Forget vast herbaceous borders, ornate rock gardens and secluded shrubberies, a new “alternative” gardening show for “balcony and window box”-owning plant lovers is set to open this weekend.
From seed bombs and compact trowels to affordable pots and colourful perennials to plant in them, Grow London aims to provide for those with “green fingers” who suffer from the urban problem of a lack of space. There’s even a little gadget on sale that provides a “lighting solution for home farming” by recreating photosynthesis, ideal if you don’t have access to natural light.
Held on Hampstead Heath in north London, the three-day show, which opens tomorrow, is the brainchild of Will Ramsay, a former army officer, and founder of the capital’s yearly Affordable Art Fair.
He said: “Not everyone has the space at home to develop a passion for gardening and the hope is we can do here what we did for art with the Affordable Art Fair. We’d like to make gardening more accessible and democratise it too.”
Exhibitors will include New Zealand supplier Boskke, which sells upside-down “sky planters”, and south London-based “contemporary outdoor furniture” specialist Barbed. Another exhibitor is Dutch firm Sneeboer, which sells spades for an eye-watering £85. Presumably they are ideal for cramped city-centre balcony gardens, or you would hope so at that price.
“It’s fun to see a younger audience come to gardening,” said the company’s director Gaap Sneeboer. “Chelsea is fun but it’s not a place to buy plants and tools; the visitors are packed in their like sardines.”
Fellow exhibitor Paul Hardy of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants agrees: “We have 19 Chelsea medals for our plants, but we can’t sell there except by mail order. Hopefully this will attract a young audience looking for first-time plants.”
He recommends his Geum totally tangerine plant, which costs £7.50 and flowers a vibrant orange from April to October and is ideal for sunny balcony spots or window boxes.
Elsewhere there are seed bombs and plants for less than £5, but also pieces of oak furniture for £2,000 to £3,000, as well as giant lead planters, which will set you back £300. Far from ideal for your average city pad.
Despite these more expensive items, Mr Ramsay is convinced that it’s the “cost of Chelsea” that puts the aspiring gardeners off. He said: “The perception is that Chelsea is only really for people who are established in the gardening world. We couldn’t be more different and we hope to reach a wider audience.”
Ramsay is aware he’s fortunate that Grow London is launching in the middle of new flat-building boom in the capital, with small balconies and window boxes becoming more popular. “Developers are starting to realise that people want outside space,” said Mr Ramsay, who has invested a six-figure sum in event. “Even if by necessity it’s small.”
Oddly for someone with a passion for tiny gardening, Mr Ramsay, lives in a country pile in the Scottish Borders with a two-acre garden that he describes as “too big to think of”.
“Creativity is my passion and we’re building a sculpture garden to blend my loves of art and gardening.”