Showing posts with label RHS show. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RHS show. Show all posts

30 Oct 2017

Having the best time at the RHS London Autumn Show


I spent two days at the RHS Autumn Garden Show in London this past week and what a lovely, friendly, bumper show it was! Entry is by ticket, even for RHS members now, and proceeds are put towards funding garden apprenticeships at the RHS gardens, so who could complain at that?

As I've been many times before I almost didn't go, but looking at the online programme a few days before, it seemed interesting enough to draw me away from my garden tasks on a clear blue-sky day. At that stage, there was a talk or two that I was interested in and I thought I'd also pick up some onions and garlic for planting now in the veg patch. By the end of the first day, there was so much that I still wanted to see, do and hear that I knew I'd go back, complete with a timetable to try and fit everything in!

Third biggest pumpkin, same weight as a baby elephant!

The RHS have balanced out the entry charge by boosting the content of the show; there were talks, free workshops, library tours, foraging walks, flower arranging, and nature installations in addition to the usual retail fare of plants, bulbs, seeds, and associated garden ephemera.  Hungry tummies were satisfied with delicious fare available throughout the day from food sellers. My brie and red berries toasted sandwich from Elephant Kitchen will live on in my memory as possibly the most delicious snack ever! The cakes (gluten free) looked good too but I regretfully resisted.

The most delicious cheese toastie in the world. Official.

The Talks
The RHS use both their halls for this show but a crowd-pulling programme of hour-long talks throughout both days kept me in the smaller Lindley Hall for most of my time. Roy Lancaster spoke of his lifetime's work with plants, Anne Swithinbank talked of foraging in our gardens, Mark Diacono brought us inspiration for growing unusual tastes and Bill Oddie held forth on wildlife. With such an array of well known speakers, I quickly learned to get there early for a seat! For me, there were two stand out talks - Nick Bailey (tv presenter, author, designer) talked about the why's and wherefore's of growing unusual edibles in a city environment and Emily Rae (owner of Sussex based Plants4Presents) gave us the inside scoop on how to successfully grow spices such as ginger, turmeric, lemongrass and more.  Look out for my follow up posts on Nick, Emily and Anne's talks!

The Forest
In the middle of the room, an autumn forager's forest had been created by Jon Davies. Jon is incredibly passionate about gardening and food growing in a sustainable way (forest gardening) and has won awards for his garden designs.  I signed up for one of his mini tours of the forest and had all sorts of edible plants and shrubs pointed out to me. Every plant in the forest had edible or medicinal uses although, as passionate as Jon is about foraging, he admitted that some flavours, such as pine needles, take a bit of adjusting to!

Forager's forest ... or fairy kingdom?

In the forest extraordinary stacks of mushrooms grew on logs surrounded by ferns, hops and kiwis clambered up through the tree canopy, a small pond hid behind birch logs, and herbs, strawberries and alliums grew on the forest floor - the whole thing was beautifully lit, stunning and magical.  I loved it (can you tell?) and was surprised to see how many of the ornamental plants growing in my gardens are edible in some way. Liriope roots, Ajuga and Alchemilla shoots, wild strawberries, hips, haws and sloes are a few of the foodstuffs people would have survived on in pre-civilisation - plus a lot of plants that we now regard as weeds (dandelion, plantain, clover). I'm fascinated by all this and while I'm not about to turn my back on lettuces, squashes and the like, I love the potential for incorporating edibles into a perennial garden.

Sustainability
Continuing with the foraging theme, I found myself chatting to Croydon based enterprise Wild in the City. They offer outdoor experiences to reconnect city dwellers with nature, something which has been proven to offer so many health benefits. I know how much better I feel after being outdoors so I applaud this initiative.  Some of their courses are free (woodland walks, bushcraft, foraging) and some fund their work, such as basket making, spoon carving and charcoal making. I'm going to be looking out for those for next year. I hope this is the start of an idea that will spread - it could be a life changer for future generations.

Foraged finds from Wild in the City

I also had an interesting chat with Indie Farmer, Nigel Akehurst. He told me that he left the city a few years ago, returning to Sussex to help on his parents' farm and has no regrets. These days he both helps on the family farm and has set up The Indie Farmer online magazine and newsletter, an intelligent read about small scale farming and food culture. I looked it up when I got home and found it a very informative and thought provoking read. I like to know what's happening in the David and Goliath world of commercial food retailing and wouldn't have known of this resource if Nigel hadn't brought his enthusiasm and vision to share with visitors at the show.

The Workshops
Flower ball arrangements, herb seed sowing and learning to forage were on offer but I regretfully gave them a miss in favour of 'how to grow an avocado tree' and 'printmaking with leaves and flowers'. After packing in so much during the day, I felt the need for something soothing and creative. The avocado workshop promised 'guaranteed germination' so naturally I was interested - especially as the 80's trend of having an avocado growing indoors is back in fashion. (I'm not trendy but I confess I haven't succeeded with indoor plants since those halcyon eighties days.)  I have to wait to see if the method works, (post to follow if so!) but suffice to say that as the last participant on the last day, I came home with two potted up avocado pits plus a bag of leftover avocados to eat.


And the printmaking workshop? This, I loved. I'd been intrigued by the sound of hammering during the previous day and wandered past to see what was going on. What I discovered was a way to imprint fabric (or paper) with the delicate colours of the garden. We used heuchera leaves and viola flowers to create tiny works of plant art and I'm inspired to take this forward with plants from my own garden. Our tutor, Judith Baehner, is a advocate for green living, stylist, author, lecturer and awesome maker of terrariums. At the moment her books are written in Dutch, her native language, but I'm hoping a publisher will be found soon for her latest work 'The Plant Lab', named after her blog.  I had time to talk to her about her work and discovered a wonderful and gentle kindred spirit with a passion for plants and living a greener life.

Lastly
One tiny gripe, I found the marketplace exhibitors a bit sprawled and confusing.  Looking back through the programme this morning, I'm frustrated to see how much I missed, even though I went on both days! I would have liked to see The Salutation garden's display of flower skeletons and seedheads;  Wardian cases and terrariums; sanguisorbas from the Botanical Nursery; eco prints and natural textiles from Flextiles ... the list goes on.

How gorgeous are these? Succulents from Forest London

Although I seem to have missed quite a bit, I hunted down the houseplants from Forest London - and walked away with a tiny Pilea to care for. That was a good compromise because there was so much more to see, do and learn and, being me, I wanted it all.

So, did I get my onions and garlic? Yes! I was Pennard's last customer of the day; I love talking to those guys, they're so knowledgeable - and, very kindly, I was given an extra bumper bag of white onion sets to bring home.

Find out more about edible or medicinal plants from the PFAF (Plants for a future) database here.


Apologies for the absence of my first Wishlist Wednesday posts; the RHS show was just too tempting a prospect!  Not a good start but there's now lots more to add to my wishlist. 😍

17 Nov 2016

RHS London Urban Garden Show 2016

Cactus light

Hoping that the weather forecast was accurate for the weekend, on my agenda for a very wet Saturday was the new Urban Garden show from RHS London.  What's that? A gardener hoping for a wet Saturday? I had my reasons; I wanted to get along to the show without having to choose between indoors or outside. The pull to be outside on a sunny day is strong.

As you all know, I do love a gardening show, especially when it's new. It's good news to see the London shows being extended again with this new addition for small space gardeners. (The early summer Rose Show was added in 2015.) We've recently had the Harvest Festival and Shades of Autumn shows at either end of October, the Christmas Show is still to come (17th/18th December) and now the Urban Garden Show has been sandwiched into November. The RHS Westminster shows that I've been to in the past have allocated a lot of space for the usual retailers and plant displays, with (I'm sorry to say) an uninspiring small cafĂ© area squeezed into the gallery. Would this one be any different?  Happily, yes, I believe so; indications are good. The plant displays were still much in evidence - amazing cactus and tropical plant installations by Cityscapes (see top photo), styled by garden designers Jarman Murphy - and a new host of retailers too.  Entrance to the show was by navigating a path through a tropical jungle of potted plants, creating a contemporary ambience which matched the theme of urban and indoor gardens.


Cakes
Cakes with fruit, veg, flowers and herbs ...
Seedlip bunny
Surprisingly delicious non alcoholic spirits from Seedlip.  The bunny approves.

Reluctantly leaving the cake and delicious eats to one side for the moment, the show was all about encouraging and inspiring people to garden, even if space allows for just the one tiny plant. Preferably stylish and in a funky pot or glass bauble. That might sound a tad cynical but actually the show was visually rather exciting. Smaller, nicely understated and with lots of really good artisan eats (vegan or otherwise) and drinks on offer and, crucially, the space to comfortably take a seat and enjoy your food. We gardeners like to linger over a cup of tea and a good slice of cake.


A cactus retailer named Prick seemed very popular!
Naturally, there was plenty of retail therapy with the focus on indoor gardening: terrariums, air-plants, cactuses and succulents in abundance, books, apps, bulbs, wooden planters and seeds.  It was good to reconnect with Joy Michaud from Sea Spring Seeds; I've been perplexed as to how best to use the tiny Fairy Lights chillies that are still growing on my balcony. Joy makes a delicious freezable sauce with hers; she cuts off the stalk, leaving the rest of the chilli intact (seeds as well), combines with other veg (courgettes, onions, tomatoes, etc) and cooks the mixture to a pulp before cooling and freezing for winter use.  I was told that my other round chillies, Tangerine Dream, are best hollowed out and the firm pods stuffed with a savoury filling such as seasoned mince.  I was getting hungry just listening. Joy had a beautiful chilli plant on show called Apricot; the fruits are perfect for eating raw in salads as they're mild and perfumed. I was sold on the idea and came away with seeds for next year, plus a small bag of fruits for my kitchen and a big smile on my face.  Lovely people, lovely produce.

The show would have been sadly lacking if it was only about shopping but there was also an excellent programme of talks and workshops - and advice from the RHS On The Road campervan. There was a very tempting sounding 'behind the scenes' tour of the Lindley Library exhibition 'The City Gardener' but, silly me, I stupidly didn't realise that it had to be booked in advance; disappointment levels were high and lessons learned. This time all went to plan as I got to the show in time for 'Green is the new Black', an illustrated talk on the relationship between fashion, culture and gardening. The talk was by Tom Loxley, the editor of Rakes Progress, a new contemporary gardening magazine. His take on the upsurge of interest from a younger generation of would-be gardeners was interesting and I was able, like many at the show, to have a further chat to him afterwards. His words had put thoughts into my head and afterwards I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of twenty-somethings wandering the hall, engrossed in plants. It seemed everyone wanted to take home a cactus or Hippeastrum.

I didn't have time to attend any of the craft workshops but serendipitously bumped into a friend who was proudly showing the two macramé holders that she'd just made at Grace + Thorn's workshop. Apparently, they're the latest trend for household plants. I might have to rescue the ones I made in the 80s from my mother's house!

I would have liked to return to the show on Sunday to take a look at workshops on making flower crowns and botanical jewellery, kokedama and succulent frames plus talks on the benefits of a plant based diet, maximising space for food growing and successfully growing indoor plants.  I've heard this show is a trial run but I also overheard people remarking on the success of the event - I hope the RHS feels the same way and will be back with this show again next year.  It could just inspire a whole new generation of urban and small space gardeners  - and it was great that the show tapped into the trend for healthy plant based food and drinks.


RHS bus
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