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June- BBC Gardener's World Show; pictures and review 2012
My kids used to love being read ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ by Roald Dahl; I had to do the crackly voice of his nasty old grandmother who kept nagging George to bring her a cup of tea.
He made a marvellous medicine for her out of everything he could find in the house cupboards – including bleach, paint and pills (not a very correct story for kids nowadays!) and then she magically grew and grew until she burst through the roof.
The garden that has one ‘Best School Garden’ at this year’s BBC Gardener’s World Live show has taken this story to create ‘George’s Marvellous Garden’ and the children and staff of Burlish Park primary School have deservedly won a silver-gilt medal for their efforts.
Modern school garden necessities of vegetables, herbs and wildflowers are packed in; plus a giant chicken (George also fed his medicine to the farm animals) and a path of rag rugs, all made by the children.
And what a wonderful array of bottles on the shelves in the shed, with even Grandma’s feet and skinny legs bursting through the roof! Really imaginative, lots of fun; just what a school garden should be.
Sustainability and involving children and the disadvantaged in the community are the overriding theme in this year’s show.
Adam frost has one Best in Show for his garden ‘Childhood memories’; it has vegetables too, in this cold season the sweetcorn are double the size of mine. There are benches made of cut logs and a tent at the back. But it looks as if it will not have much continuity once the veg have been harvested. Still a design that could be incorporated into any small urban garden.
‘Growing a Fairer Future’ designed for Oxfam by Wayro and Markou, uses plants donated by volunteers and has won the ‘Most Creative’ award. It attempts to encourage sustainability in a small urban garden, with veg and herbs again, but also attractive decking on different levels to make the most of a small space.
Living walls are reproduced in several gardens, but I have my doubts about how long these will stay in fashion when the overgrowth maintenance and watering becomes a problem. In this year of drought and then no-drought we seem confused about what will be a sustainable garden in the future. But it’s good to have lots of new ideas being juggled around. The ‘When in Drought’ garden designed and built in a record 3 weeks by Ray Williamson is a version of Beth Chatto’s gravel garden, which he says he has not visited! But the cool greys and purples of drought tolerant plants like lamiums, eryngiums, salvias, hardy geraniums and erigeron make a dreamy effect on a mound. The water being circulated by a pump is meant for using grey water to irrigate the garden if necessary.
And all these gardens were buzzing with bumblebees and solitary bees. These are actually the bees we should be encouraging in the garden – they are often better pollinators of our fruit and peas, beans and other garden plants for seed, than honeybees. And these wild bees do not sting! They do not suffer from the varoa mite that is killing the honeybee, but they are also declining because of loss of habitat. So in my book ‘Gardening for Butterflies, Bees and other beneficial insects’ I show ways of planting and creating habitat for these rather than taking on the onerous task of taking up beekeeping.
Chris Beardshaw has been working with Groundforce UK at all the RHS shows this year, and each of the show gardens will be brought together in one design for the Hampton Court show in July. Groundforce works on urban greening with the long term unemployed and handicapped people in deprived areas and has been really successful in giving people confidence and motivation.
Andy Sturgeon has been working on the ‘On your marks, get set, garden!’ project, where each garden had just £5000 for all the plants, materials and build; they have won silver gilt and bronze medals, so show just how much can be done without the vast sums of money spent on show gardens at Chelsea. All in all Gardener’s World Live really is a show for ordinary people, and with lots of personalities giving advice and demonstrations it gets people inspired and involved.
And the ‘Edible Patches’ section of the show has lots of ideas to copy – even for the blind.
But will we all take this ‘marvellous medicine’ in time to save the biodiversity and sustainability of our own lifestyle gardens? The trend shown at this year’s show seems to say yes.
Jan Miller-Klein is a Freelance writer on gardening and environment, trustee of the Wildlife Gardening Forum and member of the Garden Media Guild. Her book ‘Gardening for Butterflies, Bees and other beneficial insects’ ISBN 978-0-9555288-0-4 is available from all good bookshops and Amazon.co.uk . Wildlife Gardening plants are available from www.7wells.co.uk