Show Garden Top Tips

Gazebo over the show garden plants

Tuesday 19th June, 2012

I’ve recently spent some time at the BBC Gardeners’ World Live in Birmingham assisting Chris Beardshaw planting his show garden Urban Oasis.

We set out and planted 450 plants in the pouring rain. There was mud everywhere and I loved it. At one point we were bailing the water out of planting holes with buckets. I discovered that wearing waterproof trousers doesn’t mean that you won’t get soaked through to your underwear, and that as long as it isn’t too cold, being wet through is NOT THAT BAD.

I learned a great deal from Chris, the designer, and from Keith who was responsible for building the garden. Here are my top tips when planting a show garden:

1. Imagine what your garden will look like covered in mud. Lots of it. If it rains non-stop it’s going to get everywhere and you may need to protect your expensive limestone paving (this wasn’t the case in our garden).

2. Have a gazebo. It will shade the plants from the sun and shelter you from the rain when you’re enjoying a cup of the contractor’s delicious boil-in-a-mug-pasta because you didn’t bring enough food on the first day.

3. Every time you pick up a plant to set out, think about how it grows naturally. If it grows in clumps plant a number of them tightly together (Alchemilla mollis). If it self-seeds pretend to be the wind and scatter them out through the planting (aquilegia). Etc.

4. Be flexible with the arrangement of the plants. The peonies may be looking gorgeous but the thalictrums may be lazily refusing to flower (how rude).

5. Plant three or four days before judging so the plants (and you) have time to relax, perk up and find their light.

I was invited by the RHS to design my own show garden early this year, but the invitation came so late I didn’t have enough time to raise the sponsorship required. Fingers crossed for next year!





Leave a Comment

Back to Top