Covering the equivalent area to four Olympic-sized swimming pools, the Floral Marquee was filled to the gunnels with displays from 69 nurseries and amateur plant groups, featuring everything from trees and shrubs to perennials, alpines and cut flowers.
Hydrangea macrophylla Fireworks Blue (‘Jogasaki’), stood out on the Cooks Garden Centres display. A delicate lacecap with small, fertile central flowers, surrounded by larger, semi-double, sky blue, star-shaped sterile flowers. Colours best on acid soils, but will grow and flower well in semi-shade.
Flowers floating in a glass bowl is a traditional way to show Hepatica nobilis blooms in Japan, but three glass bowls front and centre of the display by Hillview Nursery demonstrated that it is equally applicable, and just as beautiful, to auricula blooms.
Oaks are among the most difficult subjects to train as convincing bonsai as they seem to resent life as permanent pot plants and lack vigour, but Derbyshire Bonsai had a beautiful example of an evergreen species, Quercus cerris (Turkey or Austrian oak) in informal upright style, with typically-lobed leaves, and excellent, deeply-fissured bark.
Two unusual new spring bulbs brought life to the H W Hyde stand: a double, fringed tulip in shades of orange named Tulipa ‘Bastia’, and a new, tiny yellow daffodil with the most unusual, rolled, rush-like foliage, Narcissus ‘More and More’.
Shown by specialists Plantagogo, Heuchera ‘Thomas’, in the Fox series of cultivars, has prettily-marked green leaves forming a rosette, and is most notable for the length of its flower stems, around 45cm (18in) tall and ramrod-straight, giving the plant a much more substantial appearance.
Hartside Nursery Gardens brought a selection of Primula vulgaris to the show, ‘Claddagh’ being notable for its vivid bronze-brown foliage, and brighter yellow flowers, sitting in its chocolate heart.
Shown by Brighter Blooms, the spathes of Zantedeschia ‘Qatar’ emerge pale orange, with variable darker orange ‘candy stripes’- the flowers ageing darker orange-red. Plants grow well in pots, but are not reliably hardy in wet UK winters – tubers are best dried off and overwintered frost-free under cover.
A stand as informative as it is attractive, Hoyland Plant Centre’s display featured examples of Agapanthus, Nerine, and X Amarine (a Nerine and Amaryllis cross). All are ideal for adding late summer and autumn colour to even tiny plots, when many other plants are past their best.
Specialist Japanese maple growers Hippopottering Nursery featured several rarities and a new cultivar, Acer palmatum ‘Hana-matoi’, with variegated, heavily-dissected leaves flushed bold red. Also displayed was the gorgeous new orange-flushed maple, Acer shirasawanum Moonrise (‘Munn 001’). Slow-growing, but well worth the wait.
Often winners of Best in Show at RHS flower shows, Southfield Nurseries specialise in cacti and succulents, and always stage immaculate displays, but the sheer number and volume of flowers on their Malvern stand was quite exceptional.
Plant combinations seen at shows can often be re-created at home. An engaging trio exhibited by Tale Valley Nursery was dominated by the yellow-leaved, boldly marked Podophyllum versipelle ‘Spotty Dotty’, contrasting with the dark purple leaves and pink flowers of Actaea simplex ‘Pink Spike’, and the narrower, scarlet-tinged spears of Astelia ‘Red Devil’.