I was given free tickets from a friend to visit the RHS Flower Show. My partner and I nearly went a few years ago but the expensive ticket price put us off. As soon as we got there I could see that it was a very well organised event with everything meticulously set out and signposted. The only thing the organisers had no power over was the poor weather and it drizzled all day.
Our first visit was to the huge flower tent where you could buy all manner of flora from giant lilies, to cacti, to bonsai trees. There were also ‘potting shed’ demonstrations run by various experts, they did cause a few traffic jams so ideally should have their own corner!
Tatton Park is a veritable black hole for phone signal which is not ideal for googling plants, making vines or trying to find each other in the crowds!
After marvelling at the amazing flowers we went to look for some food. There was a selection of vans to choose from offering hog roasts, Mexican food, paninis and other such fare. Probably not quite as exciting as I would like! I went for chips, which were overpriced and underwhelming. Service wasn’t great and they were nothing like classic chippy chips. Disappointing.
We had a well earned brew and sat on the floor of one of the food tents – in the rainy weather they definitely needed more undercover tables and chairs especially for older people sheltering from the rain. There were champagne vans which was very tempting but there was no way I was drinking it in the rain!
The highlight of the show was of course the display gardens which were very inspiring! I especially liked the incorporation of the solar panels into the one below (Aurora Arbora – Silver). The use of colour, shape, structure and overall design features were a great idea for budding gardeners like myself and my partner. As our garden is designed specifically with wildlife in mind, we thought that a mini waterfall could be beneficial for birds and mammals alike.
Reflecting Phototonics by Helen Elks-Smith won the best large garden award and it was beautiful and definitely deserving of the accolade!
And below a space age greenhouse…(Light Catcher – Best Year of the Light Garden)
There were many, many opportunities to spend money, the Country Living tent was full of handmade wares, tents full of flowers and outdoor shops selling outdoor furniture, £800 trees and remote controlled lawnmowers.
Considering the amounts of money they must make, the entrance fee (£30 on the day) didn’t really seem justified. They even had a cash machine on site to help you spend more.
In terms of entertainment, there was the display gardens, feast theatre, crafts, talks, gardens made my local schools, potting demonstrations and a live band. The band played to outdoor seating so it was difficult to watch them in the rain. I don’t know if this was enough to justify such a high entrance fee but there were still plenty of people, mostly of older generations.
Another element that I liked was the decorated shed area, where there was a mirrored shed with a disco ball and a shed painted with a beautiful blue tit.
There was a carousel and ferris wheel rides decorated with flowers as you can watch on my vines.
One problem that I had with the festival was a Zulu themed garden which I thought was in poor taste as glamourising violence and colonial oppression is not what I would ever expect from a flower show. Or anywhere. War can be represented in art but to reduce human suffering in this way is a fairly large oversight. The garden was meant as a tribute to the life of Reverend George Smith but the biased portrayal and representation an entire culture as wooden shields just felt completely wrong. Read about the garden and the reasons behind its existence on the Preston blog.
Overall, the event is well organised and many of the gardens are beautiful, I think that making it less expensive and providing more undercover seating would be improve the experience. In the North West of the UK it is an essential part of any gardener’s calendar and I am sure it will continue to do so.