the opportunity just to celebrate being a bit silly.  Never a bad thing.
The show was like a tardis, it was so much bigger than it first appeared, I just kept getting further and further into the huge space.  Now I have to admit there were parts of the show where I thought the lighting could have been a bit brighter. When I mused on this I thought that bright florescent lighting would have been really hard on the eyes, so whilst it felt a little dark at times I think it was the right decision.  To much bright light would have been too harsh and you could get a daylight fix when you had a coffee or toilet break.   There was plenty of coffee/eating places inside as well.  It was very well thought through.

Did I buy any plants I hear you ask?
Of course I did!  I topped up my coleus fix from the Dibleys stall, a stall I find rarely possible to resist.

I really enjoyed the show, it took me a little while to get my head around it, it is a new concept and I think a good concept.  It is really good that it is based in Manchester which has very good transport links.  I liked the urban concept: this was a different show that recognises that gardening is not just one thing.  We have to diversify our thinking about growing as maybe growing is a better term than gardening and more encompassing of the many approaches there are.  I will definitely go to this show again if they do it again next year.  I enjoyed it and actually quite liked that it did not take up my whole day, the tickets are sold in four hour slots and I think that is good timing.  

So here's to next year - I really hope it has been successful enough to be repeated.

The RHS Urban Show 2024: April 18th - 21st.

Take care and be kind.

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  1. How fun! I love the "punk rockery" and the container plantings. Looks like a great event!


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