Pots of inspiration, from wellbeing to rest and relaxation, will be dispensed by the show gardens and new feature gardens at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival, taking place at the Three Counties Showground between May 5 and 8.
TV and radio presenter and keen gardener Jo Whiley has been working with Alan Williams from Landform Consultants, whose Parsley Box Garden won the People’s Choice Award at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2021. Together they have created the event’s first RHS feature garden, the Vitamin G Garden, which will demonstrate the mental, physical and social benefits to be had from growing plants in and around the home.
The pair have liaised with Professor Alistair Griffiths and Dr Lauriane Chalmin-Pui of the RHS Science team to bring their evidence-based research to life in the Vitamin G Garden, which will be a walk-through garden set against the borrowed landscape of the glorious Malvern Hills.
Built by Gloucestershire-based Graduate Gardeners, the design will reflect the idea of gardens serving as calming and relaxing oases but also exciting spaces that inspire social interaction, as evidenced by RHS health and horticulture research.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to take part in ongoing RHS science research in which they’ll be asked to indicate their preferences for flower colour and petal shape, helping to inform a planting blueprint for wellbeing gardens.
There will also be codes that can be scanned for information on the plant combinations used with links to nurseries selling them within the showground.
Carrying the principles of the Vitamin G Garden through to everybody visiting the show, ‘Affordable Gardens’, designed by Show Lead Jess Russell-Perry, will demonstrate what can be achieved on a transparent budget of between £500 and £1,000. Jess is hoping to inspire visitors with three feature gardens the same size as typical front, back and side plots.
Houseplants have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, particularly among millennials, and they will have a show garden dedicated to their leafy loveliness at this year’s festival.
RHS Malvern favourite Peter Dowle of LEAF Creative in Newent, will be making use of two giant clear domes to demonstrate different habitats and provide inspirational ideas for visitors to take home in his ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ garden. This immersive, walk-through experience will bring a real wow factor to the festival, transporting visitors to a place far away and providing a taste of the exotic.
Three Counties is celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen with a new permanent garden filled with both the Sovereign’s favourite plants and several that have been named in her honour, including a new bloom bred by David Austin Roses as a tribute to Britain’s longest-ruling monarch.
This feature, designed by Show Lead Jess Russell-Perry, will support the learning of two apprentices at the Three Counties who are preparing and planting it as part of their coursework for their studies at Pershore College.
Six show gardens showcasing the talents of designers will complement the festival’s feature gardens.
Jamie Langlands’ ‘A Peaceful Escape’ is created with a young couple in mind, providing a space away from the ‘home office’ in which to relax and unwind. The garden provides seclusion and privacy, intrigue and relaxation and peace and quiet.
The design incorporates a secluded, relaxed seating area and structured views. A spine of evergreen plants provides year-round interest with texture and forms, which prolongs the use of the space into winter. Oxfordshire-based Jamie also makes use of water to boost the sense of tranquillity, and a focal sculpture that draws the eye into the space.
A paradise garden for a young couple returning from travels is the theme for Rhodri Wilson’s ‘Home and Dry’. It contains all the things they could wish for: warmth, shelter and dryness underfoot and is easy to maintain. It provides space for working, relaxing, entertaining whatever the weather and is in marked contrast to the surrounding monocultural wilderness of the farmland surrounding it, represented by a strip of flax. The design incorporates a canvas-covered shelter made from steam-bent coppiced ash that mimics the frames used in Mongolian yurts. Planting resembling a mixed wildflower meadow contrasts with the uniformity of the flax.
The Cancer Research UK Legacy Garden by Karen Tatlow is a contemplative space that draws inspiration from many generations and includes some plants used in research into the treatment and cure of the disease. The design incorporates a moongate screen, which draws on a story that’s personal to Karen, from Lichfield, who has lost a family member to the disease. After the festival this garden will be relocated to St Catherine’s Hospice in Preston.
Emily Crowley-Wroe’s The Hide Garden is designed for a woman who works long hours, has a small outside space on a new build estate and misses the countryside she knew when she was growing up. Naturalistic planting along with a shallow pebble pond evoking a river, feature tree, living wall and decked area all contribute to a rural ambience. Gloucestershire-based Emily worked in publishing and marketing before attending the Cotswold Gardening School and changing careers to became a garden designer.
The Longcroft Press Garden was inspired by designer Laura Ashton-Philips’ family and is a space to harvest and celebrate both the produce of the orchard and garden and the joy of being together and doing simple tasks, such as apple pressing. Laura, who is based in the Forest of Dean, will be using recycled and reclaimed materials when constructing her garden.
Rick Ford’s calming, contemplative space in the Abigail’s Footsteps Garden seeks to offer support and comfort to parents after the loss of their baby. Designed as a series of interconnected spaces that reflect the transitions the parents experience, the garden features soft textured and scented plants, raised beds and reflection pools to further enhance the feeling of security and calm.
Alongside the show gardens, on the Festival Green, are six gardens designed and built by local school children. The RHS Malvern Spring Festival School Garden Challenge is a wonderful opportunity for local schools to get outdoors and enjoy gardening. Pupils will be assisted by ex-Blue Peter Gardener Chris Collins in a series of workshops to help them create a garden to reflect this year’s ‘Celebrate the Queen’ theme.
For Alan Williams from Landform Consultants, this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival will provide a dose of Vitamin G for everybody. Alan commented: “Everybody knows about the mental and physical benefits of gardening, but there’s a big social side to it too.”
“I feel very honoured to have been asked to create The Vitamin G Garden at what is for me, my home show. It’s a beautiful show with a beautiful setting. My heart will always be in Malvern.”