Cosy, relaxed and calm sums up RHS Tatton

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There is a definite theme of relaxation with cosy corners at this year’s RHS Tatton Flower Show.

Walking around the show gardens I found plenty of ideas for creating a little haven in my patch and with the welcome return of the Back-to-Back gardens this year, more than enough inspiration to create a small special place both for relaxing and finding that peace and calm which so often alludes us these days.

The variety of designs and categories this year makes Tatton a very versatile show. The carnival atmosphere gives the show a very personal feel making Tatton the Great Garden Show of the North and justly so.

I had several favourites at this year’s show and I was delighted for Paul Hervey-Brooks whose garden for Perennial, ‘The Perennial Legacy Garden‘ won both Gold and Best Show Garden. Paul created a really lovely and calming garden, full of wonderful planting such as Hosta Sum and Substance, Cotinus coggygria and Sanguisorba officinalis Tanna.

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Paul (pictured above on his garden) has a reputation for being able to read landscapes and invoke intense feelings and emotions. He certainly does that with this garden demonstrating the relationship that estate gardens have with their gardeners. Gorgeous planting and a delightful building backdrop make this a garden to drool over.

Celebrating her tenth anniversary at RHS Tatton, Cheshire designer Pip Probert once again treats us to a large garden designed for a family for relaxing and entertaining. ‘R Space’ (Silver-Gilt) is both practical and attractive and I liked the water feature with a rill running under the patio table.

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Pip has an excellent planting eye and her choice of Agapanthus and lavender sits comfortably in the overall contemporary design. The focal point, a Sorbus lutescens is complemented by silvery foliage which softens the hard landscaping. A David Harber sculpture sits perfectly in the design and just adds that special touch to what is a lovely garden. (pictured above).

qyietcorner-copyThe Best Back-to-Back garden was also another favourite with me – ‘A Quiet Corner‘ (Gold) designed by Anna Murphy and Sarah Jarman is inspired by a quiet corner in Cambridge University Botanic Gardens. (pictured left)

Anna Murphy commented that they both love using grasses in their garden designs: “They are often the un-sung heroes of the plant world“, she said. “Perfect for creating low-maintenance gardens and with so many varieties to choose from, we were spoilt for choice. We had several key grasses in mind, in particular Melica ciliata a favourite of ours, but tricky to come by“. The excellent use of grasses in this garden give a moving soft feel to the grey wall which forms the solid backdrop. Reflection comes from a shallow steel bowl and the two larch stools just finish off this perfectly executed design.

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I was also drawn to ‘Aurora Arbora’ (Silver Gilt) designed by Dan Newby. (pictured above.) An interpretation of The Northern Lights, this garden demonstrates a contemporary space which has a ‘tree house’ with vibrant glass colours sitting over water. The tree house creates a kaleidoscopic effect that is both beautiful and stunning. Solar panels attached to the tree house provide energy to light the garden at night giving an art installation effect to the garden. Imaginative and different.

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Melitta‘ (Gold) in the Back-to-Back category (pictured above) is an excellent example of a contemporary space exuding colour and planting attractive to bees. Designed by Walker Landscape Design I really found this garden appealing. The other Gold in this category went to ‘Surf’n’Turf’ designed by Clive Scott. I have seen a number of Clive’s designs at Tatton and I always find resonance with his ethos – this year his coastal plan theme really appealed to me as I have an affinity with the sea and his was just one of the gardens I really wanted to go and relax in. The wavy grass leading to the loungers reflects the seaside theme as does the driftwood which draws you right into the garden.

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There are three water gardens at Tatton this year and each one is very different. The Best in category went to ‘Nature’s Reflection’ (Silver-gilt) designed by Jackie Knight Landscapes.

Amanda Waring and Laura Arison return to Tatton after their triumph of last year with ‘Maggie’s Water Garden’ (Silver-Gilt) designed for Maggie’s Cancer Care Trust.

maggies-copyI liked the art deco feel of this garden, (pictured right) with its bold geometric shapes and green and silver foliage exuding a calming and reflective atmosphere. The ‘Water Garden‘ (Silver) Designed by Harry Levy completed the trio with a covered gazebo.

This year, three conceptual gardens championed the ‘Year of the Light’ category and they were certainly exceptional. All three won were awarded Gold reflecting the high standard.

Leon Davis’ ‘Quantum of Light‘ is inspired by a computer-generated image from CERN. Helen Elks-Smith and Helen Parsons ‘Reflecting Photonics’ demonstrates research into optical fibres. ‘Light Catcher‘ designed by Cheshire designer Sharon Hockenhull, was definitely my favourite and was awarded Best in category.

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This garden was both calming and yet energising – a garden which harnesses natural daylight to create drama and ambience. Well done to all the designers for providing such interesting, different and stimulating gardens. (pictured above).

Sadly there are not so many entries to the National Flower Bed competition this year, however the winner in the category, Preston City Council, (Gold) certainly pulled out all the stops with ‘Zulu’. The winner of the Best Blooming Bed was ‘The Perils and Perks of Plant Hunting‘ (Gold) Sally Parkinson, of The Tiny Plant Company.

invisible-shed-copyVisitors will certainly be entertained with the Garden Hideways area, where a variety of standard 6x4ft garden sheds have been transformed. Great fun and so many different ideas. The Invisibility ‘Tardis Shed of Navel Contemplation‘ was my favourite – designed by Clare Knox-Bentham and Adriano Digaudio,students from Manchester School of Art. The mirrored shed is invisible from the outside, reflecting only the landscape around it, and when you step inside the mirrored interior reflects every aspect of the visitor and gives an amazing sensation of space. Worthy winner of the ‘Shed of the Year’ competition.

The three finalists in the Young Designer of the Year award each brought three very different designs on their theme of English Country Gardens. I couldn’t really choose between them so I was glad I was not judging.

youngdesigner-copyThe winner was ‘Sunset Garden’ (Gold) designed by Tamara Bridge Garden Design, a worthy winner and a beautiful garden. Kate Saville was awarded Gold for her garden ‘Time is a healer‘ – a contemporary take on the traditional physic garden. Silver-Gilt went to Josh Chapman for ‘The Perfect Lawn’.

Tatton is also hosting the ‘Front to Front’ School Gardens Competition attracting green-fingered helpers from 12 primary schools and five secondary schools across the north-west. Best High School garden went to Urmston Grammar and Whirley Primary School was awarded Best Primary School Garden.

In the Floral Marquee, Southfield Nurseries (Gold) were awarded Best Exhibit for their display of cacti and succulents, while Cheshire Area NAFAs was awarded Best Exhibit in the Floral Design Studio. Best Exhibit in the National Plant Societies and Plant Heritage Marquee went to National Sweet Pea Society.

phonics-1-copyFinally, it is left to the visitors and viewers to decide on the People’s Choice Awards, which this year went to ‘Reflecting Photonics’ (Gold) designed by Helen Elks-Smith and Kate Hart for Best Large Garden (pictured left). The designs reflects world-leading research into light trarnsmitting optical fibre by the University of Southampton.  Andrew Walker for his design ‘Melitta’ (Gold) was awarded People’s Choice for Best Small Garden.

This year 49 Gold medals were awarded and 40 Silver-Gilt amply demonstrating the quality of design and horticulture in the north-west, When the visitors have gone home having consumed 14,397 cups of tea, 13,866 Pimms and 6,653 pork rolls, they will take away happy memories of a great show, inspiration from some fantastic gardens and certainly they will have enjoyed a very special carnival atmosphere.

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