22 Feb 2014

Design, Plant and Spud - it's the RHS Spring Show!

There was such a great vibe at the RHS Plant and Design Show yesterday in its new time slot of early weekend rather than midweek, as in previous years. The sun was shining outside and, as we've come to expect,  beautiful plants on show within. This year there was the added incentives of a programme of design talks and a potato extravaganza!  A jacket potato tasting bench offered the chance to compare texture and taste, a nice touch.


Pennard Plants had set out 75 different varieties of chitting potatoes at only 22p a tuber as well as displays in both halls.  It's a brilliant system that allows the buyer to 'pick n mix' the spuds they want to grow.  If I had the space, I'd grow one of each variety for the ultimate taste test but, having done a small scale test last year, I knew which tuber to choose: Arran Victory. Let's see how it does for me this year.

I was keen to have a good look round so left all buying until the end.  I really only wanted some potatoes to chit and a set of beautiful cloche frames that I'd seen last year from Plant Belles:

The larger hoop straddling the smaller ones is this year's new size - a 4ft hoop! 
The reality is that the displays of plants are just too tempting for eyes hungry for colour after the winter sojourn. Hellebores, snowdrops and narcissus abounded although there was no particular stand that stood out above the others. I was slightly disappointed not to see a rival for last year's spectacular iris and snowdrop displays but Cornwall's Trewidden Nursery put on a great show of exotics that was awarded a gold medal.


With my garden designer head on, I totally fell for the 'grasses' - this is Elegia equisetacea in close up:


Beautiful.  In my humble opinion.  ;)

Cath's Garden Plants caught my eye with this lovely yellow combination of spring planting.  Yellow is such a joy in early spring but, for me, can be too much of a good thing come March.  This combo was wonderfully subtle, supported as it was by the 'evergreen' Carex testacea.


Or how about this Narcissus cyclamineus from Broadleigh Gardens: I hadn't come across this particular tiny flower before and thought it both delightful and unusual.




This, above, is Correa pulchella 'Pink Mist' on display at Fibrex Nurseries; a small evergreen shrub hailing originally from NSW Australia - looks like it would fit perfectly into an English garden! This is a plant that I'll bookmark (for any future clients!). What's not to love about its elongated bell-shaped flowers? (I was going to write 'campanulate' but that would just be showing off.)  I'm already looking for the flower fairies to appear!

For me, the show is a wonderful chance to see a range of plants and this Lathyrus vernus 'Cyaneus' didn't disappoint - reminiscent of violets but quite definitely flowering in the sweet pea family with lovely light green paired leaves.


 It was displayed next to Dicentra formosa, ferns and snowdrops which suggests that it's a good woodland edge plant.

I was very pleased to say hello again to Joy at Sea Spring Seeds.  A renowned grower of chillies (including Dorset Naga, the hottest variety - plug plants for sale at the show), she's exhibiting a visual feast of salad leaves which earned her a silver medal.  I'd already bought my chilli seeds from Joy at the RHS autumn show but with thoughts of summer salads in mind, I bought packets of salad leaves. Who wouldn't be tempted by these beautiful leaves?


Joy is a passionate gardener and, very helpfully, nipped off leaves of her delicious plants for me to taste.  Cue purchase of many packets of seeds and module trays which will be sown today.

Having wandered, looked, chatted, got some amazing advice from the growers and from Writtle College (good conversation about environmental psychology), I'll be going back today to take in a couple of the design lectures on offer.  Whew - a lot to cover that, personally, I couldn't have managed in one day - but that's where membership of the RHS will stand me in good stead - the show is free entry for members.

The show is open today, Saturday, until 5 pm (Victoria and Pimlico tube stations within an easy walk). Well worth going if you can get there.

More about the show from Alternative Eden and Down on the Allotment.

PS.  I haven't got my cloche covers yet because I was loaded up with violas, a scented leaved pelargonium, canes of Polka raspberry and module trays for starting off my seed sowing! Very restrained, under the circumstances. ;)


29 comments:

  1. These shows offer much in the way of temptation - sounds like you had a really good day.

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    1. It's a day out that I look forward to (as with all RHS shows) and the temptation isn't too bad if you go armed with a list, restraint and just enough cash for a couple of souvenirs and a coffee!

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  2. Sounds like a good day Caro - I read about it on another blog and the writer loved it too. Just a pity it is so far from us.

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    1. Yes, that's very remiss of the RHS - surely there should be a few more shows outside of the south? It's so easy for me to get there and that just adds to the enjoyment of the day.

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  3. It looks like a great show. It's always so tempting to part with cash when you see all the wonderful things on offer at these type of events.

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    1. I see people walking away from the show laden with bags of plants so I'm sure it helps if you know exactly what you want to buy and resist temptation. I was particularly restrained around the hellebore stands - there were some real beauties and I do need a couple more but had my list and stuck to it!!!

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  4. Having the show at the weekend must make a big difference. Not all gardeners are retired and thus able to take time off during the week! I bought a Carex Testacea "Prairie Fire" just after Christmas because I have recently become aware of the potential of grasses, and I can see myself buying some more in the not-too-distant future. Why are you so keen on "Arran Victory"? Is it just for the taste, or does it have other attractions?

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    1. Although it seemed relatively quiet and easy to move around while I was there, I was told that the traders had had really good busy days. Grasses are wonderful, something that I've realised the potential of since studying at Capel. They fit so well into any design. Why Arran Victory? Out of all the spuds that I grew last year, this came out top for taste and texture. Until this, I was quite happy with Vivaldi spuds from Sainsbury's but these are better!! It also grew well and cropped well despite some drought neglect. I grew them in bags so don't know about resistance to pests; none of my potatoes had blight last year.

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  5. Plant Belles are from down this way I think, I've got a number of their plant supports in different sizes. Didn't know about the cloche hoops though..
    The Correa is exquisite. Is it hardy over here?

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    1. They're in Crediton, Devon - is that near you? I was very taken with their large bell cage and was told that someone uses it for protecting his gooseberry bushes from foxes - apparently they like to snack on the fruit! As if I haven't got enough trouble from them already, now my goosegogs are potentially at risk! The cloche hoops are gorgeous when they've rusted a bit ... perfect for your garden!!

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    2. About the Correa - Seems a bit of a good all rounder! It's been awarded the RHS AGM, has a compact habit (80cm), flowers from November to March, evergreen, makes a low but good informal hedge, is frost hardy, suits most soils (slightly alkaline preferred, clay or sandy) and will withstand coastal conditions. Now I want one for myself!!

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  6. A most enjoyable post about what was clearly a good day out for you, and I see that you've been back today as well. The pictures show some real delights, I especially like the look of the grasses.
    Flighty xx

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    1. It was a wonderful day out and I managed to keep within budget which makes it all the better! Glad you liked the photos, I was quite restrained there as well - so many wonderful plants to see! Grasses are spectacular; there's a Yorkshire company who showed at Chelsea last year and I quite fell for their stand too!

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  7. Wow, it looks beautiful there. So glad you had a good day. I love the idea of being able to buy just one seed potato. And being able to taste some is a great idea as well. I always wish it was possible to taste apple varieties before buying. The cloche frames are lovely, they'll be a great addition to your growing space.

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    1. Ah, CJ, you should organise an apple day!! I'm sure there are such things - our local city farm has an apple day with various apple focused activities including tasting. Or perhaps they do something at Wisley? I'm not sure. The RHS has a great venue for these events in Westminster, the hall is beautiful in sunshine! Hard not to have a perfect day surrounded by wonderful plants and delicious coffee and cake!

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  8. Hi Caro, shame we missed each other, was there early on Friday and with limited parking time had to go leave before that ran out. The atmosphere was fab yesterday and we've heard it was pretty much the same today (you'll be able to confirm that). We'll just have to wait and see if they will keep the Friday Saturday slot or go back to Tuesday Wednesday. Oh and there were two or three plants we forgot to pick up, if only coming back was easy for us! :)

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    1. I'm definitely spoiled for ease of getting to the London RHS shows, including Chelsea! If I had to drive in, I'd go for an early slot as well - looks like the show was quite busy in the morning and it had certainly eased off by the afternoon, making it a very pleasant experience to wander round. The stands didn't feel as numerous as last year, what do you think? So, will you be at the London Plant Fair in April to collect the plants you missed buying?? Maybe see you next time!

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  9. What a fabulous idea a jacket potato tasting bench. It sounds like you had a fantastic day there, I am ever so slightly jealous.

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    1. Ah the grass is always greener on the other side. I'm always jealous when I read of other people's gardens or see the lovely cottages that they live in... :) And you were saved from the temptation of buying plants ... !

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  10. Oh I so wanted to go again this year but could not :( Sounds as if you had a brilliant day Caro. I think that you will just have to order one of those cloche frames online. What a simple but brilliant idea to offer spud tasting because at the end of the day that's what it's all about. I do like the look of that correa although I've read mixed reports about their hardiness. I do have a perfect spot for that attractive lathyrus though - off to find out where I can get one from.

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    1. Anna, if you can get to London for next year's show, it would be lovely to meet up! The next one in April is held on one of my working weekdays and I'll be lucky to squeeze in a couple of hours in the evening. Plant Belles (the cloche suppliers) will be at many of the London shows so there's plenty of chances to stock up! Interesting that you've read the Correa has dubious hardiness; it has an AGM and I've read it's frost hardy but the RHS do get it wrong sometimes!

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  11. You've done it to me again Caro. Love that Lathyrus vernus 'Cyaneus' , and as for the Correa pulchella 'Pink Mist', I think I may have the perfect spot for it. Just as well I just invoiced for another job... Look forward to hearing about your lectures. But please, for a little while, no more new and exciting plants?!

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    1. Hahaha! Can't promise that as I come across lovely plants all the time!! Just read that the Correa is tolerant of coastal conditions .... !!! Maybe one for your new wind baffling hedge? Especially if it flowers from November to March. In fact, as I've just received my trade nursery card, I may well find one for the gardens here!

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  12. The hoop tunnel looks elegant and desirable in its own right - whether one has anything to put inside or no.

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    1. They certainly look very chic, especially when covered with expensive environmesh and rusting genteelly! I didn't buy in the end because I'm not convinced that they wouldn't get "borrowed" from the gardens here! There are some naughty people about!

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  13. I have often promised myself a visit to one of the RHS London shows, but so far have never managed a visit. You sound as though you had a wonderful time, I like the look of the Lathyrus vernus, wonder if it would like my woodland?

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    1. Ooh, I should say so Pauline. It's "native to forests of Europe and Siberia" according to Wikipedia. It feels as though the gardening year is imminent when the first of the RHS shows takes place, even more so this year in the sunshine! I'm really hoping I can get to the Plant Fair in April although it's on a weekday so might be a little trickier.

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  14. What a wonderful post, I wish I had space to grow all those varieties of potatoes too. I did love the grasses and am smiling at your restraint!!! Look forward to seeing how they grow. What a fab day out, that's exactly what I need.xxx

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    1. Aww, thanks Snowbird! I find it amazing that there are so many varieties of the humble potato available - Walter Raleigh would be proud. I'll be growing mine in potato bags, maybe one or two in the ground to see the difference. A fab day out at the start of spring is a treat we should all have now and again!

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Caro x

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