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BBC Gardeners’ World Live – always worth a visit

Exotic Gardens Every June, Birmingham National Exhibition Centre becomes the venue for a show full of inspiration for gardeners. Following hot-on-the-heels of the Chelsea Flower Show (the most famous flower show in the world), it might be thought that the British gardener would have had enough of show gardens and expensive lawn mowers. But apparently not! With its special mix of live gardening entertainment, fantastic plants and shopping opportunities Gardeners’ World Live attracts thousands of people every year. However, this is a BBC led show that is ‘in association with’ the RHS so does it reach the same standards as its more famous counterpart?

The first thing most visitors want to see are the show gardens and at Gardeners’ World Live they do not disappoint. They are of a high standard, with many achieving gold medals but what is obvious is that most of them have not had access to the same size of budget as those at Chelsea. This is not to say they are not as good, but at GWL you won’t find 100-year-old trees or water containers that look like cereal bowls for giants! The occasional garden may be exotic and wildly dramatic but many are perhaps more ‘realistic’ and visitors may find it easier to visualise them in their own back yards and that can only be a good thing. Each year the individual gardens vary hugely in style and content so there will always be something to inspire the viewer.

Sturdy Square Folding Plastic Cart The Floral Pavilion is definitely a highlight of the day with the scent of sweet peas mixing with lilies and all manner of other gorgeous plant aromas. The stands are of the highest quality with many winning gold medals but where Birmingham wins over Chelsea is that you can purchase plants on the day. The lure of this can prove irresistible and what has to be one of the most popular items on sale at the show is a sturdy square folding plastic cart. From early on every day nodding heads of perennials and climbers can be seen making their way around the grounds, safely stored in these brightly coloured trolleys. However, if pulling one of these is not appealing then plant purchases can be left in the Plant Crèche and collected at the end of the day.

Every year well-known gardening personalities including many of those from the BBC Gardeners’ World programme take to the stage in the main hall to share their knowledge and love of plants within their own specialities. These are always very informal occasions, often providing many funny personal stories that provide an insight into their life and knowledge and with most finishing with a question and answer session there is no telling what might come up!

Gardeners’ World Live is often fondly called The People’s Show and there has to be a good reason for this. With its location at the National Exhibition Centre it is physically accessible to many people who would find the journey to London for Chelsea just that bit too far (and/or expensive) and the huge range of reasonably priced plants and accessories provides a great opportunity to buy something for the garden and as all gardeners know, that is great fun! From a designer’s perspective it could even be said it is more useful than Chelsea as hard landscaping and other products seen in the show gardens are more likely to be used in day-to-day designs and it is always good to see how other designers use the same product. No, it doesn’t have the kudos of Chelsea but it has something different, a personality of its own. One that is friendly and welcoming whether you are an expert gardener or a complete novice.

© Sharon Brown 19th June 2008

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