19 Apr 2018

New for 2018: The Ascot Spring Garden Show



I nearly didn't go. The weather has been so poor recently that I found myself questioning the sanity of anyone staging a garden show in mid April. At the eleventh hour though, my own sanity prevailed and I contacted the organisers for a pass which they produced with lightning speed.

And that was the first thing that struck me - this inaugural show seemed very organised and efficiently run; well thought out, attention to detail, appealing and entertaining.  It was an excellent start for a new show. The show's organisers have correctly gauged what the public wants (imho 😌) - space, choice, inspiration, advice, food, plants and seating. The show was created because of a gap in Ascot Racecourse's spring calendar and steered to success by Stephen Bennett, previously Show Director for the RHS.


~ My two favourite gardens: Top, On Point by Tom Hill; Below, The Courtyard by Joe Perkins

So, what's on offer at the show?  The big draw had to be the twelve show gardens, six by professional designers and six by hort college teams under the Young Gardeners of the Year competition. I'm sure in future years there will be more but, for this inaugural show, these were just enough to drink in all the detail. It was lovely to see how vibrant a spring garden could be and especially nice to see magnolias and cherry blossom being used in the designs - something not possible for summer shows.


Then there was retail therapy. There were 33 specialist plant nurseries at the show, plus 58 trade stands selling all sorts of garden related ephemera such as tools, shoes, garden sculptures, landscaping, furniture and the most divine and highly desirable greenhouses.  I think I may have stroked one or two of them while no-one was looking. The plant nurseries were especially popular as mid-spring is the perfect time to be thinking about what to do in your own garden - and filling any gaps for next year's spring garden before those thoughts are replaced by summer.

~ Love this display! What a good idea, displaying pots of spring bulbs in wine boxes.
Especially if you get to drink the wine first ... ~

TV gardener, David Domoney, led a programme of talks in the theatre throughout all three days of the show; I rather regret not catching his talk on Unusual Gardening Techniques, held the day after I was there.  From the Show Guide:
'From feeding plants with nails, caring for plants with vodka, Viagra, or making bumble bee nests with hosepipe, cotton wool and a pot, to how to gain items to garden for free from self-service restaurants, flight bags, pubs, and even  Ikea! It's a humorous, pen grabbing talk (underpinned with science) which makes best use of gardening practices, recyling, money saving and the resourcefulness of a gardener.' 
Vodka? Viagra? Flight bags? The mind boggles. You can see why I might be curious.  There were also talks from Pippa Greenwood (Grow Gorgeous Vegetables), floristry demonstrations from celebrity florist Simon Lycett and 'Plants for a Spring Garden' from the Keeper of the Garden at Windsor Great Park and his assistant. In addition, there was a giant screen overlooking the concourse (presumably in situ for the horse racing punters) so I was able to catch snippets of interviews taking place around the show and, I think, possibly some of the talks.

The show makes for a pleasant and leisurely day out. It's not so large that you can't fit it all in, and not overcrowded either, with wide aisles between the trade stands, a plant crèche, plenty of food outlets ranging from a quick bite to something more substantial and even somewhere nice to sit with tables and chairs set out by the bandstand.  Bandstand?  Yes, indeed. A backdrop of music jollied things along but was never intrusive. At one point the English spring was lifted by the sounds of a Caribbean steel band gently transporting visitors to warmer climes.  To make the day really special, posh, proper, Afternoon Tea was available with sandwiches, scones, little pastries and a glass of champagne if wanted, a cuppa if not. At a price, of course, but definitely worth getting your frock and hat on for. (I didn't stop for tea but will bear it in mind for next year!)

As I was there in my blogger guise, I was given a Show Guide booklet as part of the press pack. As a nice surprise this was packed with useful and relevant information, with adverts kept to a minimum, and represented good value for the £2 cover charge.

Altogether, I came away from the show happy and relaxed, feeling I'd chatted to some interesting people, been inspired by the variety of spring planting used in the show gardens ... and, of course, with a boot full of plants. Really, an excellent day.



The show is hosted by Ascot Racecourse in association with the Gardens of Windsor Great Park. There's easy access through the Berkshire countryside from three motorways (M3, M4 and M25), plentiful free parking and a (very) local railway station.   Next year's show is 12-14th April 2019.



12 comments:

  1. Sounds great for an inaugural show, a very promising start!

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    1. Yes indeed - make a note of those dates, guys, and perhaps I'll see you there next year! I think it's a show that will go from strength to strength.

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  2. A most enjoyable post and good pictures. This new show seems to have been liked by all I know who went to it. xx

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    1. Thank you, Flighty. Yes, I think the show was compact enough to see everything you wanted to in a timely fashion. At bigger shows, I often leave feeling I've missed something. xx

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  4. Oh....what a fabulous show! I'm rather jealous as I tend to avoid crowded events, this sounds perfect! I shall be looking out for wine crates now...xxx

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    1. I fully intend to make something of the wine crates that have been sitting in my shed for the past few years now. Flowers and wine. what's not to love! The show was wonderful, especially as it lifted my mood from the awful winter we've had and made me think of the summer glories to come! A case of perfect timing, perhaps? And the lack of crowds made for a very relaxed day. xxx

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  5. I love reading your posts, and this made me feel so at peace. Guess you were at peace when you wrote it too.

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    1. Thank you, Diana, lovely of you to say so - although I confess I'm sometimes rushing to marshal my thoughts and not at all at peace when writing! Memories of a lovely day out help to soothe the soul though. Thanks for stopping to comment - always appreciated! x

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  6. Sounds like a wonderful show & that sounds like one I would have thoroughly enjoyed. And the Unusual Gardening Techniques - I'm so intrigued! I often find that I enjoy the educational/speaker part of these shows just as much as the gardens themselves.

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    1. Learning something new is what gardening is all about, Margaret. It's brilliant that the show organisers have realised this - and not just at this show either! There's always a nugget of info to be gleaned from experienced speakers. Although I'll never know the secret of viagra and plants now, dammit! :D x

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