In 2010 over 30 garden bloggers from all over the world met for the first ever UK get together at RHS Malvern Spring Show. This blog documents the lead up to that event plus the subsequent informal get togethers we've had in Malvern. There are also insights into the events of 2009, insider views from various exhibitors and personal views of Malvern and surrounding places of interest.

Thus this blog also forms a valuable resource for anyone wanting to visit either the spring or autumn versions of the show, or contemplating a visit to the area.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The setting of the scene…

Show gardens are very funny creatures. They take enormous amounts of energy and attention to the smallest detail. You have to be able to speak to landscaping contractors, schedule deliveries, source both plants and the most random of items and still be able to pull it all together at the end to enthral the public at an event which passes in the blink of an eye. And don’t get me started on the stress that is the judging.

So with all that to deal with, why do designers subject themselves to the ordeal?

Sometimes it is because you have a spectacular idea you cannot allow to sit and fester on the desk any longer. Sometimes you have a bee in your bonnet about a subject and want to educate through design.

Sometimes you have such a wonderful team to work with that you cannot pass up the opportunity. And so it is with us and the collective brought together for the Malvern Spring Gardening Show 2010.

The Three Counties Agricultural Society are wonderful people to work with – highly passionate about what they and others do – the ideal clients. They understand what it takes to put on the show, the importance of excellent horticulture and they are open to new ideas. Very rarely do you have such an open client team who really want to challenge both your own design skills and the boundaries that have been seen in past years.

And the rest of the design team, well, we sort of know each other from past shows, and being such diverse designers and characters, we were confident that each of us could bring a different viewpoint to the table.

And so the scene was set. Alex Bell Garden Design, James Steed of Outdoor Living Space and myself from Claire Potter Design as the central design team, supported other Malvern devotees such as Martin Clark Trees and Chris Greenwood from Poultry Park.

But would so many heads be better than one, or would too many designers spoil the broth?

To be continued... [Well, it is according to Claire's email when she sent this: it's entitled Guest Post 1 - Ed :)]

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Great Malvern - some historic connections and heritage

I thought it might be nice for those planning to come to the Malvern Spring Show to show you something of Great Malvern. I moved here in 2000 with my two boys, following my parents who had retired to the area about 8 years previously. I have grown to love the area and feel that Malvern is more my home now than Berkshire where I grew up. Malvern is actually broken into 3 areas: Great Malvern, Malvern Link and Barnards Green. Great Malvern was very popular with the Victorians who came to take the spa waters driving from one of the many natural springs across the hills.

Above is the well in the middle of Great Malvern. To be honest I hadn't really noticed the design of the well until I saw the photos my eldest took for me. There is a tradition around the Malvern Hills of well dressing. I seem to remember it happening around May time last year but I'm not sure it will coincide with your visit but if you are interested you can find out more via this site .

For those of you wanting to know more about Malvern you can visit the Malvern Museum which is pictured above. On looking at their website I was interested to note that they are running a series of events this year to mark the 100th death of Florence Nightingale who frequently visited the spa for her health.

Just by the museum is Great Malvern Priory. Originally started around 1085 - yes thats 1085! It was extended in the late 15th century. During the reign of Henry VIII the priory was saved from being destroyed by the villagers who petitioned the king to let them buy the building for £20. Further work was done in the 19th century including the building of the north porch. If you wander around the graveyard and look very carefully you will find the grave of Charles Darwin's daughter, Anne, who he had bought to the town to take the waters.

So that's a brief tour of the highlights of Great Malvern. The other thing you need to know if that it is on a hill so you need to be prepared for the slopes. I tend to plan a route for my shopping that only involves me going up hill once on the route!!

I should say that as well as some lovely old buildings, Great Malvern has a range of small eateries and cafes, numerous shops from large supermarkets to small boutiques, an excellent theatre which often has pre-West End shows and a very friendly feeling about it. I do hope that you will get a chance to visit the town as part of your visit.

Monday, 29 March 2010

And Now a Word From the Northern Ireland Jury...

I really wanted to write a little something for the Meet @ Malvern site. You have no need to publish it at all [but it's too good to lie languishing in my email inbox - Ed], I'm just excited......

The RHS ignores it's friendly neighbour N.Ireland I am sad to say when it comes to it's fabulous events. We like to grow stuff too!! Darn it.

So I have never been to a celebrated flower show, though Garden Ireland hosts the lovely Hillsborough flower show which I also haven't attended *shame*. But that isn't the point, never in my thirty years have I even considered being seen at one of these wonderful garden shows in Britain, notice it isn't Great without N Ireland. Then I happened to mention a desire to go to one, any one sometime in the future and lo and behold a friend offers me free tickets. My world just exploded into a happy fluffy place full of marshmallows and chocolate and skipping joy-filled people. Not only am I waiting for my new house to be built and therefore thinking of the 2 tiny gardens we'll have to create and make fantastic, but there's the lotties, which I shall be only a few minutes walk from. Gardening has invaded my existence like a pernicious weed, if you will, one with a pretty flower that I welcome into my life.

So I sat on this joyous news for a while, thinking, 'hummmm, shall I?'. I mentioned it to the hubby and there was no hesitation. We were going!! Yippeee and such.

Thank goodness for the Meet @ Malvern site and the most awesome VP who helped me get somewhere to stay, somewhere very lovely indeed, a room she had just cancelled on, so it was highly tasteful, naturally. Now I can't stop looking at the RHS site and the Meet @ Malvern site and getting ever so more excited with each update. We're going to be VIP's for goodness sake, it's the 25th Anniversary bash this year and there are craft stalls as well as all things gardening. Plus the ever lovely James A-S lecturing, lots of blogging friends and inspiration too!

So the flights are booked, we have a hire car booked and Maggie is going to be looked after and spoilt rotten by her Granny, though I haven't told Maggie yet, she'd only be jealous of Malvern.

Have to ask though, is anyone else a bit nervous about the face to face interaction of it all?? Is it just me or do others worry that in person and with my accent I won't be as likable in reality? Oh, it's like a huge blind date. Should I wear a certain coloured rose in my lapel, do I have to wear something that has a lapel, crap, what am I going to wear?? Hadn't thought of that, eek!


Friday, 26 March 2010

The Floral Marquee

The giant Floral Marquee is one of Malvern's tipitty-top highlights. As it's the show's Silver Jubilee this year, the organisers are ensuring that it'll be the best ever. 104 nurseries will be exhibiting, including Bob Brown's fabulous Cotswold Garden Flowers nursery - Gardens Illustrated readers may recognise him from his monthly plant selection column this year - NB he will not be exhibiting at Chelsea, so his appearance is always a major coup for Malvern.

Of these 104, 25 nurseries have been invited to form the Marquee's centrepiece on the theme of Celebration. David Matthewman, famed for his sweet peas is coming back specially (having retired 2 years ago) to provide the anniversary cake. All nurseries have the chance to contribute their favourite plant for a Best of the Best display: they will also be judged for RHS medals as usual and there will be a new People's Choice award, so we will have the opportunity to vote for our favourite exhibit.

If all that plus my couple of photos from last year doesn't whet your appetite enough, here's Happy Mouffetard's in-depth tour around last year's Floral Marquee (text and photos are her copyright as usual). NB do take her tip about visiting early in the day - it can get rather crowded.

SomeBeans has banned me from buying any more seeds this year. He didn't, however, mention anything about not buying plants. So, it was with itchy fingers that I entered the floral marquee on Saturday.

It's always the first place we go, to try and avoid the huge crowds later in the day. And what a wonderful sight to the plant lover. Such variety, such care taken over the displays. So many great plants that I wanted.

I'm not a huge fan of bonsai, but this hawthorn was eye-catching.

I'm also not a fan of auriculas, but another great display. I can see why people get obsessed with the different flower colours, the doubles, the farina, even if I can't understand it myself.

This peony, on the other hand, is so delicious I could have eaten it.

From peonies to pleiones - I wish I was brave enough to try and grow them.

This angelica looked stunning against the canvas of the marquee.

And finally, to continue my obsession this year with tulips, I loved the light coming through these petals.

I didn't actually buy any of the plants above, though. I bought...

Astrantia 'Hapsden Blood', Geum 'Borissii', and Centaurea montana 'Alba', each of which I've been able to split. Very restrained of me, I think you'll agree.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Fellow garden bloggers, I have a confession to make…

...I have lapsed from the way and failed to keep up with our noble calling.

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 :)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Ticket Deal & Last Call for Blog Posts

Just a quick reminder that there's just one week left before our ticket offer expires on 31st March. Thanks to those of you who've already posted thus far and I'll contact you once the deadline has passed to confirm your requirements and how payment is to be made.

In case you missed our previous posts on this topic, we have a limited number of half-price tickets (for Friday or Saturday) for bloggers planning to visit the show if you write a full blog post on your blog (i.e. not just a mention in passing or a paragraph in a post) about the Spring Show or if you already have a blog but choose to write a guest post for us here.

Need inspiration? Then have a look at what Frances, Happy Mouffetard, Edith, Victoria Tim and Karen have written thus far...

If you would like to do a guest post here, then email me at the address on the sidebar with your content and any photo(s) you'd like to use. We are more than happy for you to do simultaneous postings with it appearing on your own blog and here at the same time.

If you're coming to Malvern for more than one day, then the lovely people at the showground are also offering any extra days at the slightly cheaper group rate.

If you've already booked your tickets, or are one of the people who can attend as a member of the press, I still need to know which day(s) you are coming so your names can be added to the admission list for our dedicated VIP area.

If you're coming with a partner or friend(s), their tickets should be booked separately via the Malvern Spring Show booking system, or purchased on the gate. I will also need to know their name(s) and day(s) for the VIP admission list.

Any questions about your post or the tickets offer? Just leave a comment below or drop me a line via email.


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A day away from the show?

I thought it might be nice to show visitors to the Malvern Show some of the gardens in the area that you might like to incorporate into your visit. We have already told you about Hampton Court and you can also read a post I did back in 2008 on Hampton Court here.

Another garden that is well worth a visit and is not far from Hampton Court is Stockton Bury Gardens. I discovered this garden last August so I can't vouch for how it would look in May. However there is an Iris bed so there should definitely be something to see. Stockton is more of a personal garden than Hampton and makes quite a nice contrast. It is a real plantsman's garden with lots and lots of unusual plants. As you can see from the photos above there is a lot of perennial planting and also a lovely pond and stream.

As we are going to be welcoming Gail and Frances from the US I have suggested to them that they might like to spend a day visiting some gardens and I think Hampton Court and Stockton Bury would be the best combo for a day out. It will also give me a chance to show them some English countryside and maybe a stop in Bromyard or Leominster - both traditional market towns. You are more than welcome to join us - maybe we could have a blogging convoy!!!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Donate to NGS and Win a Yellow Book!

It's Malvern Show's Silver Jubilee this year and as part of their celebrations they're supporting the marvellous National Gardens Scheme (NGS). There'll be fundraising events such as an auction during the show and I thought it would be great if we here at Meet @ Malvern also supported their efforts. Anna is working out how a plant/seed/book swap can be fitted into our get together and I've put up a Just Giving button up on the sidebar for anyone who'd like to donate to the cause. If you can't make Malvern this time, it would be a good way of wishing us well.

Joe Swift (whom many of you know already as one of the Three Men Went to Mow) is NGS President and has kindly sent us this message explaining what it's all about:

The National Garden scheme is simply the most wonderful charity for garden lovers. It's so simple - The NGS annual publication 'The Yellow book' contains around 3,600 gardens up and down the country which open when they are at their peak. The average price is £3 for a garden visit, which I think is extremely good value and most of them also put on fabulous teas with home made cake, adding possibly the most important element to the days experience! The NGS is the biggest single fundraiser for MacMillan and Marie Curie [2 of our major cancer support charities - Ed] and it just goes to shows what can be achieved when garden lovers pulls together.

As you all know blogging is an immediate and extensive form of communication so I want all you garden bloggers out there to do your bit and spread the word of the NGS. Try and get all your readers to visit at least one yellow book this year and hopefully we can raise more than the staggering £2.5 million which was raised last year.


Thanks so much

Joe Swift (NGS President)

NB Anne and Victoria who will be joining us at Meet @ Malvern are opening their gardens under the Scheme in July and August respectively. Two perfect excuses for us to take Joe up on his challenge of visiting at least one NGS garden this year. I'll put up details of those near Malvern open around the Spring Show weekend in a later post.

Joe has also kindly donated a couple of Yellow Books (as shown above) - I'll enter all of you making a donation into a prize draw to win a copy. Gardenersclick have also given us some T-shirts, which you could opt to have instead: an excellent alternative for those of you unable to make use of the book.

So don't delay - click on the button in the sidebar and make your donation!

[Seriously cropped - Ed] photo of Joe Swift courtesy of James Alexander Sinclair.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

A Designer's Dream

Hot on the heels of yesterday's news update, I'm delighted Pat Atkins has sent me her guest post about her previous experiences at Malvern, whilst excitedly looking forward to her show garden for this year...

I have always known and loved the Malvern hills, as a small child I spent many an hour running around British Camp, usually in a force 8 gale. My first sight of the hills as I turn off towards Upton on Severn always makes me feel as though I am coming home.

I came late to garden designing, a career change I have never regretted. From the beginning my aim was to enter a show garden at the Malvern Show. In 2006 I finally achieved my ambition and built 'Incy Wincy Spider' sponsored by a school in Redditch. I won a bronze medal and felt very proud of myself.

However I had caught the bug, one garden wasn't enough, I had to make another, so 'All the World's a Stage' followed in 2007. Another bronze medal, although I listened to the judges feedback, tweaked the garden and entered it at Gardener's World Live the same year and won a silver. So it is worth getting that feedback.

Malvern Show

Gardener's World Live

This year the bug has bitten again and 'The Owl and The Pussycat is in production. I am working with a friend, we decided to grow all the plants ourselves, foolishly choosing the coldest winter for 30 years.

We have even woven the willow boundary fencing ourselves.

As you can see we had plenty of help with the potting on! Dogs,cats, mice nibbling plants and a large rat that dug holes in our large pots of ferns. That plus -15C, it has been a challenge. Hopefully we will have a garden and with a bit of luck it might even win a medal, but it's the excitement and friendship involved in building a garden at Malvern that is the most important thing.

If you want to know more link up to my blog or better still come and visit our garden and read the diary that we are making. Nibbles and wine will be liberally dispensed, to you as well as me. My dream to win a gold? No, I would like to be chosen as the public's favourite garden in the 2010 show!

See you at the Show.

Pat Atkins

Thanks Pat, for such a fascinating insight. I look forward to reading your blog updates (NB there's a link in the sidebar under Show People, Diary of a showgarden as well as the one above) and meeting you in May :)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Even More Visitors and Other News

Yesterday everyone was a-Twitter at the news that Princess Anne will be visiting the show on Friday 7th May. I hear that James is dusting off his poshest suit and frantically polishing up his shoes whilst Claire is practising her curtsy as the special 25th Anniversary show garden she's working on will be one of the highlights of the royal tour (AND it'll be the largest show garden ever seen in these fair isles to boot). As you can see the lovely Nina (Shows Development Officer) has already been out to choose her hat and the flowers for the presentation ;)

Such frantic preparations are of minor concern to us here at Meet @ Malvern HQ. The even juicier news is we have even more blogging chums joining us from over the water. I'm delighted Carrie and Andy will be joining us from Northern Ireland (so we only have Scotland to go in order to complete our set of pals from all GB countries) and Ewa will flying in from Poland and taking in the show during her well deserved break here in the UK. I'm sure they'll have the warmest of welcomes from everyone and do please visit their blogs and say hello if you need to get to know them a little beforehand.

Meet @ Malvern is also making the headlines in the gardening world. Yesterday, gardenersclick (an online 'gardening club' with around 10,000 members) sent out their monthly newsletter which includes a short piece about our get together. They've taken a stand at the show and will also be providing a gardeners' forum, where members will be on hand to answer questions. So do pop over and say hello, ask a question and even sign up if you're not a member already! They've also kindly agreed to donate enough bags for all Meet @ Malvern participants to kick-start your shopping activities. I found mine most useful last year and I'm hoping they'll also pop in an eco-friendly notebook and pen for everyone.

You may have spotted that we've been pretty excited here over Three Men Went to Mow (TMWTM) making an appearance at Malvern on the Friday and Saturday. They now have a sparkly new website which has all their TMWTM videos squeezed onto one comfy page plus news about their other scheduled appearances and any other mischief and mayhem they might be up to. Rumour has it they'll be trying out podcasting next :0

Finally the power of Twitter has alerted our activities to another participant for us all to go and say hello to. Pat Atkins is a local garden designer who's had show gardens at Malvern in previous years. This year she's set herself the challenge of not only limiting her budget to £1,000, but to also growing the plants needed. I'm hoping she'll write a special guest post for us here, but in the meantime you can catch up with how she's getting on in her show garden diary.

Picture courtesy and copyright of James Alexander-Sinclair.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Tickets Please!

This time last year Happy Mouffetard wrote:

Ceci n'est pas un billet*

Well, it is actually, but also so much more than that. It's an opportunity to gaze, to shop, to gain inspiration, to look at perfect flowers in awe, to covet plants, to wish I had a bigger garden, to learn, to make notes, to take photos and to enjoy a day out amongst thousands of other plant lovers.

It's the Malvern spring gardening show. And I have my tickets! Now I just have to wait six weeks [or so, check the countdown clock - Ed]...

(*'This is not a ticket', with apologies to René Magritte)

Which also gives me the ideal opportunity to remind you about our fantastic half price ticket deal:
  • We have a limited number of half-price tickets (for Friday or Saturday) if you write a full blog post on your blog (i.e. not just a mention in passing or a paragraph in a post) about the Spring Show or if you already have a blog but choose to write a guest post for us here
  • The deadline for posting is the 31st March 2010
  • Need inspiration? Then have a look at what Frances, Happy Mouffetard, Edith, Victoria and Karen have written thus far
  • If you would like to do a guest post here, then email me at the address on the sidebar with your content and any photo(s) you'd like to use.
  • We are more than happy for you to do simultaneous postings with it appearing on your own blog and here at the same time
  • If you are coming to Malvern for more than one day, then the lovely people at the showground are also offering any extra days at the slightly cheaper group rate
  • If you've already booked your tickets, or are one of the people who can attend as a member of the press, I still need to know which day(s) you are coming so your names can be added to the admission list for our dedicated VIP area
  • If you're coming with a partner or friend(s), their tickets should be booked separately via the Malvern Spring Show booking system, or purchased on the gate. I will also need to know their name(s) and day(s) for the VIP admission list

Don't forget the deadline - 31st March- and don't forget to send us the link to your post. I'll contact you to request the information needed for the Three Counties Showground and payment so they can issue your tickets.

Any questions about your post or the tickets offer? Just leave a comment below or drop me a line via email.


Friday, 12 March 2010

Tennessee Will Be Represented At Malvern

The seed was planted by Gail of Clay And Limestone. When the announcement was made by the perfectly pedicured VP of Veg Plotting and Helen of Patient Gardener about a blogger meet up at the Spring Gardening Show in Malvern Hills, and they threw the invitation open to the rest of the blogdom, regardless of locale, the dreaming began. We, Gail and I, chatted on the phone and in emails about how wonderful it would be if we could attend. But of course it was an impossible dream. Flying across the ocean was the biggest obstacle, how could it even be considered? The cost, the time, the all around scariness, no, it could not happen no matter how enticing the offer.

Time passes, wheels turning, cogs clicking all the while. In a lifetime of gardening, the gardens of England have always held the greatest allure. It is the one place singing the sweet siren call to get a true homebody to leave her garden, home and pillow. In spite of a great dislike of airplanes, airports and heights in general, inquiries were made as to the availability of flights, just to see what was out there. That was all it took, that first step. Suddenly the decision was made, it was possible, even probable that we would attend the Malvern Meet Up. The seed had germinated. A comment was left on the site that two intrepid travelers wished to crash the European event. The response was gratifying, we would be welcomed with open arms. There would be assistance in transport, locating a place to stay, and of course there would be wonderful people to meet and gardens to see. Whilst there will sadly be no plant or even seed purchases made to bring home, sniff, there are other items of the arts and craft type that could possibly be squeezed into a suitcase for the return trip.

Much planning and figuring still needs to be done, but the die is cast. The seed has sprouted. Excitement builds with each new posting by VP and Helen about the show and itinerary. Wellies are available in our sizes to be lent by the most generous of garden bloggers. Our passports are valid, the flight plans are made, two Tennessseans are coming to Malvern. We can't wait.

And we can't wait either, Frances and Gail :D

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Malvern Memories: James Alexander-Sinclair demonstrates new Acme Rapid omelette-making device

"Just gently press on the back of the device, whilst whispering gentle words of encouragement"

"And voilà!"

"Oops. Just don't forget to place a bowl beneath the device before activating it".

Monday, 8 March 2010

Malvern Memories: A Real Shopper

Whilst we're on the subject of shopping, Anna admirably demonstrates the rewards that proper dedication to the art can bring. I've combined a couple of her previous posts to bring you:

First up at Meet @ Malvern is the house that Himself built...

I am away from home and garden at the moment but himself is keeping me updated with his progress in putting up my new greenhouse. We bought this at the Malvern Spring Show back in May at a special show price. I did not have any intentions of making such a purchase before the show and was sweet talked into it by himself. However I am smitten with it already - it's bigger and better than its predecessor whose removal still caused my eyes to moisten as it departed for pastures new. I can't wait to get home later this week to make a start getting everything sorted out and to sow some sweet peas.

...and then she took us home to meet the family...

They are sociable, are not fussy eaters, do not play loud music at night and only speak when they are spoken to !

They came home with us after we visited the Malvern Spring Gardening Show earlier this year. Himself having not only talked me into buying a new greenhouse but also into purchasing a Can -O- Worms from Wiggly Wrigglers who were exhibiting at the show. We shared our campervan with a thousands worms for a night or two - well I am exaggerating somewhat - they were in a sealed bag in a storage box, fixed to the back of the van. There was definitely no danger of any of them worming their way into our bed.

I must admit that I had hankered after a wormery for several years and just like the greenhouse they were on sale at a special show price. They are a source of constant amusement - I disappear into the shed at least once a day to check on their well being and to talk to them. However I do not think I will have any usable compost until the spring and I do not think that there will be vast amounts in the future to bulk up my allotment beds. My thoughts were confirmed by a recent visit to the library where I read a report on wormeries in "Which ? Gardening". Although Can- O -Worms emerged as the best buy the report advised that this product will not meet all the average gardener's compost needs. I am not complaining though as I think that I am getting my moneys worth in enjoyment, as well as having another place to dispose of kitchen waste. The question of the moment is whether they will be warm and cosy enough in the shed overwinter or should I bring them inside? Himself is not enthusiastic about the latter option.

Their very first meal ~

Anna wrote this in October 2009, so it looks like her worms have thrived since last year's Spring Show. And only last week she wrote about how delighted she still is with her greenhouse.

Content and pictures courtesy of Greentapestry.

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Gentle Art of Shop 'Til You Drop

A few days ago Frances realised she and Gail won't be able to take part in the fun that is stuffing-your-car-with-as-many-plants-and-gardening-gadgets-as-you-possibly-can-plus-a-few-more game and was feeling a little disappointed. That very same day, @Malvernmeet Twitter follower Sarah Walker (aka @ArtShades) delivered the guest post she'd kindly agreed to do which shows some of the other shopping opportunities available. There's plenty of quality arts and crafts to be found courtesy of the Worcestershire Guild of Designer Craftsmen and their stalls are in the very same cattle sheds which Edith told us about in her recent guest post.

So without further ado, here's Sarah to tell you a little more about life as an exhibitor...

The Malvern Spring Gardening show is as eagerly awaited by enthusiastic craftsmen from the three counties of Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire as it is by enthusiastic gardeners.

For members of the Worcestershire Guild of Designer Craftsmen it’s the first big show of the year and we all look forward to meeting at Malvern in May. It’s great to get together again after months of toiling away alone in our workshops and many of us haven’t seen each other since our pre-Christmas show.

The show set-up is full of enthusiasm – we are all eager to unpack new stock and reveal our new designs. It’s a cheery and fun atmosphere with everyone helping each other to put on a good display. There’s everything from fine furniture to ceramics, a variety of textiles and many forms of glass, willow baskets and silverware, forged metalwork and jewellery in numerous styles and materials.

Most of us bounce in bright and early on the first morning of the show full of optimism and anticipation. There’s always a discussion about the weather forecast and how many layers we have or haven’t put on. The weather at the show over the years has ranged from four days of cold winds and constant rain to sweltering heat when you can think of far better places to be than a dusty cattle shed.

On the first day the serious RHS gardeners appear once they have scoured the show for the prize plants and visited the floral marquee to see the blooms at there very best. There is a steady flow of visitors and it is a very civilised atmosphere – these visitors know quality when they see it! As exhibitors from the same tribe we share the excitement of the first big sales and wide grins are exchanged as a Guild member leads their first customer to the communal credit card machine. It’s a long day, but everyone is fired up by the positive response to their work and goes home happy.

Friday is busy from the start – it’s usually a good day for sales. Visitors are chatty and interested in our work, often they have taken the day off work to be there and they make serious purchases. It is also the start of the game we play – spotting the ‘must-have’ plant of the year. We start to make predictions as more and more of the same thing comes wafting past. One year it was Acers, another double clematis, then hellebores, hostas, blue Himalayan poppies and ornamental grasses. We go home happy, but in need of that large glass of wine.

Saturday is full of couples and keen families. For me it’s great that husbands and wives are shopping together as my lamps are often a joint purchase. We start to spot the gadget of the year – usually a cumbersome object that is designed to inflict as much damage as possible on the surrounding crowds. Over the years we’ve seen the telescopic window mop, all manner of folding wheelbarrows, the brightly coloured plastic trugs and wire plant supports (often worn elegantly around the husband’s neck). Sales are usually brisk and we are busy chatting to our customers. We start to flag in the afternoon and if some kind soul has baked a cake word soon gets round and you’ll find us deserting our stands and hotfooting it to the tea cubicle for a sugar rush. By the end of the day our bums are numb from perching on a high at-eye-level-with-your-customer stool, our feet ache and we are tiring of being so nice to everyone! We get home and immediately bark at our loved ones for not anticipating just how tired we would be and making sure the dinner is ready and waiting. At this point you wonder if you’ll ever be able to smile at anyone again.

Everyone drags themselves in on Sunday and the show takes a while to get going. We moan a lot on Sundays! Our joviality has run out and we now know why it is we work alone. Having confirmed both the plant and the gadget of the year we are now sick of seeing them. If it’s hot we like to complain about the amount of flesh on show, the dripping ice creams, the sticky fingers and where we’d rather be. If it’s wet we moan about the dripping waterproofs, brollies and contents of the burger buns. Many of the visitors have no interest in what we are selling and plod aimlessly through the hall following the crowd in front, without ever turning their heads. One bonus is that we don’t have to smile as much on a Sunday as so few people make eye contact! We are eternally grateful to those that show a genuine interest in our talents and hand over their hard-earned money on a Sunday. They are the real highlights of our long day.

As 6pm draws near, and word goes round that we can pack up, the lethargy disperses and we dismantle our stands and march our boxes back out to the cars and vans with renewed vigour. The display boards and electrics are whisked away and we all help to load up the trailers. After four days in a darkened shed I lift my eyes to the beauty of the Malvern Hills and am eternally grateful that I live there. I am within just five minutes of that bottle of Pinot Grigio waiting for me in the fridge. Cheers!

We hope you can tear yourself away from all that is gardening and venture into the Wye Hall to say hello.

Sarah Walker

Sarah designs and makes contemporary lampshades and writes a blog about her design ideas which are often inspired by her garden on the Eastern slopes of the Malvern Hills. [She also visited Painswick Rococo Gardens a few days after I did and it's interesting to see how her visit and The Exedra in particular, inspired her - Ed]

She is a member of the Worcestershire Guild of Designer Craftsmen, which exhibits in the Wye Hall at the Malvern Spring Gardening Show and the Malvern Autumn Show.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Exciting news about tickets!

Well we have teased you long enough and now VP and I can reveal the great deal that the lovely people at the Three Counties Spring Show have offered us.

They have offered us a limited number of half-price tickets (for Friday or Saturday) for all those who write a full blog post about the Spring Show before the event or who write a guest post for the Meet@Malvern blog. The deadline for posting your offering is the 31st March 2010. So go on get writing, tell us about your previous experiences of the Spring Show and/or what you are looking forward to etc. If you would like to do a guest post for the Meet@Malvern site then email VP at the address on the sidebar. We are more than happy for you to do simultaneous postings with the post appearing on your own and Meet@Malvern blogs at the same time.

Don't forget the deadline - 31st March- and don't forget to send us the link to your post. When we receive your link VP will contact you to request the information we need for the Three Counties Showground so they can issue your half price tickets.

On top of this generous offer the Three Counties Showground are providing a special area for us to meet. This will be located near the refreshment area and near the Living Design Theatre so we will be close to the show gardens and the coffee - what more could we ask for! Bloggers will also be given free wireless access while at the showground just in case they can't resist blogging/tweeting about their day. Partners/Guests of bloggers will also be able to use this facility but we will need to know who you are planning to bring so please drop VP a line.

We have more interesting and exciting news to reveal but you will just have to wait and see what these are...we wouldn't want to over excite you too soon!

Helen (aka PatientGardener)

Monday, 1 March 2010

Showtime: A Sneak Preview

We've still to clarify a couple of details with the ticket deal, so until Helen is able to announce everything ASAP, I thought you'd like a sneak preview of the Anniversary show garden which Claire has been collaborating on with 2 other designers. The turf was broken a couple of days before our visit last Thursday and the first foundations laid. Claire will be guest posting later to tell us more about the garden and how a collaborative project works, but in the meantime you might like to have a look at this design drawing from the Malvern Show website.

It was quite strange to be at the showground and not surrounded by stalls and various marquees and tents and to realise just how vast the site actually is. This is the view to the Malvern hills from outside the main office on a cold, drizzly February day. There's still some snow left on them thar hills.

And this is the view from the show garden across to the entrance through which I usually come into the show. The green buildings to the centre right are some of the cattle sheds Edith mentioned in her guest post. Click to enlarge the picture if needed. It'll be sooooo different when you're there in May :)

Update 04/03: Claire has started her diary about the show garden's progress over at her blog :)