Harrogate Spring Flower Show 2017 review

Jam-packed queen of gardening shows

Harrogate Spring Flower Show
Real Hort Couture… a Jenny Gillies outfit at Harrogate Spring Flower Show

It’s no secret that I love Harrogate’s Spring and Autumn Flower Shows, having been a visitor for many a year.

What better way to be greeted on National Wear a Flower Day than by a lovely gent at the entrance with a Gerbera?

The people, the plants, the food, the vast shopping opportunities and bargains – even if you pay full price tickets at the gate, you’re likely to save more than you spend – for example, I bought a large golden variegated Yucca from Stonecrop Nurseries for £9.

Without a doubt, this was the busiest show I’ve ever been to – whether it was because some children are still on Easter holidays, or it was first-day madness, who knows, but it was uncomfortably full in places. Even before noon the van we’d chosen to have a snack with had run out of baguettes – and it specialised in them!

It’s the first year I’ve struggled to find anywhere to sit down – there didn’t appear to be less seating just more people. We abandoned the usual plan of food in The Yorkshire Pantry, as it was heaving, for a snack outside.

The Plant Pavilion, Gardening Hall, and outdoor plant stands were as informative and inspiring as ever. Massive congratulations must go to County Durham’s Harperley Hall Farm Nurseries for winning Premier Gold with an outstanding display of alpines and rare perennials, including their trademark Meconopsis (Himalayan Blue poppy) and exclusive Primula vialii Alison Holland.

The spring show is always strong on summer bulbs and herbaceous perennials and I was delighted to see several types of Echiums blooming on a few stands (I nearly succumbed to E. webbii at £16.50) for the first time.


Hort Couture success

This year’s theme is Hort Couture, with a strong fashion theme weaved throughout the show. A particular highlight is New Zealand artist and costumier Jenny Gillies’ floral dresses, each based on a real flower, taking up to three months to make and containing up to 70m of fabric!

Usually not one of my favourite areas is the floral pavilion, but this spring it sizzled, with flowers from the students’ displays full of va va bloom, spilling out of car bonnets!

National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies (NAFAS) based their displays around designers – the North East’s being Vivienne Westwood, which I loved, although it only was awarded bronze (unfairly in my opinion). Three Counties & South Wales deservedly won gold with a themed Versace display.


Making the most of Harrogate

  • Get there early – gates open at 9.30am – to beat the crowds.
  • Eat as soon as you can – or leave it until late.
  • Make good use of the plant creches so you don’t exhaust yourself. Some stalls will also keep plants back for you and give you a hand to one of the gates.
  • If you arrive late, the parking is quite a walk from the main gate.
  • If you’re not using a car, make use of the shuttle bus from Harrogate Bus Station.
  • Take plenty of breaks!

Show gardens

I always enjoy Harrogate’s show gardens as they’re totally different from their RHS Chelsea namesakes – much more approachable, smaller and easily translatable to an ordinary garden.

There was a vintage crop this year – my only gripe being that the judges seem to be lacking a category for most effort and hard work put into a garden, meaning that some of the charity gardens didn’t get the best marks.

“We were robbed,” said one of the lads from Horticap that I was chatting to. Their Magic Roundabout may have got a bronze but it was the garden with the most people looking at it so well done, job done and who cares what judges think!

Here are my favourites:

Professional Gardens

The Wonders of the Brain – Yorkshire Brain Research Centre. Planting designed to reflect the brain’s functions.

Colour Your Garden – gold medal winning exhibit by Ripon-based online plant nursery, run by Alistair and Charlotte Baldwin, www.colouryourgarden.co.uk.

There’s Water Under The Bridge – HMP Kirklevington Grange. Creating the concept of reform through a garden, with benches, metalwork, backboard painting and art by the men themselves – the Artyculturals – and their mentors.

Community Spirit Gardens

If You Go Down To the Woods – Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre. All that’s best in community gardening, full of sensitive planting and hand-made crafts.

A Little Bit of Magic – Horticap Ltd. Inspired by the Magic Roundabout after last year’s successful Wallace and Gromit garden.

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