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.

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!