‘Gardening for Everyone’ is the key theme of the 2023 RHS Malvern Spring Festival at Three Counties Showground from 11 – 14 May, with this year’s much-anticipated collection of show and feature gardens set to appeal to a wide variety of people.
The garden show organisers are keen for visitors to feel enriched and inspired to make the most of their outside spaces, regardless of their gardening expertise and size of their plot, and for the event to maintain its reputation for welcoming both established and newer designers, and encouraging creative freedom. Visitors can look forward to a varied and eye-catching range of stunning RHS-judged show gardens that are classical, contemporary or conceptual in nature, alongside exciting experiential feature gardens from big names in the world of horticulture.
Multi-gold medal winner Peter Dowle of Leaf Creative in Huntley, Gloucestershire, will be transforming a giant 25m dome into Leaf Tropicana – a feature garden that promises visitors an opportunity to “step into a slice of paradise away from the hustle and bustle of the show”. Visitors will be transported to a tropical paradise containing waterfalls, bridges and immersive exotic planting, not to mention a tropical bar.
Award-winning designer Jon Wheatley will be presenting Grow, Gather and Sow, a feature garden which demonstrates how food and flowers can be grown in harmony at home, notwithstanding the amount of space available. It will feature a series of fruit trees surrounded by raised beds and containers planted with an array of vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruit. Jon, who runs Stonebarn Landscapes based in Chew Magna, has built more than 20 gold medal-winning RHS features.
Coast to Country is being created by the multi-gold medal winning team at Worcestershire-based tree specialist Villaggio Verde. This feature garden is designed to transport visitors to the seaside, with beach huts and a wide range of plants that mimic the look and feel of the coast. Buy an ice cream, take a stroll through the garden and relax on a deckchair as the harmonious sounds of a steel band conjure sunny climes.
Meanwhile, this year’s five show gardens will draw upon the work of great artists, wildlife-friendly features and sustainability.
Expression takes the early 20th Century avant-garde art movement known as Cubism, and in particular the use of triangles in many of Pablo Picasso’s paintings, as its inspiration. Stuart Bugby, senior designer at Helyers of Hampshire, has chosen a limited palette of plants and will be using them within this stunning outdoor living space. Helyers believes limited palettes will be a trend in 2023.
A wildlife-friendly theme can also be found in The Wildlife Trusts: Wilder Spaces garden by Jamie Langlands, lead designer at Oxford Garden Design. This will be a garden that’s beautiful to behold and great for the natural world, with its structure, topography, materials and planting playing a fundamental role in increasing biodiversity. Visitors will be able to see how wildlife habitats can be designed into the structure of a garden, using building waste, reclaimed material and untreated timbers. Wilder Spaces is sponsored by the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) and Future Nature WTC, the Trust’s ecological consultancy.
A pollinator-friendly garden for an environmentally-aware family lies at the heart of Rick Ford and Katie Gentle’s design for the ‘Bee Positive, Bee Kind, Be Aware’ garden. The space includes areas for relaxation, growing fruit and vegetables, keeping bees and cooking. The garden, sponsored by Monmouth-based Bees for Development, will contain a large number of pollinator-friendly flowers and make use of recycled and repurposed materials wherever possible.
The Gloucestershire Royal Hospital is set to provide a permanent home for Laura Ashton Phillips’ Greener Gloucestershire NHS Garden. Laura, widely known as The Botanic Blonde, wants to share the calming health benefits to be gained from being immersed in nature and the effect it has on patient recovery rates and the lowering of cortisol levels on those being treated as well as their families and the staff looking after them. The designer, who received a bronze medal for her debut Longcroft Press garden at the 2022 RHS Malvern Spring Festival, will be creating a wild, natural planting scheme that can be relocated to multiple areas of the hospital. Laura is passionate about working alongside nature, rather than trying to tame it, and much of her inspiration comes from the Forest of Dean, where she lives with her family. The garden is sponsored by Gloucestershire Managed Services and Gloucestershire County Council.
Family holidays in northwest Brittany are the inspiration for HomeAway Garden by Emily Crowley-Wroe. The Cotswold-based designer has come up with a romantic shared space for wildlife and people to enjoy and hopes visitors will be able to take home ideas for different methods of planting for drier situations and climates. She’s also keen to encourage gardeners to leave elements of a garden’s past and seemingly redundant materials to protect the habitats of wild creatures. Home Away Garden is sponsored by Task Academy, a Midlands-based organisation that provides landscaping and land-based courses. Last year Emily won a silver gilt medal and the ‘Best in Show’ accolade at RHS Malvern Spring Festival for The Hide Garden.
Alongside the five show gardens and three feature gardens, designers of the future will be showing off 10 fabulous ideas in the ever-popular school gardens section, the theme for which is ‘bring your favourite book to life’.
Jane Edwards, Head of Shows at Three Counties Showground, said: “Our gardens have been designed to provide enriching experiences for everyone, regardless of gardening expertise, and to celebrate spring planting, gardening and design.
We’re keen to inspire and nurture new and existing talent at the festival through a varied show programme that includes educational, motivating and interesting demonstrations and discussions by a host of experts in the theatres, and through the range of knowledgeable growers, retailers, designers and gardeners across the whole festival.”
Tickets for RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2023 start from just £25 (with under 16s free of charge). For full programme details and to book tickets, see https://www.rhsmalvern.co.uk/
Find out more about the 2023 Show & Feature Gardens here.