Britain in full bloom: the country's finest horticultural events

It is a sign of Britain's passion for horticulture that flower shows – once small affairs and the preserve of the landed gentry – have proliferated in the 21st century to become social events packing a crowded gardening diary each summer.

If you combine the established showpiece events with local festivals in villages and towns across the country, over 500 such events are held each year.

Holding pride of place for many is the Chelsea Flower Show, dating back to the 1860s, and this year having something of a contemporary credit-crunch feel. But don't assume that this means it will be an austere affair. Instead, the Royal Horticultural Society is using three exhibits to show how a modest budget does not mean having to accept a small or unattractive garden.

The Overdrawn Artist's Garden, The Off-Shore Garden and The Banker's Garden – created from plundering scrap yards and foraging local crops – show just how eco-awareness and frugality can make for a stimulating display.

"These gardens help us retain our sense of humour during an enormously challenging time," says Bob Sweet, RHS shows organiser. "They're a superb way to highlight some great ideas to recycle and reuse materials in the garden and demonstrate what can be achieved on a low budget, in a short space of time."

Another exhibit is from Top Gear presenter James May, who will spend 10 days creating a 35sqm garden entirely out of Plasticine.

"James has been researching how plants and gardens have been depicted by acclaimed artists throughout history and I'm looking forward to seeing how he translates this in his garden," says Alex Baulkwill, Chelsea Flower Show manager.

Traditionalists need not fear – most of the remaining 36 gardens will be of a more conventional nature. The show gardens include the seventh by designer Robert Myers, plus a large urban garden from Italian designer Luciano Giubbilei whose exhibit is framed by tiered evergreen hedges and a monolithic stone wall. Another garden takes its inspiration from perfume designed for Elizabeth I, while the Great Pavilion will be packed with flowers as always – including this year no fewer than 13,000 cut tulips.

Famous names are not confined to Chelsea. Celebrity status, having already transformed the world of restaurants and chefs, may now be on its way to flower shows, too. The likes of Bob Flowerdew, Anne Swithinbank and Diarmuid Gavin will be making guest appearances at a string of shows this summer.

Toby Buckland, the new BBC Gardeners' World presenter and RHS gold medal-winning garden designer will be joining Monty Don at the Gardeners' World Live show in June. It is staged at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre – not a traditional focus for lovers of the outdoors – but the 25 show gardens will demonstrate what you can do to green everything from a humble roof terrace to a country estate.

Indeed, this year's event typifies how many shows of this kind have become centres for gardening advice and opportunities for buying plants and equipment, as much as admiring the blooms. The spectacular RHS Floral Marquee will have 100 specialist nurseries offering high quality plants with many rare and unusual varieties, while down the Plant Mall there will even be a plant swap, where enthusiasts can exchange their cuttings.

Those who like their shows on a smaller scale have plenty of others to choose from (see box).

The world's oldest horticultural exhibition, according to Guinness World Records, is at Shrewsbury. It has a stunning three million blooms set out in marquees over a 29-acre site, and draws in some 60,000 visitors over two days in mid-August. Arena events have an appropriately country feel, majoring on pony shows and show-jumping as well as dog displays.

One of the newest events is the Hatfield House Rose Weekend, where the Jacobean property will be decorated with flowers. James Alexander Sinclair, of the BBC's Small Town Gardens, is giving one of the talks at the event that combines horticulture and music at one of England's finest country houses.

The move by organisers to diversify – you will find local food fairs, music performances or field sports as well as horticulture at many events – is in response to the appeal of the flower show as a social event well as a gardening activity.

Research by the organisers of the Southport Show, a Merseyside event that displays over a million blooms each August, shows that under 75 per cent of visitors attend for the flowers, while well over a third of visitors are under 45 – perhaps defying the assumption that gardening and similar pursuits are the province of the older person.

10 summer shows

*Malvern Spring Gardening Show, May 7-10 (www.three counties.co.uk).

Watch for: the Celebration of British Horticulture display.



*RHS Chelsea Flower Show, May 19-23 (www.rhs.org.uk). Watch for: the first ever Chelsea flower-arranging competition – for professional florists.



*BBC Gardeners' World Live, June 10-14 (www.bbc gardenersworldlive.com). Watch for: three visionary exhibits from ordinary amateur gardeners.

*Rose Weekend at Hatfield House, June 16-17 (www. hatfield-house.co.uk).

Watch for: the Wine and Roses Pavilion, which mixes flowers and tastes.



*Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, July 7-12 (www.rhs.org.uk).

Watch for: six gardens celebrating each of the wives of Henry VIII.



*RHS Show Tatton Park, July 22-26 (www.rhs.org.uk). Watch for: the RHS National Flower Bed Competition for horticultural colleges.

*Taunton Flower Show, August 7-8 (www.taunton flowershow.co.uk).

Watch for: Ready, Steady, Garden! – building a garden from scratch in a few hours.

*Shrewsbury Flower Show, August 14-15 (www.shrews buryflowershow.org.uk).

Watch for: the Lecture Marquee, with experts on hand to answer questions.



*Southport Flower Show, August 20-23 (www.southport flowershow.co.uk).

Watch for: the annual naming of a new rose in aid of charity.



*Harrogate Flower Show, September 18-20 (www. flowershow.org.uk).

Watch for: scores of masterclasses on flower arranging and floristry.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own