by Georgina Crawshaw
The RHS Show Cardiff runs from Friday 8 – Sunday 10 April 2011 in the parklands of Cardiff Castle.
For further information and tickets visit www.rhs.org.uk/cardiff.
Day passes are priced between £7 and £10. Children under 16 are free with an accompanying adult.
Spring has well and truly sprung - time to dig out those gardening gloves, dust off your spade and shovel, and start up the lawnmower.
The UK’s leading gardening charity, the RHS, is dedicated to helping people share a passion for plants and encouraging horticultural excellence. Their work covers everything from educating future generations, to the Britain in Bloom campaign, but without a doubt the highlight of the RHS gardening year is its selection of world famous shows.
Of course the Chelsea Flower Show needs no introduction, but it’s actually Cardiff that kick’s off the outdoor calendar, with a seasonal display of colourful spring bulbs and blossom. Now in its seventh year, this three day event is held every April in the picturesque grounds of Bute Park, set against the backdrop of Cardiff Castle. Hoping to rival the record number of visitors last year (a staggering turnout of over 24,000), the organisers have stepped up to the challenge with a 2011 programme to delight, inform and entertain garden enthusiasts – whatever your age and experience.
“RHS Show Cardiff is currently a well kept secret,” confides Sarah Easter, Show Manager. “This year we want to share that secret with everybody and let them have access to the wealth of knowledge available.”
First and foremost, RHS shows are an international showcase for flowers and plants, and Cardiff is no exception. According to Sarah, the displays of daffodils, primulas and camellias (to name but a few) are a sight to behold: “It truly is a spring spectacular,” she enthuses. “The Floral Marquee is always bursting with colours and scents announcing the arrival of the gardening season.” The outside Plant Plaza also overflows with exhibits from award winning nurseries, but for Sarah it’s not just about the flora; "The atmosphere of the show has to be my favourite aspect…it has a certain Welsh magic which brings it to life."
The atmosphere of the show has to be my favourite aspect…it has a certain Welsh magic which brings it to life.
Her highlights of the RHS Show Cardiff weekend include the farmers market (filled with regional food producers and their delicious fares), craft village (selling gardening gifts and accessories), and the diverse range of demonstrations, talks and expert advice on offer (including an interactive allotment with practical tips on growing your own).
The Schools Wheelbarrow Competition is also a big crowd puller, and last year’s themed entries varied from a giant bee and a mini Taj Mahal, to a patriotic dragon and a pirate ship. With 70 wheelbarrow gardens set to be planted and decorated by local children this year, it’s anticipated the 2011 contest is going to be bigger and better than ever. And whilst we’re on the subject of kids, there are plenty of fun family activities available to help keep the little ones amused - nature trails, street entertainers and live music amongst others.
Last but by no means least, we mustn’t forget the show gardens – unique works of art created by established and up-and-coming designers. “The jewels in the crown of any RHS show,” declares Sarah. “This year we will be proudly showcasing eight gardens to inspire visitors in time for some spring/summer landscaping.”
The ones to watch out for are: ‘Words and Memories (A New Leaf)’ designed by Sue Diamond of Goodlife Garden Design for Help for Heroes. Sue’s creation is based on military history and aims to evoke memories and raise awareness for troops and their families “It’s an esoteric garden with lots of representative planting,” reveals Sue, a former RHS Silver Medal winner.
“We’ve got 300 forget-me-nots representing the Charge of the Light Brigade, 10 Omphalodes Navelwort and 66 Bamboo – that’s 1066 obviously, The Battle of Hastings. Rosemary for remembrance, and a tiny little oak tree representing HMS Victory.” The garden will also house a chest of drawers where visitors will be encouraged to leave memories, greetings, poetry and keepsakes.
Imogen Cox (www.imogencox.com), whose ‘Sweet Retreat’ is a collaboration with colleague, Pippa Tee, also let us in on a few secrets. As the name suggests, her planting scheme is inspired by traditional sweet flavours and colours: “Fruit trees were an obvious choice,” she begins. “Herbs such as lavender and angelica, and spring flowering plants like viola and primrose.” The ‘retreat’ is the garden’s focal point, a traditional green English Oak framed summerhouse. “A place to potter or a place to pause”, she concludes.
The RHS Show Cardiff is definitely the place to do both these things. As far as gardening goes, I can’t imagine a better day out. Of course, some guaranteed sunshine wouldn’t go amiss; but then again, with such an amazing programme on offer, I wouldn’t put it past the RHS to have ordered blue skies as well!
All images acredited to the RHS.