Malvern Spring Show 2013

The Show Gardens at Malvern Spring Show were recently described by a television presenter as a ‘mixed bag’. In a way I can see where the presenter was coming from but this is the very thing I love about Malvern, all the gardens on show are very different.

The standard of design and planting gets better and better each show, at this point I am not going to tell you how long I’ve been going to Malvern, but suffice to say enough to have witnessed the changes over the years.

So if you were looking for a little piece of the Mediterranean, a garden you could transpose and make your own, a wilder look where natives and cultivated plants grow together or a childhood memory made into horticultural reality then you were well catered for this year.


The Villaggio Verde garden ‘Reposer Vos Roues (Rest Your Wheels)’ was a slice of Southern France, you could see yourself stopping for a little glass of something in the rustic café with the scent of lavender in the air .

A Little Slice of The South of France
A Little Slice of The South of France
Take a seat with a little glass of something
Take a seat with a little glass of something
The scent of lavender and the buzzing of bees
The scent of lavender and the buzzing of bees



‘Solar Chic’, ‘A Woodland Kitchen Garden’, ‘Return to the Med’, ‘The Haven’ and ‘Light is the Load’ all had elements that could be transposed in whole, or in part, to most gardens.


I loved the use of the parasol Photinia in the ‘Solar Chic’ garden.

Beautiful Photinia Parasols
Beautiful Photinia Parasols



‘A Woodland Garden’ had a vegetable patch which I can only dream of, as an army of slugs is once again on the march in my own garden!

Kitchen Garden in the Woods
Kitchen Garden in the Woods


Given the long, grey, and positively grim winter we have all endured it was the colourful planting which lifted the spirits in ‘Return to the Med’, ‘Light is the Load’ and ‘Single Track Mind’


Colourful Planting and Pebbled Paving in 'Return to the Med'
Colourful Planting and Pebbled Paving in ‘Return to the Med’
Planting contrasting beautifully with the bold structures in 'Light is the Load'
Planting contrasting beautifully with the bold structures in ‘Light is the Load’
Vibrant planting in 'Single Track Mind'
Vibrant planting in ‘Single Track Mind’


In ‘Boathouse No.9’ I liked the mix of native and cultivated flora and the attention to detail, which is a trademark of Show Gardens by this Designer

Signature planting from Mark Eveleigh in Boathouse No 9
Signature planting from Mark Eveleigh in Boathouse No 9
Attention to detail even at the back of Boathouse No 9
Attention to detail even at the back of Boathouse No 9


But the garden which made me actually laugh out loud, much to the surprise of the visitors around me, was ‘Serving Thyme in the Garden of Gallifrey’. I can see why it was a favourite of the visitors, you may not want it in your own garden but it was full of fun and theatre, which, after all is what Show Gardens are all about. But more to the point, who hasn’t watched Dr Who from behind the sofa?

I was never sure if K9 wasn't as scary as the Daleks
I was never sure if K9 wasn’t as scary as the Daleks







Life’s a Beech – Fagus sylvatica

Fagus sylvatica

The Beech Tree’s Petition

O leave this barren spot to me!

Spare, woodman, spare the beechen tree!

Though bush or floweret never grow

My dark unwarming shade below;

Nor summer bud perfume the dew

Of rosy blush, or yellow hue;

Nor fruits of autumn, blossom-born,

My green and glossy leaves adorn;

Nor murmuring tribes from me derive

Th’ ambrosial amber of the hive;

Yet leave this barren spot to me:

Spare, woodman, spare the beechen tree!


Thrice twenty summers I have seen

The sky grow bright, the forest green;

And many a wintry wind have stood

In bloomless, fruitless solitude,

Since childhood in my pleasant bower

First spent its sweet and sportive hour;

Since youthful lovers in my shade

Their vows of truth and rapture made,

And on my trunk’s surviving frame

Carved many a long-forgotten name.

Oh! by the sighs of gentle sound,

First breathed upon this sacred ground;

By all that Love has whispered here,

Or Beauty heard with ravished ear;

As Love’s own altar honor me:

Spare, woodman, spare the beechen tree!


Thomas Campbell


Brook Farm, Berrington

So what do you do when trying to organise a trip out to satisfy three generations of one family with ages ranging from 70 to 2 ?

Well if its up to me, you have a scout round for gardens to visit! Happily in this instance Twitter came to my rescue, in the form of @nicelittleplace who’s gardens at Brook Farm in Berrington would be open for the NGS

The His ’n’ Hers guide to the garden, given on arrival, is a lovely idea and shows a sense of fun, which, as you go around is evident.


Sarah and Willy talk you through their garden and it becomes apparent that this is a garden where space is negotiated between the couple and plans evolve, in other words a real garden.

The glimpses of the brook (from which I assume the house gets it’s name) and surrounding fields through the garden add an extra special element.



At Brook Farm the plants chosen by Sarah and Willy really are the stars, happily you never get the sense of ‘Garden Rooms’. Instead they have used the planting to give each part of the garden a subtly different feel, which has created a quintessentially English Country Garden.




NB if you carry on through the garden to to ‘The Ride’ look out for the Gunnera. At this time of year it is surrounded by flowering grasses and quite literally stopped me in my tracks.





Cottesbrooke Plant Fair or Three Have fun in Northamptonshire

Sometimes it’s hard to keep your work life balance so when a friend, whom I haven’t seen for some considerable time, suggested a day out it seemed like a very good idea. When she went on to suggest a trip to Cottesbrooke it seemed even better.

For those that don’t know, Cottesbrooke Gardeners’ Fair is held in the grounds of Cottesbrooke Hall in Northamptonshire. I first heard about the fair two years ago, although it is in fact celebrating it’s 5th anniversary this year. Last year there was much talk of horrendous traffic queues along narrow twisty lanes, so much so, that it was agreed that we would meet up at stupid o’clock on Saturday morning and not worry to much about what time we would arrive. In the event the roads were clear and we arrived stupidly early.

First stop was the Know How Tent, to check out who was talking about what. We decided on the second talk of the day by Mark Diacono. This decision was in no way influenced by the lure of free cocktails.

Having booked the talk we had an hour free to do a spot of shopping, starting at the nearest exhibitor which by coincidence was The Otter Farm Stall. Szechuan pepper purchased and banter exchanged* it was time for the traditional day out bacon butty brekky.


Know How Talks

Marc Diacono’s talk was funny, interesting and ultimately challenging. Asking people to look at how and what they grow in their veg patch. Will I go on to grow two vegetables I hate next year, probably not. However I am most definitely looking at perennial veg in a new way and I have ordered some Egyptian Walking onions.



There are plenty of artisans displaying their crafts from wood to willow and steel to stone.



The Gardens

The plus point of this fair is you can break up the shopping by having a meander around the gardens. I did’t want to turn this day out into work so I had done absolutely no research into the house or its gardens. Each area is different but all work and create a pleasant contrast. Lots of lovely plant combinations and some great ideas for you to try at home.


The Plants

Much has been made of the variety and choice to be found at this fair. We were a little disappointed as many of the stalls seemed to be offering near identical plants. This may be a result of the poor season we have had so far, resulting in nurseries buying in stock. However where this fair excels, is the relatively small number of independent specialist nurseries who who offer a real choice of unusual plants, unavailable at garden centers. SWINES MEADOW NURSERY offer a collection of some super unusuals. DYSONS NURSERY were selling Salvias to make you salivate.  MEADOWGATE NURSERY specialise in gorgeous grasses but D’ARCY AND EVEREST shouldn’t be confused with MR D’ARCY’S heritage fruit trees, otherwise you may get an apple when you were expecting an alpine!

Whether you were purchasing the unusual or a more familiar plant, it seemed nearly every stall offered healthy and vigorous plants, no weedy end of display specimens here!

 So buy, buy, buy. Bye-bye Cottesbrooke ’til next time


*according to Mr Diacono all plants should be named, so I have called my new Szechuan pepper “Justine Thyme”



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.