What do you get when a radio presenter, gardener and science team put their heads together? The RHS Vitamin G Garden, of course!
Visitors to this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival will discover the event’s first-ever RHS Feature Garden, the Vitamin G Garden
, which demonstrates the mental, physical and social benefits to be had from growing plants in and around the home.
The garden is the brainchild of TV and radio presenter Jo Whiley and Alan Williams from Landform Consultants. Jo, a keen gardener, and Alan, whose Parsley Box Garden won the People’s Choice Award at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2021, liaised with Professor Alistair Griffiths and Dr Lauriane Chalmin-Pui of the RHS Science team to bring their evidence-based research to life.
Built by Gloucestershire-based Graduate Gardeners, the garden is themed around a series of circles in a range of materials including decking, steel, brick and gravel.
Each circle relates to designers Alan and Jo’s lives, representing something that is important to them. The brick circle and table makes a perfect space for Alan’s enthusiasm for socialising, while the plunge pool relates to Jo’s love of open water swimming. Both of these activities have wellbeing benefits too, as encouraging social interaction and exercise are proven to do us good.
“Everybody knows about the mental and physical benefits of gardening, but there’s a big social side to it too,” said Alan.
Wooden elements in the garden have been painted a smart dark blue colour. While this is the perfect foil for colourful planting such as zingy orange geums and zesty lime-green euphorbias, it has a serious message too. “It’s to remind us that we all have darkness in our lives, but there’s still light,” says Alan.
Multistemmed trees give height and lots of visual interest, and there are some unusual choices here too. Parrotias (Parrotia persica
) rub shoulders with a medlar (Mespilus germanica
) along with crab apples and amelanchiers. This combination of plants provides a long season of interest, from spring blossom through to vivid autumn colour.
The planting in the garden is designed to be low-maintenance, allowing for enjoyment without too much work. Hardy, easy-to-grow plants such as geums, achilleas, ferns and euphorbias form much of the planting. Low, hummocky dwarf pines give evergreen structure but don't require clipping as topiary would.
A living laboratory
Visitors can take part in ongoing RHS science research by indicating their preferences for flower colour and petal shape, so helping to inform a planting blueprint for wellbeing gardens. There are also codes that can be scanned for information on plant combinations used with links to nurseries selling them within the showground.
For Alan, this is his home show. “I feel very honoured to have been asked to create The Vitamin G Garden,” he said. “It’s a beautiful show in a beautiful setting. My heart will always be in Malvern.”
Focus on sustainability
This year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival will be the most sustainable yet with a real focus on creating an event with as low an impact on the environment as possible. We’ve actively engaged with exhibitors, garden designers, contractors, suppliers and traders to find ways to help reduce our carbon footprint.
Changes made this year include sending no waste to landfill, sourcing goods and services from responsible suppliers, using locally made compost and replacing all plastic bags with biodegradeble alternatives.