Once upon a time, I blogged regularly under the pseudonym of ‘R. Pete Free’ and the site visit counter told me I had a faithful readership. Sadly, fate intervened and I had to rebrand as ‘NewShoot’, a person who finds it difficult to keep up a flow of bloggy entertainment and instead spends her time lurking round other people’s pages, throwing in random comments here and there. However, the thought of missing out on a bloggers’ get-together has stimulated me to dig out a few early Malvern memories and get writing again, so I don’t have to spend the day with my nose pressed against the willow hurdles looking at you all relaxing in glory in the Garden Bloggers’ Lounge.
Six years ago I was running a fledgling garden design business. I had a few builds under my belt, nothing structural had fallen down, no planting scheme had died too obviously, but I wanted to learn more about this strange new world I was working in. I hoovered up every opportunity to see the work of other designers, to build up my knowledge of materials and suppliers…and, to be honest, I enjoyed a good day out looking at plants!
So when the opportunity came to tag along with the Friends of the Oxford Botanic Garden coach trip to the Malvern Show I jumped at the idea. I’d not been before as it wasn’t one of the ‘Big Shows’ at the time, but it was being promoted as the first Design Show of the year – it would hopefully would be a lot less crowded than the annual Chelsea battle AND you could buy the plants!
It took us around 2 hours on the coach to reach Malvern from Oxford…and then another hour sitting in the queue for the car park… I’ll be interested to find out whether this experience has improved over the years! This time I think I’ll be testing the shuttle bus service from Malvern station instead.
My impressions of Malvern Show as it was then – it was small but enjoyable. I was slightly disappointed that there weren’t more show gardens, but those that were there were fun. Some of the displays from the landscaping materials suppliers were just as good as the gardens – and I could pretend to be working by examining the quality of their pointing and collecting their shiny brochures.
I seem to remember good chips and cake (nobody needs a balanced diet on an outing to a flower show, carbs for energy is what’s needed!) and am racking my brains to remember whether there was a Celebrity Design Theatre Experience – I’m sure I saw a spontaneous performance from Joe Swift coming up with solutions for awkward gardens sometime around then…but was it Malvern?...those brain cells have long gone!
What I do remember were the floriferously gorgeous nursery stalls - trying to decide which of many desirable plants to buy, aiming to balance my greed against the knowledge that I’d have to carry the purchases for hours before being allowed back on the coach. A variegated daylily, Melianthus major and some offerings to satisfy my Digitalis fetish returned to Oxford that evening (funny how I can remember the plants but not the people?)
How has it grown over the intervening years? I’m excited to see that the website is advertising many more show gardens – 16 in all, as well as 8 from Chris Beardshaw’s mentoring competition and several from local schools. That should give loads of inspiration. There are supposed to be over 100 plant nurseries now, so my buying decisions will be even more difficult! Over those years I’ve also got to know, and work with, some of the nurseries and designers, so it will be a chance to catch up with friends instead of just looking on from the outside.
Now I’m teaching design and horticulture, so I’m looking forward to the chance to take photos of show gardens to inspire my students, to refresh my collection of supplier brochures with info on new products they are launching this year and, of course, to discover exciting new plant cultivars.
But best of all, looking forward to the bloggers’ convention and the chance to to meet many of my virtual friends in real life…and eat cake with them!
This post is a joint simulcast with New Shoot :)