The Southport Flower Show

Last weekend, I headed home to Southport and went back to something I used to do every year as a child, visiting the Southport Flower show. Jess wanted to get some garden inspiration but if you want to visit any of the Royal Horticultural Society shows (like the Chelsea Flower Show or Tatton Park for example) you have to be a member, which can really inflate the cost. As an alternative I suggested we visit the Southport Flower show.

The highlight of the show for me used to be the small garden design that is right at the entrance of the show so I thought I’d share those with any of you looking for some garden inspiration.

This rather modern (and Cheshire-set looking I thought) garden was the first prize winner. It’s a bit too stark for me, but I liked the furniture. I was actually quite disappointed by the gardens this year. They were smaller than I remembered but maybe thats a hazard of growing up, although when I later discussed it with a colleague who also went, she said they were no different to the big RHS shows.

Modern seemed to be the order of the day with sleek paving, square and rectangular planters and still water features amongst the paving. What I did like however was the soft planting which juxtaposed with the hard landscaping beautifully particularly in the bottom two images above.

This garden was completely different and designed for a shady garden full of evergreens and a woodland influence. It looked like a little fairy woodland escape.

One of the things I always take away from flower shows is something that I don’t think people really consider when planting their garden – colour theming. This ‘Cool Runnings’ inspired garden might be taking things a little too far with the resident bob sleigh team, but the Jamaican inspired colours of hot pinks, fiery red, oranges, purple and yellows all looked amazing together. I’m always inspired to make my own garden more colour themed as all the gardening greats did in their time!

Inside the various tents there are fantastic displays of plants from nurseries and specialist growers from all over the country. You can buy everything from a garden perennial to rare cacti. Unfortunately due to the wet weather the ground was sodden and flip flops did not make for easy navigation around the tents – better footwear next time!

We spent a considerable amount of time in the flower arranging tent chortling about the critique given by the judging panel to each entry – Stepford wives at dawn doesn’t even begin to describe the cutting criticism dished out to all who dared to enter!

There was even an amateur growers tent with tables of giant and prize vegetables which were amazing and stands of fragrant sweet peas we wanted to bury our noses in. After poo poo-ing the craft tent we were seduced by some gorgeous wool and alpaca blankets and I picked up a Barbour-esque short wax jacket for £38 after a bit of haggling. The birds of prey and food tent wasn’t a bad stop off either!

I’ve never been to a country fair although I imagine it would be a fun day out. Have you been to any fairs or flower shows that are worth a mention here?


How to plan your Garden

Believe it or not, before I wanted to be a Doctor, I wanted to be a landscape architect. It’s probably the years I watched my Dad re-landscape the gardens that we had in each house we moved to which rubbed off and I picked up a few hard-lanscaping skills too. Our current house is a terrace and came with a concreted over 4 x 4m square yard. Not terribly inspiring. Even so it was the first patch of outdoor space I had to call my own and I was determined to make my city garden somewhere peaceful and pretty. I thought I’d share some of the things that you need to take into consideration when doing the same, regardless of the size of space you’re looking at.

Live with it.
The worst thing you can do (and I would go so far as to extend this to the house, although to a lesser extent,) is to plan your garden without really knowing its character. Aside from the weather, Summer is a good time to plan, and it’s the time of year you will spend most time in the garden.

Parisian Patio
You need to figure out where the sun is and when, where the shady spots are, what you see from various views from the house and what you don’t want to see (that ugly wall or neighbour’s house?)

Make a list
Work out what you want from your garden. Everybodies priorities are different when it comes to the garden. If you’re young and without a family, you might want a party garden that works for outdoor gatherings, and area where you can put sun loungers.

Single sail over pink and orange cushions
You might want a pond or water feature, or not if you’re about to start a family or have young children. Keeping things low maintainenece might be key, you might want space for vegetables or you might want to plant an orchard. Do you need to site outside storage like a shed or new garage building?

Get real
How do the features you want really fit within your garden? If you try to make a garden do something that the characteristics of the site don’t naturally fit, you’ll create a nightmare in terms of maintenance and probably an eyesore as the plants won’t flourish.

Modern terrace
For example, a shady area by a wall won’t produce a spectacular floral display but can be equally beautiful with shade loving foliage plants giving a lush green appearance. Similarly, think carefully about the space you need for each feature. A garden table seating six needs not only the space for the table and surrounding chairs (when fully pushed back from the table,) but space around that to walk on so you’re not falling into a flower bed or onto the lawn.

Think about the practicalities…
This is the time to be practical too. Sometimes the area that catches the evening sun where you are planning to eat al fresco has to be at the bottom of the garden, but it’s much easier if you can to have cooking facilities like your BBQ near to the kitchen, so you’re not trekking back and forth while you have guests or on an impromptu night in.

Terrace with canopy
Does your shed or garage need to be alarmed and therefore also close to the house? Do you want a second eating area for lunch that is shaded from the midday sun? Consider the mundane like where you will store your bins and perhaps build compost heaps or site water storage butts for when hosepipe bans come along.

I hope these are helpful tips. Let me know if you’re renovating your garden and what your plans are. I’d love to share some real garden renovations in my real rooms series so if you have done anything lovely with your outside space, do send your pictures in. Perhaps I’ll share my own garden with you soon 🙂


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