Spring is in the air in Worcestershire

Nestling under the eastern flank of the Malvern Hills, the Three Counties Showground is home to the annual Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Malvern Spring Festival (from 10-13 May this year), just 25 miles southwest from our home in Bromsgrove.

We were lucky enough to enjoy a day out at the festival yesterday, although somewhat marred unfortunately by a journey to the festival of almost 2½ hours, such was the volume of traffic trying to get round just 3 miles of the Worcester ring road, A4440. And the return journey wasn’t much better, taking almost 90 minutes, as we hit traffic north on the M5 due to a stranded vehicle. I can’t deny I was quite relieved to arrive home, put my feet up, and enjoy a welcome cup of tea.

Later that evening, almost half of the regular Friday night Gardeners’ World program on BBC2 was devoted to the Malvern festival, filmed the day before when it was much brighter,and far fewer visitors than on Friday. Drone footage showed us just how big the site was (we walked almost 3½ miles), and showcased many of the show gardens that we could obviously only view from ground level. It’s also remarkable just how ‘permanent’ some of these gardens appear, as though they (and their plantings) had been there for years, not just a week at most.

We didn’t see any of the Gardeners’ World presenters during our visit, but gardener and broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh was taking questions from the audience in the event tent; and later on we saw Master Chef judge John Torode waxing lyrical about the use of plants in Thai cooking.

The Royal Horticultural Society is the world’s leading gardening charity, and organizes a number of flower shows around the country between April and September each year. Of course its major attraction is the Chelsea Flower Show, that takes place at the end of May in London. It can rightly claim to be the world’s most prestigious flower show that inspires millions and leads the way in innovative garden design. We enjoyed a day there in 2013 when the show celebrated 100 years since its founding. Tickets for the Chelsea (also the Malvern, Kew Gardens, and two Gardeners’ World Live shows) were Christmas presents from our two daughters Hannah and Philippa.

The RHS Malvern Spring Festival is the second in the Society’s 2018 calendar and, set against the magnificent Malvern Hills . . . is packed with flowers, food, crafts and family fun. And yes, we did have fun. So rather than describe what we did and saw, here’s just a selection of the many photos I took during the day.

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths that almost all growers and exhibitors go to, bringing plants in flower from all seasons, even though it’s late Spring. Plants like daffodils and tulips that flowered in our garden at least a month ago were exuberant. Summer flowering plants like sweet peas and so many others were displayed in all their glory. In some ways, we should have gone into the huge floral show marquee from the outset, rather than exploring to the far corners of the show ground. It seemed just so commercial, with booths offering every sort of gardening equipment, clothing, and almost anything to do with gardening (or not in some instances).

But faith was restored once we’d entered the floral marquee and I was able to breathe in the beauty of all the fabulous displays of botanical beauty.

Among my favorites were the auriculasPrimula auricula, that come in a huge range of colors. Some are covered in a powdery coating called farina.

And I can never go to a flower show without seeking out the tulips. Maybe I should have been around during the Dutch tulip mania of the 17th century.

So after my early ‘disappointment’ that the Malvern was all about commercialism, I think we must have spent at least half of our time wandering around the various flower display marquees.

Having now been to two RHS and two Gardeners’ World Live (GWL) shows, I’m not sure I can agree with Monty Don (lead presenter of Gardeners’ World) that Malvern is a real jewel. He always waxes lyrical in his praise, as do the other presenters on that program. Yes, it’s a nice show, but I think the standard of displays is unquestionably higher at Chelsea, and also at GWL. Maybe my perspectives were jaundiced by the horrendous journey we had to Malvern. I was exhausted before we even began to look around.

Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable visit, and a lovely Christmas present from our two daughters and their families.

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