As gardening continues to reign as one of the nation’s most popular pastimes, horticultural shows across the UK are currently flourishing. No longer purely for the plant specialist or gardening expert, special events and flower shows are now enticing a wide variety of groups, as Rebecca Bradbury discovers.
With the wide calibre of flower shows lined-up for 2014, now’s the perfect time to organise a group day out to a garden event. Showcasing floral displays, show gardens and plant nurseries, offering advice to experts and beginners alike and providing unique buying opportunities for your garden, there is bound to be a show to suit your group. Here’s a selection to chose from.
Since its first event in 1833, the tradition of staging plant and flower shows has been at the heart of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), and this year, the addition of a new show and the launch of RHS Secret Garden Sundays, is proof that the RHS is still at the top of its game for staging new and established talent in the world of gardening. As popular as ever, groups of 10 or more receive discounts across the society’s programme of 15 events.
Kicking off the gardening season from 21st to 22nd February is the RHS London Plant and Design Show. Held in the capital’s Royal Horticultural Halls, the event will showcase an array of spring plants and offer expert advice on garden design.
Set in the parklands of Cardiff Castle, the RHS Flower Show Cardiff will celebrate its 10th anniversary as it welcomes in the spring this April. Sixty of the country’s finest nurseries will be brought together with the leading Welsh garden designers offering groups plenty of ideas for the gardening season ahead.
Launching on 27th April, the RHS London Alpine Garden Show is a new one-day event at the Royal Horticultural Halls, providing a rare opportunity for groups to see a collection of Alpine plants alongside alpine growers offering their advice and giving hands-on demonstrations.
Also new for 2014 at the London Halls, is a series of events entitled RHS Secret Garden Sundays. On the first Sunday of every month, from April to September, the events will feature gardening workshops, plant fairs and tasty seasonal food and cooking demonstrations. Groups can also celebrate the festive season at the Christmas RHS Secret Garden Sunday on 2nd November.
In May, Worcestershire’s Three Counties Showground will host the RHS Malvern Spring Festival, welcoming both gardening enthusiasts and beginners to meander around the show gardens, explore the floral marquee and pick up tips in the Allotment Theatre. There will also be celebrity appearances from TV gardener, Carol Klein and chef, James Martin. From 27th to 28th September, the RHS Malvern Autumn Show will also be staged in the showground. Celebrating the fruits of the summer season, the weekend provides a perfect day out for both garden and food lovers.
Widely regarded as the most important event in the horticultural calendar, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show will be held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in London from 20th to 24th May. World War I inspired designs commemorating 100 years since the start of the war will feature alongside 500 exhibitors from around the world, prestigious show gardens and a new Discovery area showcasing scientific and educational exhibits.
From 8th to 13th July, the largest flower show in the world – the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show – will descend upon the grounds of the Surrey palace, presenting a new talks theatre, where a range of gardening topics will be discussed, and conceptual gardens themed around the seven deadly sins.
Also in July, the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show will be staged in the grounds of the historic Cheshire estate, featuring innovative creations from up and coming garden designers, vibrant floral designs and themed gardens based on the elements. Concluding the season in October will be the RHS London Harvest Festival Show and the RHS London Shades of Autumn Show both taking place in the society’s Lindley Hall in Westminster.
Smaller in scale, but still worth a visit are Essex’s RHS Hyde Hall Flower Show, taking place in August, and the RHS Wisley Flower Show in Surrey. The latter has recently been extended to encompass an extra day and now runs from 2nd to 7th September.
The RHS also runs shows in association with other organisations. These include BBC Gardeners’ World Live running at the NEC in Birmingham from 11th to 15th June, which brings show gardens, a RHS Floral Marquee and a RHS Plant Village together under one roof. Discounts begin for groups of 10 or more, with up to six free tickets, and admission includes free entry into the BBC Summer Good Food Show, held in the venue at the same time. There is also a Group Organiser Lounge where GTOs can relax and unwind, and, at an extra cost, visitors can access the BBC Gardeners World Theatre.
GARDEN SHOW TIME
Many of the country’s garden attractions also stage flower events, often offering groups the opportunity to coincide their visit with a tour of the grounds and property.
In the Princess of Wales conservatory at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens, from 8th February to 9th March, Orchids at Kew: A Plant-hunters’ Paradise explores a hidden world of exotic orchids and tropical plants, taking visitors on a journey back in time, retracing the footsteps of the intrepid Victorian plant-hunters. Groups of 10 or more receive discounts.
Over the Mothering Sunday weekend (29th-30th March), the King’s State Apartments at Hampton Court Palace will host Florimania. Alongside displays of flamboyant floral creations, flower-arranging demonstrations by volunteers from the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS) will also take place. Discounted admission rates are offered to groups of 15 or more.
From 23rd April to 5th May, Pashley Manor Gardens, located on the border of Sussex and Kent, celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Tulip Festival, featuring over 20,000 bulbs in 100 varieties planted throughout the grounds in colour themed areas, plus 2,000 cut tulips will be on display.
Also running in April, Loseley Park in Guildford will be heralding the start of their new season at the Spring Garden Show by showcasing their Walled Gardens and spring bedding displays. The Garden Show follows from 18th to 20th July, attended by specialist nurseries and offering the expert advice of growers, designers and artisans. Discounted entry is offered to groups of 20 or more and includes access to the gardens and parklands, plus visitors can also tour Loseley House at a reduced rate.
In May, Barnsdale Gardens in Rutland will open up their private production areas to the public for the Spring Vegetable Weekend, where expert growers will be on hand to offer advice. The Summer Vegetable Weekend, with a World War I theme, will follow in August, demonstrating what the British were growing and cooking during the war years. Pre-booked groups of 20 or more receive special rates.
Following its debut last year, the Blenheim Palace Flower Show returns in June to the Oxfordshire property. Set in the picturesque grounds of the palace with the Grand Floral Marquee as its centrepiece, the show features award-winning nurseries, flower and gardening exhibitors and on hand advice from gardening celebrities and experts. Groups of 15 or more receive a discounted ticket price, which includes admission to the palace’s parks and gardens, or visitors can opt for rates inclusive of palace entry.
In September, floral works of art by local florists and flower societies and clubs, will transform the staterooms of Leeds Castle in Kent, when the property hosts the Festival of Flowers. Groups consisting of more than 15 people receive reduced entry rates.
Capel Manor Gardens in Enfield, Middlesex will be hosting their Spring Gardening Show from 11th to 13th April, with a variety of stalls selling a range of items from plants and garden furniture to sculptures and cotton clothing. There will also be organised walks throughout the day with Capel’s own senior gardeners and advice sessions led by gardening experts. In late July, the venue will also host the Fuchsia Festival in conjunction with the Enfield and District Fuchsia Society, displaying many different varieties of the flower and offering advice on how to grow and care for them.
REGIONAL FLOWER AND GARDENING SHOWS
There are also a number of regional flower and gardening shows. In early April, the Thriplow Daffodil Weekend in Cambridgeshire celebrates spring with open gardens, a flower festival, sheepdog demonstrations, bell ringing and craft and food stalls. A 20% discount is offered to groups of 10 or more.
Staged at the Great Yorkshire Showground at the end of April, the Harrogate Spring Flower Show will showcase Britain’s largest floral art exhibition and over 100 leading nurseries offering top quality plants and advice. Then in September, the showground hosts the Harrogate Autumn Flower Show. Celebrating the harvest and looking ahead to the new growing season, it features a giant vegetable competition, the Dig It Gardening Theatre and Kitchen Garden Live. Both events offer groups of 20 or more discounted rates when booked in advance.
Taking place over the early May bank holiday weekend, the Herts Garden Show at Knebworth House in Stevenage, celebrates its 21st year, attracting over 100 exhibitors from the UK and Europe. A wide range of gardening furniture and decorations will also be showcased. Group rates are available for 20 or more people and this includes entry to the formal gardens.
Later in May, across the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, the Kent Garden Show will take place at the Kent Showground in Detling, attracting over 300 exhibitors, with many plants and gardening decorations on sale. Groups of 10 or more receive one-third off ticket prices. Now in its 15th year, Gardening Scotland will run at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh from 30th May to 1st June. Nurseries will be selling plants and creating ambitious floral displays, and designers will be showcasing their work in the David Wilson Homes Show Garden Avenue. Not only do groups receive one free ticket for every 10 purchased, groups of 25 or more receive £25 towards their coach hire costs.
‘A vintage garden’ is this year’s theme at the Shrewsbury Flower Show, running from 8th to 9th August at The Quarry Park, Shrewsbury. Hosting some of the country’s top horticulturists, the show also features TV personalities and celebrity chefs, arena acts and fireworks.