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.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Sadly I don't have a picture of the Malvern Hills in the snow, so here's a view of just around the corner from this time last year instead. Happy Christmas everyone :)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Painting With Plants

Bryan's Ground - during 2011's Malvern Spring Show

This year saw the end of the Chris Beardshaw Mentorship. However, that doesn't mean his involvement with the Malvern Spring Show will be ending. Yesterday a new show feature Painting With Plants was announced with Chris very much to the fore. As he's also returning to Chelsea with a show garden next year, for him May will certainly be busy!

10 borders will be displayed, each inspired by a painting, photograph or a landscape. I was certainly inspired by Bryan's Ground earlier this year, which very much has an artistic feel to it, so who knows perhaps it might also feature at the show next year? The border will be purely plants - no hardscaping -so it'll be interesting to see what each entrant comes up with.

This new initiative is designed to put the focus on community groups, schools and charities and the top three designs will each receive a prize of £1,000 for their nominated good cause. Have a look at the explanatory letter and entry form if you think this is for you.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Anyone for Asheville in 2012?

The next USA Garden Bloggers Fling is all set for 18-20th May in Asheville, North Carolina. Preparations are already well underway and details can be found on the dedicated Fling Blog.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Harvest Time at Malvern

The Malvern Autumn Show is always a celebration of harvest time, particularly the local cider apples and perry pears like those in the picture. Did you know the Three Counties Showground has the national collection of perry pears? I must try to find them. If you're staying in the area, you might like to follow this cider and perry trail :)

The show starts next Saturday and already Deb Bird is hard at work putting together her next show garden which like the others will have an edible theme. Thank goodness all of them will be in a tent, seeing some more miserable weather is forecast for the next couple of days!

Currently I'm not sure if I'll be at the show owing to family commitments. However, Ann Somerset Miles will be blogging live from the event (probably in her many blogging guises!) and Mark Diacono is firmly part of the weekend's programme. With Deb in attendance too (do go and say hello!), it looks like there's plenty of opportunity for an informal get together over the weekend. I'll round up any posts I find afterwards, and fingers crossed I get to see you there.

Do let me know if you're going (and the day) and I'll put up a list below, so you can keep an eye out for each other...

Update - here's the posts I've found so far:
Ann Somerset Miles with her Dobies hat on ;)
Patient Gardener
The Inelegant Gardener

PlantPassion was also there (no blog post as yet) and several from UK Veg Gardeners.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Free Accommodation Available

Way back in June I received the following email from Julia Goodfellow-Smith:

I’ve just stumbled across your blog about meeting at the garden shows held in Malvern.
My husband and I are keen gardeners and have recently moved to Malvern – just a mile or so, I’d guess, from the showground and ½ mile from Great Malvern train station. We’re also couchsurfers – see – so that means that we’re happy to put up gardeners visiting the show, free of charge.

I can’t see how to add a comment to your blog, so thought I’d let you know so that you can add us to your accommodation section, if you like.

I promised Julia I'd not only add her kind offer to the Accommodation page, I'd also let you know about it closer to the show. For those of you not familiar with the couch surfing concept, there's loads of generous folk around the world who offer complete strangers a bed for the night, or to show them around their town or city. You can find what's available via the above link to the website.

If that sounds a bit scary, couch surfers are encouraged to write about their experiences with their hosts, so any potentially dodgy ones get weeded out very quickly. My friend C talks very warmly about the people she's put up for the night at her home in Bath via this scheme.

Since I last looked at the website in June, it seems you have to join up in order to find out what accommodation is on offer and where. I did notice there were a couple of others available in and around Malvern, so this could be just the thing for you if you fancy a more personal and budget stay with people who like to welcome visitors and know the area well. Be sure to let Julia know how you found out about the scheme ;)

My thanks goes to Julia for getting in touch and reminding me this option is available :)

Friday, 26 August 2011

Fixing the Popular Posts Widget

For a while the Popular Posts widget (i.e. the one Blogger developed and available via the Add a Gadget menu) in the right hand sidebar has been displaying incorrectly and today it's irritated me enough to do something about it!

The picture was truncated and the left hand side of the accompanying post title merged into the picture OR for posts that were text only, the first 2-3 letters of the post title were missing. I tried altering the settings in the Popular Posts widget itself, but there's very little there to play with. Removing the thumbnail option only made things worse: all post titles were displayed with the first 2-3 characters missing. Having upgraded to IE9 recently and its attendant problems, I also had a look at the blog via a a couple of different browsers, only to find the problem hadn't gone away. Grrrr!

For once searching Blogger Help for the answer was successful - see reply #3 (NB my search was for Popular Posts widget truncated). Removal of the following line from the blog template's HTML is needed:


If you have the same problem with this widget and don't mind fiddling around with HTML, then this will probably work for you too. Save a copy of your current template first (just to be on the safe side), then look for the part of the template which starts:

.sidebar li {

The offending line should be a couple or so lines further down - I can't say exactly where as my template looked slightly different to that shown in the Blogger Help reply. Anyway, locate and remove the offending line then save your revised template. Refresh your blog and have a look - a nice square picture icon (if you ticked the show thumbnail option when setting up the widget) and clear text should now be looking back at you :)

If that pesky line isn't there (and if I was a betting girl, I'd lay a shilling that it is), then restore your saved template copy and seek help via Blogger - I don't have the answer I'm afraid :(

Good luck!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Flowers From My Local Nursery

Malvern Show has lots of nurseries within its three counties catchment which prove they're up with the best who exhibit at Chelsea and suchlike. However, I'm always pleased to see my local specialist nursery when it's time to display his foxgloves based on the national collection he holds here in Wiltshire.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Postcard From Malvern

Atomic physics meets the Wicker Man: just one of the many contrasts to be seen at this year's Malvern Spring Gardening Show.

It's a fantastic show this year and I've had excellent company over the past few days to take it all in. I have a more extensive post over at Friday's The Guardian Gardening Blog which was sent in direct from the showground :)

I'm collecting together everyone else's posts [there's some absolute corkers - Ed] and will update this post with a round up for you via Mr Linky very soon. Update 17/5: Mr Linky is here! Do add your post about Malvern if I haven't already :)

Update 26/8: The picture heading this post is now playing on the Wicker Man website as part of their 2011 Sculpture slideshow :)

Note: Ann Somerset Miles deserves a gold medal for not only blogging on 4 different blogs, but also blogging on each one for 4 days from the show!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Where Shall We Meet?

There's around 25-30 of us going to the show this year, mainly on the Thursday and Friday. As I warned at the beginning of the year, Helen and I simply haven't had to do much in the way of organising things like we did last year. A more informal meeting worked in September, so here's hoping it works again in a few days time.

Besides, the show is HUGE, so you'll need oodles of time to get around it all and make the most of the day.

We don't have our own meeting place this year, so there's no central place where you can be assured another friendly face will turn up and see you there. Last September the Design Theatre turned into the natural meeting place and looking at the weather forecast for later this week, it seems the Garden in Harmony Theatre will perform the same function this time.

I'm there on the Thursday and Saturday and I'll make sure I'm around at 3.30pm just inside the tent door on the right as you face the stage if you'd like to come and say hello. If it's hot and sunny, I'll be in the same spot, but outside!

I've contacted TCAS to see if there's somewhere we can leave messages - I'll let you know if I find out anything. Otherwise, do DM me on @Malvernmeet or email me at Malvernmeet at gmail dot com if you'd like to arrange something more definite. Please keep this to the pm - I hardly saw anything of the show last year and I'd like to this time!

Monday, 25 April 2011

From Paper to the Eve of the Build: Keni Lee's Second Installment

Here's the second installment of Keni Lee's guest post on his design submission for the Chris Beardshaw Mentorship Scholarship (CBMS)...

About the garden

The 'Atom' theme was chosen by the CBMS team in conjunction with this year's UNESCO year of Chemistry. My design was inspired partly by the metaphysical understanding of atoms by the 5th century BC Chinese philosopher, Laozi; and partly by the convergence of Newtonian- and quantum-mechanical understanding of atoms. The latter is guided mainly by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which basically states that matter can exist both as a particle and a wave. This is reflected in the garden by contrasting features of rock vs water and circle vs angles. This bridges well with the central principles of daodejing, the defining work by Laozi. Many in the world would recognise his work via the infamous “ying-yang” concept. However, the daodejing is more profound than this. In one of its passages (Chapter 42), it stated "Dao begets one; one begets two; two begets three; three begets all things". In modern interpretation, this "trinity of pure things" can be recognised as "proton, electron and neutron", the building blocks of life on Earth. It is interesting to note that the trinity concept is also prevalent in the Christian faith.

As one can see, the unifying concept across both the scientific and metaphysical view of atoms can be brought together by this "trinity of pure things". This unifying concept is reflected by the presence of all features of my garden in sets of three.

Building the garden and my personal take of things so far

From the moment I first sketched my first draft design up to very recently, I had no idea that building a garden would cost so much and that it would involve so many factors such as plants availability and resource availability. I think I have learnt more about project management than garden design in these past few months leading to the build. The odd thing is, I enjoyed every single second of it. The pressure is omnipresent and sometimes you just want to give up. But I have decided to dedicate this garden to my late father, so throwing down the towel is not an option for me. In many ways, the garden reflects my relationship with my father. My father has always been very proud of his Chinese roots, whilst appreciative of my Western perspective of things in life. Seeing the world from these two very perspectives can be both frustrating and enriching at the same time, a sentiment that I wish to portray in my design.

Schedule-wise, the construction will begin on the 18th of April. Due to difficulties in securing leave from my work, I have had to schedule the build in a staggered manner. For the 1st week, my partner will begin the building of the hard landscaping features. Hopefully, all major work would be done by then. During the 2nd week, I have to unfortunately fly to Shanghai for business, and my partner will be flown to Berlin for work too. So build will only continue on the 3rd week, unless I can find volunteers to help with the build. I am trying to get help from friends, but it's difficult when your friends are scattered in the four corners of the globe, and families are thousands of miles away. I will be onsite full time from the 29th April.

Final words

I hope this account shed some light into my thoughts and what the garden mean to me. Designing is such a personal experience that it is sometimes challenging to convey emotion or ideas in words. I hope that the finish garden will be a success and that visitors to my garden will appreciate the finer details weaved into the garden. Please feel free to comment if you have any thoughts or feedback or advice, I will be delighted to hear from you.

Thanks Keni for giving us such a personal and great insight into the challenges faced when designing and building a show garden. I'm sure the project management and problem solving experience you've gained are just as important as the show garden itself.

Today is the start of the second week of the build at Malvern folks and it's been hot and thirsty work so far. Do keep an eye on Keni's progress via his blog.

NB Design images are courtesy of TCAS and NOT available under a Creative Commons licence.

Monday, 18 April 2011

From Laozi to Heisenberg – The Making Of

The show garden build begins today and Keni Lee has kindly agreed to guest blog for Meet @ Malvern to give us an insight of what it's like. Today he tells us a little about himself and takes us up to the point of the acceptance of his design...


For this year’s Malvern Spring Gardening Show, I will be building a show garden under the auspice of the Chris Beardshaw Mentoring Scholarship (CBMS) programme. This short article tells the story of how and why I got involved, as well as describing the underlying principles of my garden.

About me and why on earth am I building a show garden at Malvern

I am originally from Malaysia but grew up in various countries around the globe, including France and Japan. I have a PhD in Chemistry from France and currently work in healthcare PR in London. I speak fluent French, Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay; and English I suppose. Other than being a very serious amateur gardener for the past few years, I have no formal training in horticulture or garden design. Having said that, I am pretty good in botany (as part of my undergraduate studies) and bonsai cultivation.

Since moving to England, I have been inspired by the British healthy obsession with all things nature and gardening. An obsession that is unique amongst other European countries that I am familiar with. Having lived in one of West Sussex great gardens (Nymans), I was motivated to get into garden design/horticulture. By pure chance, I stumbled upon a website with a link to the CBMS less than a week before its deadline. My initial thought was that if I win the competition, this would be a very good indication that I may have a little bit of talent in this profession.

So I sketched a few drawings and sent them through. I was delighted when I was informed that my design has been shortlisted and I would proceed to the next few stages of the competition. However, within days, I received news that my father died, and I had to fly back to Malaysia for the funeral during the crucial few weeks when the subsequent rounds of the scholarship selection process took place. The organising committee was very kind with me and allowed me to extend a few of their deadlines. Eventually, and to my great surprise, I got in and my design was selected as one of the finalists.

Thanks Keni - the next installment takes us up to the eve of the start of the build. If you can't wait to know more, Keni also has his own blog all about this show garden...

Sunday, 3 April 2011

A Quick Walk and Some Snippets About May :)

Life has been very hectic lately with trips up to Birmingham on various family errands, so it was lovely on Monday to stop off at Malvern on the way home to catch up with what's happening with the preparations for the Spring Show.

I was a bit too early for my appointment, so an added bonus was parking the car close to Helen's and taking a quick walk at the foot of the Malverns on the common land near her house. As you can see it was a glorious spring day and a real tonic after a stressful morning.

It was great to see Vicky, Nina and Sharon again and to find out what's in store for us in May. There's eleven showgardens entered for the Chris Beardshaw Scholarship which is significantly up on last year's numbers. I'm hoping some of them will feature in guest posts here at Meet @ Malvern once the build gets underway on the 18th April. This year's theme is Atom, so there's lots of scope for interesting features and focal points in the designs.

Last year's Biodiversity theme continues in the Garden in Harmony theatre where James will again be master of all he surveys. Previous CBS winner Paul Hervey-Brookes has designed the stage area plus two satellite gardens. See my Green Shoots post for more details on this year's programme of events.

The theatre will be further from the coffee/catering area this year so we need to think where it'll be best for us to meet up at the show, especially as we won't have our Bloggers' meeting area this time. We do have the option of using the large flags to create a meet-up point though, so your thoughts on where these might go if we use them are welcome.

A new feature for this year's show is a book slot, with various garden authors appearing on each day to talk about their books and to sign copies. I'm pleased to see that quite a few of last year's Meet will feature prominently: Mark with his Taste of the Unexpected; Lia's lovely Twilight Garden and Anne Wareham with her hot off the press The Bad Tempered Gardener. I'll tell you more when I have the full list of authors and appearance dates.

It looks like it's going to be a great show!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Practice Sessions

Fearful we might have lost the knack of having a good time at Malvern, we've had a couple of practice sessions this week to ensure our meeting muscles are kept in good trim. First up was the RHS London Design Show. Arabella, Lazy Trollop and Victoria have already covered what happened in great detail: I'll only add why were the major design elements of the show shoved to the back of the Lindley Hall?

Not only were there a couple of middling roof garden designs; there was a good programme of talks (luckily GirlAboutGarden was there to thoroughly cover the one given by Diarmuid Gavin), advice from top designers including megaguru John Brookes; plus displays from the Society of Garden Design and a sneak preview of some of the major show gardens at Chelsea this year.

As you can see I also ensured my buying muscles were in good form too. I lost my heart to this Hellebore 'Winter Moonbeam', not only for its very large and prolific upward facing flowers, but also for its marbled foliage. I bought 2, which are due to go into a couple of very large pots either side of the steps leading down to the shed :)

Yesterday Helen and I braved the gloomy drizzly weather to meet at the home of John Sales (former Gardens Advisor to the National Trust) for our first taste of a Women's Farm and Garden Association event. 16 of us came together to admire John's collection of 250 cultivars in his Cotswold garden. I was particularly keen to go as I avidly followed his paper trail in the National Trust archives for a couple of years when I volunteered at their HQ.

The paper impression I'd formed was a man of succinct and straightforward, no nonsense advice. However, this didn't reveal the twinkly sense of humour and hospitality we were treated to. His position as NT advisor and later consultancy work meant he's been able to indulge a passion for collecting snowdrops. Not only that he freely lets them hybridise to see if anything interesting results. If they do, they're also planted out and named after his grandchildren or given names such as 'January Sales' (because of its early flowering habit) or 'Compu Ted' (after a relative who's rather keen on computing).

Much of the collection is contained in an ancient ditch bordering the garden and here the snowdrops were on display to their best advantage: massed plantings reaching above eye level. For me it was good to see the differences between a G. plicatus cultivar (very broad leaves, usually grey-green in colour), G. elwesii (very large flowers), G. woronowii (very broad, bright green leaves) and my more familiar G. nivalis ones. We were surprised at how tall some of the latter ones were: this is because snowdrops tend to get taller with age.

The rarer snowdrops were to be found in the main garden, some in a 'bed of treasures'. Here it was easy to pick out the individual characters of some of the more precious cultivars and to compare the striking yellow ones which (shhhhh!) to my eye looked a bit sickly compared to their green counterparts. I was also able to see what my freebie G. 'Augustus' - garnered on Tuesday with my Hellebore purchase - will look like when they eventually flower. This is a plicatus cultivar which is fairly short and bulks up well. I'm glad I saw in situ it because I've now had a rethink on where I'm going to put it in the garden.

Helen and I giggled over whether our posts will look similar as we were taking pictures of the same views of the garden, so I'll leave it up to her to give you the main tour. It's safe to say that our long chat in the pub afterwards, plus the one everyone had in London on Tuesday, show we're beautifully in trim for our get together in Malvern in May :)

Our get togethers this week mean I've also had the chance to update the Attendees Page. Do I have the correct information for you?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

What's New and Let's Meet!

It's Showtime at Malvern- will you be there?

It's a year since the Meet @ Malvern blog was launched, so I've tweaked the layout in celebration to launch our 2011 get together. I'm looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible this year :D

Helen and I have various work, family and exam commitments over the next few months and so we won't be able to do very much in the way of organising this year. This also reflects what a number of you said in last year's feedback too, and our informal get together at the Autumn Show last September proved an organisation-lite gathering can still work successfully.

However, I'm also aware there are a number of people who are interested in coming who didn't join us last year at either show, so I'd welcome your views on how we can best ensure we all can find each other easily for a natter with the minimum of organisation.

I've used the Blogger Page function to bring together most of the useful information you'll need to make your own arrangements to attend this year. Let me know if there's anything you'd like to add to the information, particularly the Accommodation, Getting There and Hints and Tips pages.

You'll also see there's an Attendee page: this is very much in the early stages of development, do let me know if and when you're attending so I can keep this page up to date. If last year is anything to go by, this won't really reflect what's happening until late April! And do pass the word round to your fellow bloggers and tweeters who may be interested in coming. This post is the invitation for everyone, so it's up to us all to ensure no-one's left out.

The exception to the useful stuff at the top of the page (isn't there always one!) is the all important contact details for obtaining your tickets. This is in the sidebar under Tickets Please! heading. If you click on the picture, it'll take you to the official Malvern Show booking page. NB The countdown clock has been reinstated too - though you'll have to look a bit harder to find it this time!

I won't be posting as much on here this year as I believe what's already here is enough to give anyone a flavour of what the show is like either by going through the blog in sequence or using the Labels in the sidebar (towards the bottom) to home in on what looks interesting. There'll be the occasional update of news as and when I get it. If anyone would like to write a guest post to help lighten the load, then do get in touch :)

As the posts will be less frequent, you may wish to sign up for Updates or Follow this blog to make sure you don't miss out on anything. You'll find the appropriate buttons in the sidebar. I'll also be updating via Twitter, but experience showed last year that this is a bit hit and miss in keeping you updated.

NB as for last year accommodation is already filling fast, so this is something for you to consider NOW if you're wanting to stay over during the show.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Green Shoots for the Spring Show

You don't need to worry about getting there just yet, but already bloggers are making their plans to attend this year's show...

Malvern Spring Show may seem like it's far away, but already the PR team are hard at work to tell us about the 'green shoots' they have planned for this year. I'll be back shortly with a revamped Meet @ Malvern site to tell you more about what's happening here on the blogging front. In the meantime, sit back and have a look at Sharon Gilbert's recent press release...

For the first time ever, the Malvern Spring Gardening Show (12-15 May 2011) is dedicating its entire theatre programme to the subject of conserving the natural environment, and will be showing green-fingered visitors how small changes in the way they garden, can make a significant impact on local, and ultimately global, diversity.

The new ‘Garden in Harmony Theatre’ boasts two walk-through gardens designed by 2010 Chris Beardshaw Mentoring Scholarship winner, Paul Hervey-Brookes. The ‘In Flight Garden’ is a pocket space of valuable wildlife habitats and native species, and the ‘Companion Garden’ is an area of pest-repellent, companion planting.

Television gardener and designer, James Alexander-Sinclair is the host for an exciting four-day programme of talks and demonstrations from a star-studded line-up of respected gardeners, wildlife enthusiasts and industry experts, speaking about subjects ranging from log hotels, compost cafes, natural predators, habitat creation and rain gardens.

Matthew Wilson (Landscape Man, Channel 4) and herb expert Jekka McVicar are heading up the discussion panel on Thursday May 12, and talking about rain gardens and integrated pest management respectively.

On Friday May 13, ‘Biodiversity – What, Why and How?’ is the subject of a talk by award-winning garden designer and television presenter, Chris Beardshaw, and on the same day, Kim Hurst of The Cottage Herbery, will demonstrate organic and natural planting.

Joe Swift (BBC Gardeners’ World) takes to the stage on Saturday 14 to explain how even the smallest urban garden can work in harmony with the natural environment, without compromising on beauty and style, and Brigit Strawbridge and Tony Grey will be talking about wild bees, beekeeping and the importance of pollination and planting.

The RSPB will also be at the Show on Saturday with its Garden Bird Roadshow.

Mike Dilger (‘Wild Gardens’, ‘Springwatch’ and ‘The ONE Show’) makes his Malvern debut on Saturday and Sunday 14 and 15, with a look at garden wildlife and natural predators. He will also lead a new Showground nature trail for children and adults, which will take in foraging, pond dipping and habitats.

Said Sharon Gilbert, Press & PR Manager for the Showground: “The programme of global conservation agreed at the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Nagoya last year was a great breakthrough in the fight to protect our natural environment.

Gardening is one area where the general public can do its bit to preserve and create habitats, plant native species, compost waste, garden organically and dig ponds. It might be small scale, but it all contributes to the global effort, and events like ours must get behind the initiative, keep up the momentum and promote the message to as many people as possible.

We are very excited by the prospect of dedicating this year’s theatre programme to such an important subject, and hope that Britain’s gardeners will use some of the ideas they glean from the speakers to make a few small changes at home.”