Freezing, wet and windy but show gardens warmed cold hands
I’ve been to many Harrogate Spring Flower Shows and the weather is always a gamble in April but this one took the biscuit!
An initial soaking plus a persistent wind didn’t bode well and a big thanks to all exhibitors who were clearly frozen to the marrow.
Whatever the weather, Harrogate never disappoints – there’s plenty of things to see undercover.
The standard of exhibits, both show gardens and floral, was higher than ever this year.
Floral Pavilion stars
We started in the Floral Pavilion (mainly because of the rain) and were glad we had. I have to be honest, I’m a gardener, not a flower arranger, and this was always my last port of call.
Obviously, a big mistake in the past – the work done by the regional and local NAFAS groups, as well as clubs and floristry students was exceptional and well worth a visit in its own right.
Also in this area are the plant societies and spring flower competitions, for the most impeccable daffodils and tulips. Click here for the galleries of the floristry art that caught my eye.
Show gardens – a cut above
Harrogate show gardens have always appealed to me because they are beautiful and are translatable to ordinary plots. This year, the standard has risen – click here to see show gardens, Designed to Last Gardens, shopping and Secret Sheds.
Top honours went to Thirsk-based designers, Colour Your Garden, with The Garden of Translucence winning Premier Gold and Best in Show.
The contemporary design features a steel mesh columns, clipped cube and multi-stem evergreen planting, with bubbling water features. I loved it, the planting and leaf texture was superb, although some of the more traditional visitors weren’t so sure!
Gold Awards went to Eden by Yorkshire Garden Designs, Garden of Life by St Michael’s Hospice and the crowd’s perennial favourite, All Characters Great and Small by Horticap, complete with life-size Nora Batty and Compo!
Silver gilts were awarded to Kirklees Council for West Yorkshire’s Mills to Moors and to Hadean-Creation for A New Zealand Story. Askham Bryan College students, near York, were awarded Silver for Tranquil Yorkshire.
Designed to Last Gardens
Using three real–life problem gardens in Yorkshire, landscape designer Nick Fryer presents show garden solutions for difficult growing conditions, all of which won gold.
Clay-like concrete: Raised beds offering the possibility of including plants that are not naturally suited to clay. Floating paved areas mean the garden can be used when it is wet.
Dark and boggy: A naturalistic approach with stone uprights to form a three-in-one retaining wall, seating area and steps to reach the bank.
Dry and exposed: Inspired by Derek Jarman’s coastal garden, this design combines pebbles, salvaged monoliths and washed-up decorative items. Planting is low maintenance and wind and salt tolerant.
Plant Nursery Pavilion and Gardening Hall
Always a favourite place for a plant bargain, the specialists’ stands were as awe-inspiring as ever.
The Gardening Hall’s had a wash and brush-up, with actual stands for exhibitors – much neater but I think I liked it better not so hemmed in.
Best in Show for Horticultural Trade Displays went to the Scottish nursery Kevock Garden Plants for their exhibition of alpine bog and woodland plants.
The Rose Society won Best in Show for displays in the Special Educational or Scientific Interest category.
This new attraction gives charities and community groups a window to show what they do.
Northcliffe Environmental Enterprises received first prize with a display featuring a typical day on the allotment.
Second place went to Askham Bryan College, while the Knaresborough charity, Henshaw’s Arts and Crafts Centre, claimed third.
Shopping and Food Halls
There were a lot of new exhibitors – including a greenhouse to die for from Cultivar (www.cultivar.com) – with a show special bargain starting at £4,000! Certainly on my lottery-winning wish list, as are the fabulous metal sculptures of James Wilkinson (www.jameswilkinsonblacksmith.co.uk), especially the Gunnera and foxglove.
What did I buy this time? Well, I’m always going on about show offers, so I bought a solid love seat with cushions (two chairs and a table) from Staffordshire Garden Furniture, which looks like it will last longer than me.
Only one plant made it home, repeat-flowering shrub rose Leah Tutu from Style Roses, www.styleroses.co.uk.
And the Food Hall can’t be missed – we staggered away with armfuls of gourmet pork pies, lemon curd, flapjacks and apple slices from the Crusty Pie Company.
All in all, another wonderful day at Harrogate – roll on the Autumn Flower Show with the monster veg from September 14-16! For more details, visit www.flowershow.org.uk.