One funny thing I have noticed most about blogging is that if you are lucky enough to be blogged about, you will probably miss the scoop on yourself. So, it is with belated joy that I bring you another report on the new look RHS London Plant and Design Show 2009 (with some back stage snippets...).
From months of planning, we found ourselves heading up to London in a Luton van containing the entire garden last Saturday evening, arriving at the very concrete yet beautiful RHS Lawrence Hall at approx 7pm. Unloading the modules for the garden and a myriad of fruit trees. Leave by 9pm and treat ourselves to some chips on the way home. Oh yes, a very romantic way to spend a valentines night.
It has to be said that the facade set up the RHS commissioned is extraordinary - in scale and undertaking. I am told it is not a one hit wonder, and will return in other guises at other shows, so watch this space.
5.45am sunday - take van back and catch train to London (which takes an hour longer than usual due to engineering works). First day of build goes relatively smoothly, plants arrive and we almost get everything we want done. Collapse.
7.30am monday - back on site to complete the garden. Try and revive some squashed violets that did not fare as well on the journey from the nursery as the thyme, lavender and rosemary. Pretty much fail. Continue anyway with build, take delivery of two crates of organic British Jonagold apples to hand out as part of the promotions and the two very heavy yet wonderful electric scooters from Gnewt. Panic that our staging will not take the weight of said scooters and breathe a massive sigh of relief when it does. Suddenly look up at 5pm to see a wafting past of smartly dressed press, journalists, sponsors and waiters. The press event has begun.
Manage to tidy up enough to be presentable (including myself, which involved putting on my leather jacket in an inside rock style to hide the dirt and crap on my t-shirt). Do a bit of hobnobbing, including chatting to the wonderful Nina Acton from The Malvern shows, and the very eloquent James Alexander-Sinclair. Drink one very beautiful cocktail and wish I'd eaten more than a posh vol-ou-vent all day.
Continue with build until we get kicked out (again) at 10.00.
Show day one - arrive at 7.30am and do the last titivating before judging, get banished to the cafe whilst judging happens, then back in the hall for the arrival of the hoards.
Unfortunately, the very first comment from the public on our garden was awful, stating that 'motorcycles have no place at an RHS show, and where are all the flowers?' I told her (politely) about drainage issues of paving over a front garden for parking, but gave up after I guessed she probably would not have a parking problem in her huge Kensington abode. So I pointed her in the direction of the Lindley Hall, which was magnificently packed full of flowers.
Fortunately this was as bad as it got, and most people I spoke to were very happy with the new design element of the show, and very receptive to our garden.
Our recycled glass permeable paving got lots of attention, as did the biowall panels from our chums at BioTecture, and I was (rightly) quizzed by a few people about apple pollination groups in our mini orchard. Fortunately I had done my homework, and I think all went away with a satisfied little nugget of new info for their brains.
RHS medals then were filtered out from the offices and we had a Silver plonked onto our garden. Was I disappointed? Yes. I really wanted the Silver Gilt, but there you go, my violets weren't in flower and medals can be won or lost on such a small detail. What was interesting though was the more traditional the garden, the higher the medal...
The second day was started with a bang with the exhibitors meeting. I think I turned a few heads when I spoke out at my first exhibitors meeting, but as you are probably now aware dear readers, is that I am not one to hold my tongue.
After a couple of comments from the plantsmen about the new 'design' element I pointed out that the RHS is in vital need of younger blood to prevent it dying and that the younger generations are more receptive to good design than a stand of wonderful plants. The key is to link the two, and we suggested a linking of a specialist nursery to a designer for the next show, to highlight wonderful, seasonal plants in a well conceived show garden environment. Will the RHS take up our suggestion? Watch this space...
So, that's about it - day two went well, the sell off raised a few quid, and after a very speedy breakdown, we were back in Brighton before midnight on Wednesday.
Thank you to all those who managed to come and say hello, including the fab Deb Bird, and VP herself, and all those who have posted nice things about the garden.
I'm off to sleep some more now, and ready my brain for the next show garden stretch - the Malvern Spring Show.
As they say - I'll keep you posted.