Back in England and my first excursion is to the Royal Horticulutral Society’s flower show in Cardiff (which, for the benefit of American readers, is in South Wales, not in England at all, 150 miles west of London). I’ll be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow – my fellow judges and I begin work at 7am – but this afternoon I had wander round as the exhibitors were putting the finishing touches to their stands.
I’ve not been to this show before but I can tell you it’s well worth a visit. Laid out in an attractive park right alongside the ancient and rather eccentric Cardiff Castle, there are ten delightful outdoor show gardens and, the main attraction, two capacious floral marquees filled with plants of all kinds. There are sixty four exibits in all plus some non-competing nurseries selling even more plants as well as a range of other stands.
The floral marquee exhibitors are mainly nurseries, from right across England and Wales, who compete for the coveted Gold Medals we’ll be awarding tomorrow morning. They display either cut material or plants in pots, arranged formally in vases and bowls or set out more naturally in garden landscapes. There’s plenty of variety.
The bougainvilleas from Westdale Nurseries are spectacular (see picture); the perennials, both old and new, from Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants are delightful; the American aquilegias from Three Counties Nurseries are charming; I coveted every one of the clematis from Taylor’s Clematis Nursery.
As well as old favourites, there are rarities to be seen, like Arisaema kishidae (see picture) as well as plants never seen before. Matthewman’s Sweet Peas, for example, (see picture) have broadened their approach and are devoting their entire exhibit to Lathyrus vernus, the dwarf perennial relatives of the sweet pea. As well as familiar varieties, like ‘Rosenelfe’, they’re showing a number of new and noticeably colourful seedlings they’ve raised on the nursery. These prolific, but underrated shade perennials, deserve to be grown more widely and I’m sure these new introductions from Matthewman’s Sweet Peas, when they become available, will inspire gardeners to plant these tough and easy spring pernnials.
As well as all these wonderful plants and gardens there’s advice from RHS specialists, talks and demonstrations, and are fine Welsh food and crafts are on sale.
UPDATE (Next day): Well, it's such a good show that, between us, we awarded more Gold Medals, relative to the number of exhibits, than ever before at any RHS show! Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants won the award for the best exhibit in the Floral Marquee, and it really is superb. A beautiful arrangement of expertly grown new and familiar perennials.
But spare a thought for Kelways. Their peonies were absolutely gorgeous but the weather on the days running up to the show had been so hot that they'd opened up far more than they expected. Then, overnight before the judging, the weather was really chilly - there was almost a frost. So those poor peonies had a tough time. However, they still won a Silver medal - testament, I think, to the superb quality of the plants themselves and the skill of the growers at Kelways. But look out for their irises at Chelsea.
The Royal Horticulutral Society’s flower show in Cardiff is open runs from April 20-22 in Bute Park, Cardiff. For more detials from the RHS click here opr ring 020 7649 1885.