The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Flower Show at Tatton Park is nothing if not diverse. The range of show categories makes Tatton a real treat for gardeners of all ages – there really is something for everyone.
This year, Show Gardens, Back-to-Back, Visionary Gardens, The RHS National Young Designer of the Year Competition, the new Football Club gardens and the RHS National Flower Bed Competition provides show goers with plenty to see and enjoy.
Young gardeners also have a chance to shine at Tatton with the Schools Container Competition and the School Front to Front gardens.
Indoors the Worldskills UK Floristry Finals for Intermediate and Advanced take place with the Interflora Florist of the Year Competition and BFA Shop Window Competitions all adding to the excitement in the Floral Design Studio.
Choosing the Best Show Garden is never an easy task and this year there were a couple of good contenders for this accolade. HMP Everthorpe/ISG PLC (Gold) triumphed as the Best Show Garden with their hard-hitting design 'Save a Life, Drop the Knife', (pictured above). A challenging subject for a garden but one which was expertly and cleverly executed by Glen Jackson and the offenders at HMP Everthorpe. The garden represents the journey of a perpetrator of knife crime, from an austere and bleak feel in a run down, urbanised area, to a bridge symbolising the agencies which work together to guide perpetrators away from trouble and into, hopefully, the harmonious garden with soft-textured planting and vibrant colour combinations. A strong garden with a strong message.
'The Schedule' (Gold) designed by Gary Hillery and Ken Walton for Finchale Training College, Durham, is a little cracker. Celebrating the tradition of the allotment, especially in the north-east, the garden is delightful. Here we have the neat allotment where growing the biggest and best leeks is the main aim and where sabotage is not unknown! There is the flower bed for the cut flowers and neat rows of a variety of vegetables. Designed and executed by disabled students at Finchale College, they can be justly proud of their efforts.
'Paradise Isle – 100 years on' designed by Sam Youd for Tatton Park (Gold) is inspired by the centenary of the Japanese gardens at Tatton which were completed in 1911. Sam perfectly encapsulates the ethos of the Japanese garden in his design and we are treated to an excellent demonstration of the Japanese style of clipping and trimming still carried out today.
The winner of the Best Visionary Garden award went to The Design Charity on behalf of Survivors Fund (SURF) (Gold). This really is a challenging garden, if garden is the right word, for you have to find you way around the outer exterior of a forest to find yourself an entrance into what is a mental jungle. The garden is a metaphor for a Rawandan refugee’s flight to freedom. Once inside the dark tunnel with its piles of clothes hanging from the trees – apparently this is what the jungles in Rwanda looked like during the time that people just disappeared leaving only their clothes in the jungle – you struggle to follow the light before ultimately coming back outside again. Powerful and moving.
The Back-to-Back gardens, are always very varied and the Best in Show for this category went to 'Dinosaurs at Large!' (Gold) for Chester Zoo. Children at the show will love this garden with its big Dinosaur lurking in the jungle growth. The only other Gold in this category went to Clive Scott Design for his 'Black and Blue' garden. I am not sure what I really thought of this quirky garden with its colour palette of black-purple-blue. In some respects I felt it was a bit sinister, certainly not my cup of tea, but I have to admit that the planting was very clever.
Other gardens which took my eye were 'Grasses with Grace' (Gold) designed by Sue Beesley, of Bluebell Cottage Gardens and Nursery. This would certainly have been one of my contenders for Best in Show – a delightful, graceful and beautifully planted garden. Another contender in my book was 'When the Waters Rise' designed for Oxfam by Don and Howard Miller (Gold). Highlighting how climate change is affecting millions of people around the world, this carefully constructed garden showcases the various methods that can be used to adapt to climate change.
I also liked Pip Probert's 'Chocolate Orange' (Silver) and felt that this garden was worthy of a higher award. It is always difficult to construct a garden which can be looked at on all sides and the purpose of her design was to allow the visitor to see a completely different view of the garden depending on where they stood. The planting was soft and seductive and, unlike some of the other gardens at this year's Tatton, I got a summer feeling from it.
I am somewhat smug that this year I correctly picked the winner of the RHS National Young Designer of the Year Competition. Congratulations to Daniela Coray, on winning the competition and for her lovely design 'A Stitch in Time saves Nine' (Gold). Daniela has established her own design company and specialises in environmentally aware approaches to garden design and her garden, to provide a respite for urban dwellers, was a sheer delight.
I also liked 'Inside Out' (Gold) designed by John Everiss for its cool, contemporary feel, loved the quirky, happy and colourful 'Happy Rabbit Valley' for the NSPCC (Bronze) and Birmingham City Council's Iconic Mini (S/Gilt) design for the RHS National Flower Bed Competition. The Flower Beds are a special feature at Tatton and much loved by visitors. This year it was Bournemouth Borough Council who scooped the Best in Category and Gold for their garden contrasting the literature, architecture and art of Bournemouth’s Victorian era.
The newest category at Tatton is the Football Gardens and being the North-West I am sure this is a category that will go from strength to strength. Ann Picot’s design representing Liverpool Football Club won Best in Category (Silver). 'This is Anfield' is a depiction of the interaction between the players and fans with the Kop forming the 'red' of the fans and the green sward and Buxus sempervirens forming the field and players. Colourful, clever and another 'trophy' for the Anfield faithful.
It's a very blue and purple Tatton this year, with these colours seemingly dominating many gardens. Personally, I am a colour fiend and to me a garden should be about colour, whether it be soft pastel shades or full on blowsy 'come and get' me shades. Subdued and dark I don’t do. I did like Jan Tilley's 'Do Not Step Over the Fence' (Gold) Visionary Garden depicting the HIV virus, not because of its colourful array of flowers but because he used fantastic balls of Laurus nobilis and Lavender with 72 pink spikes that link into the DNA of white blood cells. Eye catching and again thought provoking.
I didn't expect to run into Lord Egerton and his nephew Maurice so it was quite a surprise when we had a little banter. Lord Egerton who is probably now about 160 is wearing well, although I did hear tell he died in 1910, so it might have been his ghost I encountered. However, the two gentlemen seemed quite a hit with ladies as they strolled about in top hat and tails. I wonder what they thought of the Visionary Gardens, the Wombles and the floral Mini?
One of the strengths of Tatton Park as a venue for a major flower show is its space and the wonderful backdrop of the parkland and Cheshire countryside. There is room to move, enjoy and experience the gardens, space to breath in the lovely Cheshire air and that high summer garden party feel which brings out the sun in us even though the sky may be dull overhead. It’s also a venue for northern designers and gardeners to demonstrate their talents in their own backyards and that really puts the icing on the cake.
Full details of award winners and further information on the Tatton Show is available from www.rhs.org.uk
Picture Credits: © Reckless Gardener:
Save a life, drop the Knife; Dinosaurs at Large! (Chester Zoo); A Stitch in Time saves Nine, winner of the Young Designer of the Year; A Novel Approach, Bournemouth's Borough Council's winning Flower Bed.