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.
These hints and tips were compiled in April 2010 just before the show and have been lightly edited to include a few more. You'll see in some of the categories that some of the advice differs - it's up to you decide which tip best suits you! Many thanks to Anna, Helen, Sharon and Frankie for responding so well to my initial request for information. Frankie also supplied the photos [which are her copyright] showing two of the key things needed to ensure you can easily maximise your plant purchasing requirements :)
Staying for the show
If you're thinking of staying for the show either to attend on more than one day or to make more of this beautiful area, you need to be aware that a lot of the better accommodation (including campsites) is booked by late January or February. The Accommodation page has details of our blogger tried and tested venues, plus the local tourist information contact details.
If you have any difficulty in finding accommodation around Malvern or the local villages, it's worth considering making nearby Worcester your base and using the rail service to Great Malvern. You can then use the shuttle bus facility to take you to the showground.
Getting there and parking
NB If you're coming from further afield and making use of public transport or you would like to see a map of the area, then you will find our Getting There page will help you find your way around.
If travelling by car for the day - aim to get there as early as possible. I crawled from the M5 all the way to the showground last year, aiming for a 11am arrival. I arrived at 12.
The showground is well signposted. We have never had any problems with travel/parking but I don't know whether it is because we have stayed locally and get there early. Anna
RHS members get to park in the members car park AKA the field closer to the entrance. You buy a ticket via the RHS and get a window sticker [aka Forward Parking Pass - Ed]. Frankie
There are several large parking areas on and around the showground which is free. There is also 'gold' parking for which you pay extra (I think it was £10 last year) and is closer to a gate. Sharon
Generally the car parks aren't that far, so many people have their picnic back at their car having bought deckchairs etc with them. Helen
There's a free shuttle bus to/from the railway station at Great Malvern to the show ground. It starts at 9am and runs every 15/20 minutes.
Anyone who's registered disabled can park in a special area very close to the floral marquee. Take your disabled parking badge with you and wave it to the friendly steward who will then direct you to where you need to go.
Best time to arrive (NB show times are 9am to 6pm each day)
As early as possible as it's a huge show. Frankie
Arrive for 9AM if you can (opening time) as it is much less busy for a while and you get to look at the flowers in the floral marquee in relative peace; if you buy anything while its still early, then you can use the plant creche to look after them until you've worn yourself out and are ready to leave. Sharon
I get there for when it opens but then I only have 5 min drive. Helen
Is buying a programme good value for money or did you get by OK using the show's signage?
I don't usually bother but it might be good for first timers. Frankie
The programme is good if you want to search for specific exhibitors, otherwise the signage is good. With the showground being based on a grid system, if you're methodical you can cover off all of the showground. (Not that I am methodical and I tend to wander hither and thither, attracted by the pretty plants). Sharon
I have never bought a programme although I know Anna does. I have been so many times I know my way round but the only problem is that I don't know the timings for the theatre and they don't have these on display. However, last year I think I printed it off the web in advance. Helen
I have always bought a programme although I did balk at the price last year - £4.00. I like having a programme so that I can be sure that I see everything that I want to and have some sort of rough plan for the day in my head. I think that the signage is great if you want to know where certain points and facilities are but it does not give you the fine detail or timetable for particular events. Anna
Where to visit early or late in the day
No real preference but there is one really good stand I love that sells galvanised old bath tubs that sells out early on. Sadly I can't remember the name but you go through the entrance by the RHS car park, bear right on one of the main drags and it's down a dead end lane to the right. Frankie
Definitely march off to the floral marquee first - it's glorious and is much better seen without the hoardes who will make their way there later. The gardens should also be seen quite early, unless it starts raining - in which case, put your brolly up and go and visit the gardens while everyone else rushes to the tents. Sharon
Don't really have a regular time table apart from making a dash for the floral marquee when we arrive. Having said that I quite often return about 4.00pm for a second reccie and it's usually reasonably quiet then. Anna
Buying plants and other stuff - plant crèche and other facilities
Use the crèche frequently and at the end of the day a porter (working for a charity) will take your purchases to the car park in return for a donation. Last year we bought £9.99 collapsible crates on wheels with handles. They are a bit like wheelie suitcases but with a plastic crate and they are fantastic for stuffing full of plants. When loaded, head back to the crèche and start again. They were for sale by all the entrance gates. Frankie
There is a plant creche, for a small fee. I seem to remember hoardes of scouts and girl guides helping people back to their cars with piles of plants for a small donation (though I may have confused this with another show!) Sharon
The creche is situated in what reminds me of an old scout hut. It is between the floral marquee and the cattle sheds and is the only wooden building so easy to spot. You can leave plants there for as long as you want and they only ask for a donation in return. The creche is run by volunteers generally from local garden clubs. There is also a portering service, generally run by scouts/cadet groups who will take your purchases to your car for a small fee. Helen
The plant sell off starts at 4pm on Sunday. You can usually start to reserve plants from around 2pm at participating stands and gardens. You will be given a raffle ticket to exchange for your purchases later.
Where to eat and drink, or bring your own
Lots of eating vans although not always easy to get a seat. RHS members can use the members tent which is OK and you can sit down plus a smaller queue for the loo. Frankie
The usual showground 'trailers' with plenty of carbohydrates but not necessarily a taste sensation. There is a restaurant on site, and one of the permanent cattle sheds has a range of producers selling their food wares - roast pork buns, cider, posh sausages, ice cream - all the things you need for a good day out (not cheap though!). I'd recommend you take something to drink, and if you're there all day or for several days, you may prefer to take some of your own food. Sharon
Food wise I tend to buy something from one of the concessions. I don't think they are that expensive but everyone has a different view. The concessions have a wide range of food from burgers etc through pancakes to fish and salads. Last year Anna and I shared a table with two ladies who put me to shame with their prawn salads but then made me feel better by going to buy some chips. Some people bring a picnic but I don't think there are that many places at the spring show for eating picnics and to me it is a pain to carry one around with you - need hands for plant buying. Helen
Usually bring our own and then retire to the camper van to put our feet up for a while. Have used the mobile catering areas at times but I have struggled sometimes to find something I like. There is an restaurant facility for RHS members but have never used it. There is also locally grown and produced foodstuff for sale in the Wye Hall - have occasionally had some tasty odds and ends from there. Anna
NB the show has a food market for the first time in 2010, where local food producers will be touting their delicious wares. Another possibility for your on-site eating as well or for providing tasty items for any after show activities.
What to wear
Layers - be prepared for hot AND cold, sunny, windy or rainy!
Comfy shoes! Frankie
Take a waterproof coat! (and a brolly so that you can admire the gardens in the rain). It can be very cold as the showground is exposed. Sharon
It can be very windy sometimes at Malvern and as the show is in May you never know what the weather will do. I have been there in Tshirts and also in waterproofs. As I live so close I normally wait until I see the weather forecast before I make a decision. Helen
Comfortable shoes with a good grip are a must. Umbrellas get in the way so no point bringing one. Best to have some rainwear that you can pack away into a bag should the sun come out later. Anna
Where to go if it rains
All the outdoor stands - there will be less of a crush. Frankie
Take a brolly and admire the gardens whilst everyone else rushes for shelter (see above). Sharon
If it rains all is not lost. There is a the floral marquee, the cattle sheds which have a wide range of things in them from arts and crafts, garden sundries, societies and clubs, flower arranging and I think this year botanical drawing. If you find yourself caught over by the show gardens then you can pop into the theatre and heckle JAS. Helen
If it rains - I try to persuade myself that I will not dissolve although once or twice we have headed back for the camper van for an interlude. Anna
Last year I was caught in a heavy rain shower at one of the cafe areas. It became very crowded as a result, but everyone was very good natured about it. We ended up peeking in each others bags and admiring various purchases. Tips on where to go to get the best value [insert plant or garden object of your choice] were also exchanged.
It's also a good time to be at the back of one of the outside nursery stalls (which is undercover) as you can get into a very involved and detailed discussion with the stall holder.
Pacing the day
I've never managed to pace it - the day is not long enough. Frankie
I go straight to the floral marquee, ignoring everything on the way. That way you can walk around the marquee and chat to the nursery people about the plants in a civilised manner. Many nurseries will put plants to one side for you but you can also take advantage of the free plant creche.
The next thing I do is look at the show gardens, again before it gets too busy. The gardens are in one area and unlike other shows are a range of sizes. It has a more laid back feel to it and generally doesn't get ridiculously busy, although it is a few years since I have been on a Saturday.
After the showgardens I work my way through the nurseries which have stands outside of the floral marquee. There are two rows of stands for nurseries. They have a small marquee each for their staff and then the front area is divided with white picket fences. Each nursery has a small display garden and/or plants stacked up for sale. These do get very busy and you have to battle sometimes to get to the back where you pay. Helen
Anything else you think will help others
Take lots of cash. There is a cash-point but only one and a long queue. Take a list of 'target' plants and try to stick to it otherwise you can end up with a boot full of impulse buys. It is great for garden furniture as well as plants. Frankie
Don't forget to admire the view - the hills are gorgeous! Sharon
You can leave the show ground whenever you want and the staff on the gate will stamp your hand so you can return. Helen
There is a cash point at the showground. Have not used it but there is usually is a porter service. Absolute essentials for me are notebook and pen. Would also suggest that it is best to avoid to leave trips to the loo to the last moment :) Anna
I hope this has answered all of your questions, if not then do get in touch and we'll find the answer for you and make sure this post gets updated for everyone else to see. If you have anything to add, do leave details in the Comments.