Friday, 12 September 2008

A Day of Near Misses & Close Encounters

I seem to have the stamp of approval

I'm a little late in filing my report - The Garden Monkey has the best paparazzi style, JAS is in lurve (with the tall pink frothy number to the left - Persicaria orientalis) and R. Pete Free tells it like it is. So I'll try and fill some of the gaps left with my overview of yesterday's RHS show at the Inner Temple. I missed most of the paparazzi shots - Roy Lancaster, Nigel Colborn, the President of the RHS, the editor of The Garden magazine and Jekka McVicar were all spotted within seconds of my arrival, well before I could whip my camera out. Next time I'll have it to hand before I get through the gate. I managed to capture Peter Seabrook - only because he was held rooted to the spot for a couple of hours by his adoring public. I'm saving that story for another day. Unfortunately I didn't even get to bump into James, even though we were there at the same time (sob) and I must have missed the Garden Monkey by a mere swish of that simian's tail.

Luckily I'd arranged to meet R. Pete Free (RPF), who was a little damp around the edges owing to the weather earlier in the day. RPF had already had a good look around by the time I arrived, having stayed up in London the night before. So it was more of a quick handover of the baton rather than exploring the show together. My first pass around the show left me a little disappointed - there were lots of people and many of the stands felt unapproachable as they were across a sea of well-worn grass (I could feel the Head Gardener tearing her hair out at the sight). But as the crowds dispersed, I was able to focus more and have a really good chat to the exhibitors. This was much more prefereable for me, but disappointing for them I suspect. At other shows I've tended to be a bit overwhelmed by it all: this time there was space to breathe and really take note of the plants. I've an extensive list to take back to The Botanic Nursery - it seemed silly to buy the plants in London when the nursery's a few miles away. Avon Bulbs got thoroughly perused and my jaw dropped at The National Collection of Dahlias stand put on by Winchester Growers Ltd. I'll have some very special cuttings finding their way to Chippenham next spring. I also bumped into Elspeth Thompson and it was great to thank her personally for her visit to my open garden - she's a charming person, especially to complete strangers who buttonhole her in the middle of a vast marquee!

The Inner Temple show marked a return to the RHS' grass roots as this was the venue for the RHS Flower Show before it moved to Chelsea in 1912. As a result a number of the stands were travelling back in time. The most noteable for me was Pennard Plants' display of old gardening implements, gardening books and heritage vegetable varieties. It was a fine display and drew many remarks from my fellow attendees. The cucumber straightener in particular drew lots of attention. Next year Pennard Plants will be giving a talk at my allotment society, so this display has whetted my appetite for both the talk and the heritage varieties that will be on offer. I'm also a sucker for heritage fruit varieties, so the RHS Wisley display of late 19th and early 20th century apple and pear varieties was a welcome sight.

For me the absolute highlight of the show were the Inner Temple Gardens themselves. They formed a masterclass in late summer border planting. I don't know whether it was done specially for the show, but the very talented Head Gardener had also displayed the planting plans for the two large borders just inside the garden's entrance. They were utterly magnificent, as were the annual borders (see picture at the side of the first paragraph) and the frothy white Cosmos borders flanking the steps down into the main part of the garden. I spent ages taking notes and dozens of photographs and now have plenty of ideas for some of the 50 plant profiles I need to complete for my KLC course. The quality planting wasn't confined to the borders either. There was an inventive clutter of pots flanking the sides of a set of steps at the opposite end of the garden. I also spotted an impressive blight free crop of tomatoes nearby. I also loved this silvery display seen on the way back from my visit to the Temple Church for Dr. Brent Elliot's talk on the history of the RHS.

There was a very relaxed feel to the show. The ambience was greatly enhanced by the presence of a steel band and the Bollywood band (pictured), who were particularly fun. However, I understand they were not to the taste of the hallowed precincts surrounding the garden. Lawyers take their work very seriously indeed. However, the bands did return later on in the afternoon and I stayed to just listen, parked on a bench by the pool (whilst giggling at the incongruous presence of fire extinguishers - see The Garden Monkey for more). I was also amused by the statue of a child at the side of the pool - the child's book said 'Lawyers, I suppose, were children once'. I wonder if that's a quote? * I'm glad I stayed - it meant I bumped into Emma instead of us missing each other. We had a good gossip before we were ushered out of the gardens ready for their transformation as a place of evening entertainment. Emma was part of the great and the good invited, so regretably we had to say goodbye - just as the flaming torches were lit ready for the party to commence.

* = It is, by Lamb.

3 comments:

  1. Glad you had such a good time. It was Winchester Growers who had supplied all the Dahlias for the Daily Mail Pavilion at Hampton Court Palace Show, they were fabulous then too.

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  2. Sounds as this was a most enjoyable day out. I sometimes wish I lived nearer to London as it is a long and expensive trek to get to any of the RHS Shows or any events in the capital. The last time was a couple of years ago as a birthday treat. Snowdrops,hellebores and other spring blooms on a grey January day. What joy! You have given me a timely and welcome reminder that I have a Winchester Growers catalogue which I need to pay attention to.

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  3. Zoe - they were fab at Malvern too!

    Anna - I'm glad I saw the stand, the choice in the catalogue is mind boggling.

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