If there’s one thing gardeners love it’s buying plants, and the gardening season is now packed with flower shows. Whether it’s Chelsea – the gardening equivalent of London Fashion Week – or a couple of stalls at the local village fete, there’s something for everyone.
The larger flower shows with show gardens and floral marquees are the perfect places to get inspiration for your own garden. Whether it’s planting combinations, how to tackle the design of a border or even a whole garden, you’ll find ideas you can use to transform your own space.
You might shy away from ‘trendy’ plants not wanting to follow the latest fashion, but designers and nurseries take a lot of time to seek out or breed new and interesting varieties, and shows are the best place to spot these new discoveries and introductions. They’re a great place to chat to the experts. Many plant societies will have a stand at one of the major shows, so if you have a particular plant passion, say auriculas or hepaticas, you can indulge your specialist interest, and meet others with the same enthusiasm.
Then there are the nursery growers themselves who are more than happy to have their brains picked about the right plant for the right place. Take the opportunity to ask them why you can’t get your agapanthus to flower or why your clematis always succumbs to wilt.
Using colour effectively in the garden can be tricky. Take lots of photos of planting combinations you like and study them at home on the comfort of your sofa to see how the experts use colour.
Shows can be great places to stock up on essentials, to come across a new gadget and meet craftspeople making handmade British products. Take the opportunity to discuss the bespoke nature of something you need or to try out something on display. I’ve been searching for a garden bench for a while now with no success, but I came across the perfect one at the recent Malvern show.
And if you’ve been eyeing up a greenhouse the big flower shows always have a good range on display. Take the opportunity to stand inside and see how the space could work for you, and chat with someone from the company about any special requirements you may have. I always take a nosy at the Gabriel Ash stand for ideas of what to grow in my greenhouse.
If you haven’t been to a flower show this year, there’s still time. Here’s a list of upcoming events across the country:
25 June Leckford Estate Grand Plant Fair, Hampshire
5–10 July RHS Hampton Court
20–24 July RHS Tatton
22–24 July Garden Show, Loseley Park, Surrey
24–25 September RHS Malvern Autumn Show
2 October Hill of Tarvit, near Cupar in Scotland
For something a bit smaller try a plant fair. They’re often held in the grounds of an historic building, and the focus is most definitely on the plants, with a good range of specialist nurseries attending.
Rare Plant Fairs are based around the south of Britain – rareplantfair.co.uk, Plant Hunters’ Fairs cover the Midlands – planthuntersfairs.co.uk and Flower Power Fairs spring up at venues across the north of England – flowerpowerfairs.co.uk.
All image credit goes to Ian Curley.