With everything in the garden looking lovely after months of hard work Jane Moore takes some well earned time out
The last few weeks have been a frenzy in the garden. Everything was surging into growth, weeds especially, and there was planting to do before the season gets fully underway.
Now May is an entirely different proposition. This month usually finds me serenely resting on my laurels a little – the weeds in abeyance, the grass mown into submission and myself resigned to the bits of planting I haven’t quite finished and planning to fill the gaps with annuals. It also finds me planning a few outings over the summer – inspirational days to other gardens; a nursery visit or two and perhaps even a show. Oh yes, I can feel the creative impulses are going to be well fuelled this year – it’s just a matter of planning ahead.
I had to start with the shows as they are the biggies for many of us and you need to get booked in for the sought after days at Chelsea and Hampton Court.
A day at Chelsea Flower Show requires fitness, a stalwart attitude and no fear of crowds. It’s utter madness, often freezing or wet or windy or all three and you can’t even buy plants. But oh the gardens are simply beautiful – that’s why it’s the best. If you decide you’re going then get there early as you can – or go late like the Londoners do and come back on an evening train.
However, if you’re at all faint hearted then opt for Hampton Court Flower Show instead. I love this show – you can park, buy plants, have a nice picnic and see some rather good gardens in the usually rather balmier temperatures of July. Hampton Court is a joy in itself and the whole vibe is so much more relaxed than Chelsea.
Even more chilled out and friendly is the lovely Malvern show, nestling charmingly beneath the Malvern Hills and boasting some lovely plants. It may not be quite Chelsea, darling, but it is a good day out nonetheless.
Key dates: RHS Malvern Spring Festival, Thursday 11 – Sunday 14 May, RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Tuesday 23 – Saturday 27 May, and RHS Hampton Court Flower Show Tuesday 4 – Sunday 9 July. Website: rhs.org.uk.
RHS Malvern 2016
Closer to home is the English Country Garden Festival at The Bishop’s Palace and Gardens in Wells, Somerset which runs from Friday 9 to Sunday 11 June, 10am – 5pm.
It makes a great day out as not only can you hear great speakers, including yours truly wittering on about something summery, but also you get to stroll around the award winning gardens, which recently featured on BBC Gardeners’ World. As well as the talks there are plant stalls, hands-on demonstrations, refreshment and entertainment.
On Friday 9 June, Matthew Biggs, a regular panellist on BBC Gardeners’ Question Time, will open the festival before giving a talk entitled Lessons from Great Gardeners. Gardening writer and much loved broadcaster Anne Swithinbank will speak in the afternoon on My Life with Plants.
On Saturday 10 Tamsin Westhorpe, former editor of The Country Garden and director of Stockton Bury Gardens will begin the day on a theme of Summer in the Country Garden and Alan Power, the garden and estate manager at Stourhead will be speaking in the afternoon about the estate and its management.
I’m speaking on the morning of Sunday 11 June and the festival will finish with a lecture entitled From Spuds to Chelsea by superstar garden designer Cleve West, who has won Best Show Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show multiple times. Tickets: £6.99 in advance and £7.99 on the door (concessions £5.90 and £6.90), available from the Palace shop, tel: 01749 988 111, or visit: bishopspalace.org.uk.
Garden designer Cleve West
These are always a treat and take place in some lovely locations. They’re fab for a bit of indulgent plant shopping from delectable little nurseries and make a great day out with a gardening friend. Check the website or the information phone line as some dates are provisional.
Dates so far: Sunday 14 May, Winterbourne House and Gardens, Birmingham – Sunday 28 May, Kingston Bagpuize House, Nr. Abingdon, Oxfordshire – Sunday 4 June, High Glanau Manor, Monmouthshire – Sunday 11 June, a new fair at Hanham Court Gardens, near Keynsham – Sunday 25 June, Waterperry Gardens, Oxfordshire – Sunday 2 July, The Walled Gardens at Cannington, near Bridgwater – Sunday 23 July, Highnam Court, near Gloucester – Sunday 30 July, Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens, Birmingham and Sunday 20 August The Bishops’ Palace, Wells, Somerset.
Rare Plant Fair information tel: 0845 4681368, visit: rareplantfair.co.uk.
The popular shows has its second outing at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, from Thursday 3 to Sunday 6 August. Last year’s show really started with a bang. There is literally something for everyone.
Don’t expect show gardens and spectacular planting – it’s more a family day out about all things countryside; although you can always get your gardening fix by listening to me at the Stihl arena where I shall be doing a turn. Do expect vintage tractors and threshing machines, seven minute polo matches, hedge laying and farm animals galore. Lots of organic and artisan foods, a funfair, performing sheepdogs in the dog arena and chicks and rabbits you can pet to your hearts content. Not a show for the trueblood gardener perhaps but a fun day out and, let’s face it, who can resist a vintage tractor while eating a farm-made ice cream?
Ticket hotline: 0844 249 1000, NB Calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge, visit: countryfilelive.com.
And finally you might like to visit, the SIT Select Arts Festival, Tuesday 25 April – Saturday 28 May in Stroud, Cirencester and other Cotswold venues.
An arts festival with a little gardening thrown in for good measure in the form of a sculpture trail at the up-and-coming and charming Miserden Nursery near Stroud. I’ll also be hosting a late afternoon talk on Wednesday 10 May. For more information, tel: 01453 751056, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit: sitselect.org.
Jane Moore is the award-winning gardening columnist and head gardener at The Bath Priory Hotel. Follow her on Twitter: @janethegardener.