Wednesday saw this wide eyed country mouse head off to the big city to peruse the goodies at the RHS London Plant and Design Show. There's been a lot of criticism lately of the RHS' decision to cut the number of London events, so I was keen to see whether this had translated through into the show itself. It hadn't - plenty of people were there and the nurseryman I spoke to was happy with the RHS' event publicity (it had been poor in the past apparently), the show's quality and how this translated into sales at his stand. He predicted if this trend continues, then the recent falloff in exhibitors should be reversed.
The above collage gives you a flavour of the show - click on the picture to enlarge it if needed - the 2 largest pictures are an overview of Lindley Hall where most of the nursery exhibits were sited, plus part of Capel Manor College's show garden in nearby Lawrence Hall. The 3 pictures at the top right are close-ups of the delicious Hepaticas on display, plus Narcisus 'Mite Be' which I was very tempted by, until I was told they cost £6 per bulb. I must have put on my 'expensive good taste' head for most of the day as the first plant I enquired after (the gorgeous Edgworthia chrysantha on Capel Manor College's show garden) was also rather dear, but luckily for me had been sold already.
The last 4 pictures at the bottom right show overviews of the Hepaticas and snowdrops displays plus another show garden and a very cluttered balcony. The snowdrops were particularly welcome as I was able to look at 100s of different Galanthus cultivars without having to lie down flat on my tummy to see their differences. Whilst they all were indeed beautiful, I did fall in love all over again with plain and simple G. nivalis and G. nivalis 'Flore Pleno', so I wasn't persuaded to shell out pots of cash for a single bulb of a more select cultivar.
I'm pleased the RHS is trying out different themes for their London events - this one was design. This resulted in 3 show gardens and about 7 balcony gardens being shoehorned into Lawrence Hall and I was particularly keen to meet up with The Ecospot's Claire Potter. Her The Electric Urban Orchard was grabbing a lot of attention, but she still had plenty of time for a good old chinwag with me. I was interested in the vertical garden solution in her design as I've been pondering something similar for my fence project. She pointed me in the direction of her supplier where I had the most refreshing of chats: a professional who's not afraid to say when the proposed solution is overkill - instead I came away with some simpler, more cost-effective ideas of what to do: they won't bring my fence down either.
I loved the humorous There's a Leek in My Balcony and whilst it isn't a design I'd necessarily use in the format shown, I have been busily thinking about putting some different small containers on my fence to hold salads and herbs since Wednesday, so definitely an idea to nick and adapt! I also liked the clipped juniper used to add height to the lower, more restrained balcony design. Both illustrate that a simpler, more unified scheme is effective. I do like the balcony gardens idea - it's a hard brief to do well and can be used as an introductory piece into the world of garden design or show gardens.
Sadly I missed the show's other blogging visitors as they went on Tuesday. Deb met up with her friend Claire prior to their showgarden reunion at Malvern in May; Julia has particularly fine shots of the outside and inside of Lawrence Hall over at her blog and Arabella has a full and frank commentary on events, particularly the balcony gardens and the restorative powers of retail therapy. She's also included a shot of one of the balconies I forgot to photograph, where I liked the three tiered planting solution used to disguise the balcony's railings. Again, another potential nickable idea for my fence, though the way the plants were held in place (the bottom 2 layers of plants were held in their pots at an angle) wouldn't translate into a more permanent feature.
On the whole, a fabby day out and one worthy of at least one other blog about it: tune in tomorrow, when I'll be revealing the bargains I found at the plant sell-off.