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Malvern Spring Gardening Show 2011
This week is the Malvern Spring Show and the first big Royal Horticultural Society flower show of the year. This is always a fun show not least because the setting is so remarkably beautiful. As you approach the show ground from the pretty town of Malvern – which clings to the side of the steep Malvern Hills – the whole show is laid out beneath you. Car parks, show gardens and giant marquees are all dwarfed by the magnificent view that, on a clear day, stretches languidly away towards the Cotswolds and beyond.
This year is going to be particularly interesting for all the shows because the unseasonably hot weather has knocked everything out of kilter. For example, my friend Cleve West – who is building a garden at the Chelsea Flower Show for the Daily Telegraph – tells me that all the irises he had planned to use have already flowered. It will be fascinating to see what other plants the gardeners and nurseries come up with to compensate.
Malvern Show Gardens often suffer because of the early May timing: too late for spring flowers and too early for summer stuff. In recent years it has been even more difficult as the weather is never predictable here: last year it was very cold and everybody wore thick jackets and scarves. A couple of years ago it was the hottest place in the country and another year I remember standing up to my ankles in rainwater. It is a bit like playing weather roulette, but without the women in glamorous frocks.
In a way all this gentle uncertainty is a good thing because the choice of plants for each show is often a bit predictable: unsurprisingly as they are always at the same time of year. you know that you will see irises and alliums at Chelsea, roses at Hampton Court and echinacea at Tatton Park. This year it is all up or grabs: there may even be a flowering Verbena bonariensis at Chelsea. I did suggest, a few years ago, that the RHS moved Chelsea to September – just so we could see some new plants – but the idea went down like a lead balloon.
It all kicks off this week. The Malvern show runs from Thursday to Sunday and tickets are available. As an added incentive (of sorts) I am in the theatre there talking to a varied and exciting lineup of guests including Matthew Wilson, Joe Swift, Chris Beardshaw and Mike Dilger (from the One Show) We have authors (Mark Diacono, Lia Leendertz, Anne Wareham and Martyn Cox) and on Friday an interview with Sue Biggs, the Director General of the RHS. If you are a member then come along and find out about the way your society works and in which direction it is heading.
But an even better reason to come, even if you have been before, is that we are almost certain to see plants we do not usually see and the best thing about any flower show has to be: the flowers!
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