Are RHS Show Gardens worth copying?

In other words – how to not let show gardens deceive you!

OK, so am I being harsh, well actually no. Having visited several shows over the years, the show gardens and display gardens although lovely and fabulous, do very little to help the average garden owner or novice gardener. The reality can sometimes be the opposite and can cause you to make some very expensive mistakes! Here is what the average gardener really needs to know about the RHS show gardens – before you visit them!

Tempting Lupins….. but are these right for your garden?

What’s the point of the RHS Show Gardens?

Why does the RHS put on these massive garden shows like Chelsea and Hampton Court? Is it to help you, the consumer, find gorgeous plants and artefacts for the garden in a lovely setting, whilst having a great day out? Well yes of course, but that is not why these shows exist.

Ferns and Tree ferns by Kells Bay

Garden shows exist to provide exhibitors convenient and easy access to the buying public.

In order to attract the public in, the RHS then showcases amazing avant-garde, thought provoking and ground breaking designs that attract a lot of media and public attention. Dovetail that with creating a wonderful atmosphere that encourages visitors to stay the whole day – gives the exhibitors lots of time to entice the public to spend money.

It’s a win win for everyone – the general public included, but do the show garden designs on display help or hinder the average gardener?

The Communication Garden : RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

Do these Gardens deceive the public?

Deceive is quite a strong word, but yes they do. I am not talking here about deceiving the garden enthusiast or dedicated RHS member, but hoodwinking the non-gardening public. These are the people who have a garden, but aren’t gardeners, they just want a nice pleasant (but easy to look after) garden.

Garden shows are a lovely day out and are extremely popular, so thousands of garden owners attend looking for bits and bobs to help their gardens become ‘nicer’ – and they come with money to spend. So why is this a problem?

Plants are bought in the main on impulse, the displays showcase thousands of perfect looking plants in full flower and these are irresistible. Double this with the plants being used in glorious displays, and your thought processes are encouraged to think “Ooooh that’s lovely; I’ll buy that”.

Clematis growing in lovely but metal planters…? Nooo!

But the displays create a false reality!

Take this lovely border display here, and the reason I have shown it is because of what I heard and saw. Standing beside me was a couple, and they photographed the display to reproduce it at home – because it looked “so lovely”.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is ‘real’

This can’t be reproduced at home!

In fact the entire show is filled with these false realities; but whilst more experienced gardeners can see this; the vast majority of visitors may not.

What should you do then?

Have a plan!

There is nothing wrong with impulse buying, and for all the wonderful objects and artefacts on sale – be impulsive and enjoy.

These are definitely worth an impulsive moment!

But plants aren’t the same; plants grow and die.

Consequently, when faced with the wonderful array of floral colour and beautiful plants you need to be more disciplined. Plants are expensive, so buy with a little thought process. Ask yourself…

  • Where would I plant this?
  • Why do I need it?
  • How would this plant LIKE to grow?
  • Do I have enough space for it at home?

But ask this before you buy. If you don’t know the answers – ask the Nursery selling it. They don’t want the plants they’ve grown to die either, so they will give you really good advice.

Remember you are at a ‘Show’ and shows put on a performance for you to enjoy.

RHS Show Gardens are lovely, but regard them as the high fashion Catwalks of the horticultural world, lovely thought provoking, clever and intriguing but in terms of the average garden – unrealistic and not to be copied at home.

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