Friday, 14 June 2013

Birmingham Gardeners World Live Flower Show: The good, the bad and the ugly

I think that’s a Gunnorhea’ said the old lady chatting to her companion behind me...

So began my third trip to Gardeners World Live at the Birmingham NEC with my friend Peter who is about to burst on the gardening scene as a new designer

'Gardeners World Live' is a little misleading as a title as in essence it is a huge flower show which is a little bit reminiscent of Hampton Court; however there are a splattering of celebs doing talks so we saw Cleve West and then Diarmuid Gavin being asked about his favorite plants (I think he is a Crug regular!)

We started with the show gardens as rain was threatening. Mmm. They weren’t especially inspiring and were a little but cliché....the Gunnera one was about perspective and how we only focus on the small things affecting us and ignore the big stuff like global warming. Mmm. The car (below) is a comment on the current financial situation and the hidden motives of bankers, however nature will take over in the end. Yawn....
This was also a ‘show garden’ cleverly hidden as a van which looks to be selling stuff.

The small gardens were also not very exciting, but it was interesting to see a RHS judges eyes to the side of things from Pampas2Palms  

I am getting a bit fed of gardens that use swathes of 'native vegetation' yes its great to use natives, yes its great to be pollinator friendly, and ooh how clever to make that look just like the countryside, but ug, enough! This garden below even had stinging nettles in it

I liked this one....nice combos and it was different

Nice shapes and naturalistic planting...
Don’t get me wrong there were some nice ones however generally they were unexciting, lacking inspiration and quality....some looked like they had been thrown together that morning after a quick trip to a nearby nursery. Perhaps I am being snobby, however I am used to all the Chelsea coverage which looks incredibly high quality in comparison and this is what I would expect.

However the plant marquee was amazing with all the nurseries having great stands and displays and lots of things which were very hard to resist!
From desert to jungle, fabulous jungle and exactly my kind of thing...I loved the Lancewoods

I so want these...fabulous mini ponds

Well planted displays looking fabulous

Nothing beats a lord of the rings themed display
I was feeling uber trendy as bee hives still seem to be *the* accessory for gardens and were featured in lots of displays.
Also how can you resist a visit to Beekeeping through the ages?

The main covered space was shared with BBC Good Food live which was all a bit random as it was just stands selling stuff and a bit like just going to a market, for the last couple of years a big chunk had also been the flower show however this year there was almost no plant sellers at all (beyond the societies). This was a big shame as it was just dull non plant related stands (dresses, some art, arthritis cream) We walked through very quickly feeling disappointed....however they had moved the plant sellers into the nearby car park which gave more light and space, but did feel a bit plonked in a car park. When it started pouring it was also rather empty......
Give way at the allium stand...there is life beyond 'Purple sensation'
A hardy orchid was my favorite purchase of the day, however I also loaded up with bright red, simple flowered clematis which I am thinking could fit in. Also another tree dahlia and some Tropaeolum speciosum which have the most penetrating red flowers....

I'm in love.....
This Meconopsis was Peters could be terminal
So overall it was a good show to go to, however this was rather sweetened by my fabulous companion. I loved all the nurseries but found the generic displays dull and clichéd. I would go again, and it is perfect if you have loads of plants to buy as it is still early enough in the season for them to do well, however if I had to choose between Hampton Court and Birmingham I would  choose Hampton Court as the quality is infinitely higher.


  1. A good review of the event Clive, and looks like the Floral Marquee has outshone the show gardens!

  2. “. . . the plant marquee was amazing with all the nurseries having great stands and displays and lots of things which were very hard to resist”—exactly! You have done a great job writing a review and taking photos of this splendid garden show. Keep posting!