Best of British flower shows

The British love affair with gardening means there’s a packed calendar of plant-inspired events across the country. Choose from traditional flower shows where amateur growers display their prized produce or the major shows with world class designers and celebrated plant nurseries.

HORTICULTURAL HIGHLIGHTS

In 1804 botanist and plant hunter Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgewood, son of potter Josiah Wedgewood, set up a horticultural society to further the study of the botanical world. Some 200 years later the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is the UK’s leading gardening charity helping people to share their love of plants and to inspire the next generation of gardeners and botanists. Their annual programme of flower shows held across the country gather together the best in design and growing. Become a member of the RHS for access to the shows on the quieter members-only days and get free admission throughout the year to the charity’s gardens in Surrey, Essex, North Yorkshire and Devon.

RHS MALVERN SPRING SHOW

RHS Malvern

RHS Malvern

Set against the stunning backdrop of the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire, this show is a celebration of spring. The show gardens here are smaller in comparison to the other shows but offer ideas you can take away for your own back garden. This year a new category entitled Spa Gardens, which takes its inspiration from Malvern’s Victorian spa heritage, has been introduced with the opportunity to create a garden at the Moscow Garden Show for the winning designer. Wander the large marquee packed with must-have spring bulbs, alpines, shrubs, trees and spring flowering perennials, all available to buy. There’s also the ever popular food and crafts area with demonstrations from leading TV chefs.
11–14 May » rhs.org.uk

RHS CHELSEA

Queen at RHS Chelsea Copyright RHS

The pinnacle of the gardening calendar, Chelsea Flower Show is one of the world’s best known and most prestigious flower shows – the gardening equivalent of London Fashion Week – where glitz and glamour, royalty and celebrity meet the very best in the world of horticulture. The first spring show was held in 1862 at the society’s garden in Kensington with later shows held at the Inner Temple gardens. In 1913 it moved to its current home at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, where for one week every May the grounds are transformed into a plant paradise.
Monday is Press Day when the world’s media are allowed in to photograph the gardens at their best along with the attending VIPS, celebrities and the Royal family. It’s also the day when judging takes place – winning a gold medal at Chelsea is the pinnacle of horticultural success.
For many visitors it’s the show gardens with eye-watering budgets along the Main Avenue that are the big draw. It’s here that the world’s top garden designers vie for the sought-after gold medals and ‘Best in Show’ award. The Great Pavilion is a huge marquee where you’ll find plant specialists, nurseries, fabulous floral displays and plants grown to the peak of perfection. The fresh gardens highlight contemporary design ideas and the ever-popular artisan gardens showcase smaller spaces.
The one downside is you can’t buy plants at Chelsea, but nurseries do take orders, and if you’re visiting on the Saturday afternoon a bell is rung at 4pm to signal the end of the show and the great plant sell-off begins. Make sure you have a ready supply of cash to purchase plants from the stands and gardens. Visitors leave with towering flowers and foliage transforming buses and taxis in the area into mobile greenhouses as plants are whisked away to their new homes. 23–24 May RHS members only. 25–27 May public tickets. » rhs.org.uk

RHS Chelsea Flower Show Hartley Botanic offer

RHS Chelsea Flower Show Hartley Botanic offer

A handmade to order Hartley Botanic Victorian Lodge greenhouse in The Olive Leaf and available in 9 colours.

To mark this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Hartley Botanic, the RHS’s recommended supplier of aluminium greenhouses and glasshouses, is offering 30% off all greenhouse accessories bought with every greenhouse and glasshouse order placed between the 23rd and the 27th of May 2017. Customers interested in purchasing a Hartley Botanic greenhouse should visit: http://www.hartley-botanic.co.uk or call 01457 819 155 for more information.

STATELY SHOWS

What could be better than a day browsing plants and gardening goodies with a delicious bite to eat and all in the setting of a beautiful stately home? Over the summer some of Britain’s most historic and beautiful country houses host flower shows or garden fairs in their grand gardens for a quintessentially British day out.

BLENHEIM

Blenheim Palace

One of Britain’s largest and most impressive houses and birthplace of Winston Churchill, hosts this summer garden celebration. Seek out new plant varieties, sample delicious food and enjoy a drink at the champagne bar while listening to live music. The Grand Floral Pavilion covers 30,000 square feet and will house more than 50 of the best nurseries and plant societies. You can also pick up tips from the talks given by gardening experts. TV presenter, author and all-round
gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh will open this year’s show.
23–25 June » blenheimflowershow.co.uk

WOBURN ABBEY

Woburn Abbey

Woburn Abbey

Originally a 12th century monastery, Woburn Abbey has been transformed over the centuries into the impressive building it is today. For one weekend in June, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Bedford is the setting for this popular garden show. Wander around the selection of nurseries and stands selling artisan products. There’s a food hall packed with delicious treats and pop along to the question and answer session with garden experts from TV and radio. Over the last decade or so the Abbey’s gardens have undergone a major restoration returning them to the original plans of Humphrey Repton, a 19th century landscape designer – join a free guided tour with one of the gardeners to find out more 24–25 June, » woburnabbey.co.uk

FORDE ABBEY

Toby Buckland at Forde Abbey - photo credit Ed Ovenden

Toby Buckland at Forde Abbey – photo credit Ed Ovenden

Join TV gardener and writer Toby Buckland at his garden festival held in the grounds of the magnificent Forde Abbey, near Chard in Somerset. The event promises to celebrate the best of the West Country with carefully selected plant nurseries, delicious local food, celebrity speakers and practical demonstrations. The spectacular gardens with perennial borders, cut flower beds, the highest powered fountain in England and a productive walled garden will be at their peak in September with fantastic displays of dahlias and asters in particular. 16–17 September, » tobygardenfest.co.uk

RHS CHATSWORTH

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show – Allium display

There’s a new kid on the block this year with this early summer show set in the grounds of Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, in the heart of the wonderful Derbyshire countryside. The RHS say it will be a show that has a style and content unlike their others with the main theme being design revolutionaries. The show will celebrate the genius of gardeners and designers from the past such as Joseph Paxton, the head gardener at Chatsworth in the 19th century, and also talent and ideas from today’s generation of gardeners. There’ll be specially designed bridges across the River Derwent that will allow access to different parts of the showground allowing visitors to experience Capability Brown’s landscape and the spectacular stately home. The huge floral marquee will be home to some of the UK’s best nurseries and will pay homage to Paxton’s Great Conservatory, which he built at Chatsworth, once the largest glass building in England. 7 June RHS members only, 8–11 June public tickets » rhs.org.uk

RHS HAMPTON COURT

Flower Shows

Visitors look at gardens in sunshine on the first day of the RHS Hampton Court Flower show. Image by Bethany Clarke – Copyright RHS

The world’s largest flower show is held in the magnificent grounds of Henry VIII’s royal palace Hampton Court, just a short journey from the centre of London. The showground covers 34 acres either side of the dramatic Long Water canal. This show is a true celebration of summer and particularly famous for its roses – pop into the rose marquee and breathe in the incredible fragrance. For something a bit special why not attend the preview evening on 3 July? You’ll have the chance to see the gardens without the crowds and enjoy delicious food and live music as the sun goes down. There’s a range of pre-bookable dining options including formal dining, champagne and seafood or a luxury picnic hamper. Alternatively bring your own picnic and enjoy the music and firework finale. 4–5 July RHS members only, 6–9 July public tickets » rhs.org.uk

RHS TATTON

RHS Tatton Photo Credit © RHS / Neil Hepworth

The RHS’s north-west show is held in the impressive setting of the 1000-acre deer park at the historic Tatton Park in Cheshire. This is the show for summer perennial plants, a varied selection of show gardens, water gardens, back-to-back gardens and plenty of grow your own inspiration. The National Flower Bed competition will put a smile on your face and there’s the ever-popular Ladies’ Day with talks from inspiring women in horticulture and a botanically-influenced fashion show. 19 July RHS members only, 20–23 July public tickets » rhs.org.uk

TRADITION
Flower shows became all the rage in Victorian and Edwardian Britain with towns and villages across the country holding fairs where local amateur growers could show off their horticultural skills, a tradition that still continues today.

SOUTHPORT

Southport Flower Show

Southport Flower Show – Photo © Gareth Jones

The Southport Flower Show has been a fixture in the summer calendar of this Merseyside coastal town for over 80 years. Held in the seafront Victoria Park, the 36-acre showground is famous for its floral displays. Food has become a popular element too with the food village showcasing regional produce and a whole host of TV chefs passing on tips and advice. 17–20 August, » southportflowershow.co.uk

SANDRINGHAM

Sandringham

Sandringham

This year will be the 136th Sandringham Flower Show held within the grounds of the Queen’s Norfolk country retreat. This one-day show, attracts 20,000 visitors each year including members of the Royal family. Find leading garden designers, the region’s leading nurseries and a craft marquee. Marvel at the fruit, vegetables and flowers grown by local residents competing for prize-winning rosettes, and pop along to the gardeners’ forum with talks by plant experts such as TV presenter and RHS Chelsea gold medal-winning designer Chris Beardshaw.
26 July, » sandringhamflowershow.org.uk

HARROGATE FLOWER SHOW

 Harrogate Flower Show

Harrogate Flower Show

Autumn is the ideal time to plan and plant a garden so this is a great place to come for inspiration and to take home some gardening goodies. There’s a Plot to Pot cookery theatre, handmade crafts and foodie treats perfect for some early Christmas shopping. Make sure you don’t miss the famous giant vegetable competition with oversize onions, colossal cabbages and mammoth marrows.15–17 September, » flowershow.org.uk

GARDENING SCOTLAND

Gardening Scotland

Erskine Veterans’ Show Garden, Gardening Scotland 2016 © Paul Watt

At the beginning of June the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh is transformed with the scent and colour of plants. This is the biggest plant fair in Scotland packed with inspiration to make your garden grow. Find nurseries from across Britain, top garden designers and plant societies ready to offer advice. Visit the ever popular National Bonsai Collection of Scotland stand and their impressive collection of miniature trees. 2–4 June, » gardeningscotland.com

AUTHOR

Louise Curley
Louise Curley

Louise Curley is a freelance writer and stylist with a passion for plants

View all posts by Louise Curley

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