Malvern Show

The Plants For Malvern Show

The brief for Malvern Spring Show is to depict a painting, photograph, or view in plants.

So, having decided on the Painting, “The Equatorial Jungle” by Henri Rousseau, and the type of plants, (shade lovers), I also thought it would be good to use as many British native plants as possible.

That was the plan, but to quote Robert Burns,

“ The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft a-gley”

The batteries on my Chrystal Ball were obviously flat and I failed to foresee that this would be a very strange Stop-Start Spring.

The Aquilegias I had planned for the border flowered weeks ago (and very pretty they were too). Substitutes have proven to be elusive, however, I have discovered three plants in my own garden. They are the progeny of a rather delicate pink columbine, but I fear given the promiscuous nature of Aquilegia they may not take after their mother.


Only time will tell and I am fast running out of that at present.

My Chrystal Ball also failed point out that one of the nurseries would let me down at the last minute. Not a huge problem in itself, and all those plants, bar one, have now been sourced from other suppliers. The problem is when you look at the painting not having a white foxglove is a bit of an issue!

My plants are in various locations around the County, some I am growing here in the Teme-Valley. The rest are at Wychbold and Pershore, so happily everything has been sourced from Worcestershire. It has become a real home grown effort and I am hugely grateful to my local suppliers for their help and advice.


Vergette Gardens at Malvern Spring Show

Back in November 2011, while attending an RHS seminar, I met the Show organisers from Malvern Show and they asked if I would be interested in their new project called “Painting with Plants”.

“Painting with Plants” is new to the Malvern Spring Show. The idea behind it is to provide 10 borders, each measuring two square meters, in which to represent a painting, photograph or local landscape. Each of the 10 borders will be raising the profile of a chosen charity, with three of the borders being awarded a £1000 prize for their charity.

Choosing the charities for me was easy, Thrive and Perennial.

Choosing which painting was slightly more difficult. I looked at paintings by Van Gough, Monet and Cezanne, but none of them were quite right. Then I remembered a painting by Henri Rousseau painted in 1891 called by some “Surprise!” and others “Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!)”. Although I loved this painting for the movement and atmosphere, to be absolutely honest I couldn’t quite see how to represent the tiger in plants!

After several days of trawling the internet and scouring the pages of art books in the library I finally decided on another painting by Henri Rousseau, “The Equatorial Jungle”.

                                                                                      Image from From Wikipedia

The plants in Rousseau’s painting seem to be inspired by his visits to the Botanical Gardens in Paris, and while some of them are quite recognisable others are pure fantasy.

So what came next was to think of the best way to recreate the painting with plants that would give that same jungle feel at a show in May.

I want to link the planting with the way Thrive and Perennial help those people who find themselves in difficult situations. So thinking in terms of gardens, most people will struggle to find plants for a shady situation, so that is where I decided to start my search. Most of the plants I am going to use are those that will tolerate theses shady places. I hope to link the painting, the planting and the work the charities do, to achieve a lush leafy border.





Funny how things run in families, freckles, blue eyes, an overwhelming love of cake etc etc.

Now don’t tell anyone, but when I was younger and Botanists talked about plant classification I was never terribly interested. I could see the sense in Latin names, its very useful when you find a plant on the internet, on say a Dutch or French website. I am not fluent in either French or Dutch so for me, if I see the Latin name I know at least we should be talking about the same plant.

The RHS say “Although families may appear at first to be of only academic interest, knowledge of the family to which an unknown plant belongs is the springboard to identifying it, and for the gardener, it can give an indication of the conditions required for successful cultivation.”

However, funnily enough, I have had a bit of a light bulb moment, (not an LED moment more of a 20watt moment) when it comes to plant families today.

I thought I would take my camera into the garden and take a few photo`s of what’s in or coming into flower as a bit of a pictorial diary.

Prunus spinosa

It struck me that some of them shared more than the odd similarity and so I did a bit of “Who Do You Think You Are” research and yes they do belong to the same family.*

So as the year progresses I have decided to continue my photo diary and see how many different family groups I actually have in my garden.

* In case you were wondering, the family group here are Asparagaceae.