DIARY OF A SHOW GARDEN BUILD – RHS Tatton Flower Show 2016

Diary of a show garden build at RHS Tatton Flower Show 2016

This year we’ve gone for the smaller ‘Blooming Borders’ option at RHS Tatton Flower Show, in the hope that it’d be more manageable than the full show garden we did last year –  which took over our lives (and business) for about a month!

Day 1 Saturday…

….of the build was Saturday 16th July. Martin (my co-designer) and I were hard at it all day, constructing the rock garden from (you’ve guessed it!) rocks.

This is the lifting, shifting and heaving day – great for the muscles.

The white rocks represent the bleached coral  – damaged forever due to acidification. Weather wise it was a pretty good day for digging – a bit overcast but largely dry.

You may recall that the rain had barely ceased for the preceding 7 weeks (what summer?) so by this time we were fairly anxious about the conditions we’d face,

not only for the build but especially for the planting. We’d visited our  plants at the nursery (honest!) and although our supplier Brentwood Moss

was doing an excellent job, two weeks of NO SUNSHINE at all meant they definitely weren’t at their peak.

Our space was 3M x 3M so much smaller than a full show garden but it felt just as big!

There was a great atmosphere amongst all the exhibitors: tools being shared, sandwiches offered and nods of appreciation all round.

At the end of day one we were pretty pleased with progress and went home tired but reasonably satisfied that we’d done all we could.

Off home for a beer, a good dinner and a long sleep! Excited  about planting tomorrow  – hope the plants are OK


DAY 2 Sunday…

…was planting day. We were very nervous about what state the plants we’d spent weeks selecting would be in after two weeks of solid rain

but Brentwood Moss Nurseries managed to come up with the goods yet again – phew!

We’d selected our plant for their really bright colours: Dahlia, Delphinium, Echinacea, Helenium, Salvia – you get the drift.

These will represent coral reef in its healthy state.

Sunday was a great planting day – warm, not too hot and NO RAIN. This is the bit we love!

Tatton Park was hosting the foodie festival that weekend so we were tormented by the wafts drifting to the garden site:

doughnuts, burgers, BBQ pork. Still, our cheese sarnies were delicious!

Home for a good night’s sleep again


Day 3 Monday…

…dawned dry and pleasant – another great day for building a garden. We were now at the ‘titivating’ stage, trimming, tidying

and clipping. Everything has to be at its very best for the judges tomorrow (Tuesday) and it’s really too late to make any

drastic changes. If it ain’t working now it never will. As it happens we were pretty happy with the way things were going

so after a few final clips and trims we decided to call it a day: this was the best we could do!


Day 4 Tuesday…

…Judging day so nerves are a bit shredded. We collected our leaflets from printing.com in Heaton Moor,

briefed the rest of the team and made a very early start for Tatton Park.

Assuming there hadn’t been a tornado overnight, all we needed to do today was check things over and do a little last minute teasing and tweezing.

And wait for the judges! And the press! And the BBC!

With our first ever appearance at Tatton Flower Show last year we won Silver-Gilt- we were bowled over.

But now it really feels like the pressure’s on and I’m worried that we’ll be disappointed even though we’re

really proud of what we’ve achieved here. It’s hot – hottest day of the year (sod’s law!) and I’m concerned the plants are going to start wilting!

Then the bombshell – the judges aren’t going to get to our section today. We can’t believe it and are totally deflated.

So, back to the ranch for a regroup overnight. My concern now is that the heavy storms  forecast for overnight will destroy

our display and our plant will be crushed in the deluge!

Trying to be philosophical about it but what a shame – for everyone in Blooming Borders.

We’d worked so hard, to a given schedule…..gutted


Day 5 Wednesday…

Well after all the weather warnings about severe storms overnight (phew it was hot though!) we were relieved to wake to blue skies and not a drop of rain to be seen.

Which means our Blooming Border has a half decent chance of  continuing to bloom for today’s judging!

So once again we passed a few hours titivating and stressing whilst meeting lots of lovely people who came to the first public day.

Everyone has been so positive about our garden and there’s lots of genuine interest in the plight of coral reef – which was the whole point of the thing!

So eventually we were awarded a SILVER MEDAL! Brilliant – we’re so pleased to have  been recognised, especially amongst such stellar companions!

So now we settle down and enjoy the show for the next four days. Today is RHS members’ day and it’s great to talk

to people who are so passionate about plants – how can this be work?

Really looking forward to the family day on Saturday – my kids will be there to see how their original idea has turned out – I hope they think Dad did OK!

And of course for  the BFG…..in garden form!

And tomorrow is Ladies Day apparently – Prizes for best dressed lady (I think my wife should get gold! – Brownie points for me too)

So much to enjoy over the next few days: celebrity talks (Carol Klein tomorrow, Monty Don on Saturday – must try to get to at least one of these),

Masterclass on garden photography – we definitely  need this! And of course Gardeners’ Q&A – always something to learn

Plus just meeting visitors to our little garden is the greatest pleasure – off to get a cuppa to oil the vocal chords!

Day 5 Thursday…

Finally starting to relax a bit and enjoy the spectacle that is RHS Tatton!

BBC included us in a little film so we may be on the telly. Carol Klein paid us a visit & said she loved the colours

we’d used and may use them in a TV spot around ‘Primary Colours’. Martin & I are not required apparently!

We had a visit today from Sharon Byrne from MOOR Magazine – she was very complimentary and hopefully we’ll

get a little mention in the next magazine

Day 6 Friday…

Despite forecasts of a weather change, another Tatton day dawned bright & sunny – it makes such a difference to the atmosphere here

We were able to have a good wander round today AND A FEW THINGS REALLY CAUGHT MY EYE

I love the ‘Nature & Nurture Garden‘ by young designer Caitlin McLaughlin – well deserving it’s gold medal I think

And of course Pip Probert’s Best in Show award was a good choice too – she did a great job incorporating the glass

into the beautiful planting scheme –  creating a welcoming space for the family  

But I truly love these horse sculptures, they’re so moving – wish I had space in my own garden for one of these!


Day 7 Saturday…

…is ‘Family day’ so we’re looking forward to greeting/meeting lots of kids.

Hope they’re interested in the gardens but I suspect ‘Big Friendly Giant’ might be the big draw!


Day 7 Sunday…(last day!)

Well it’s been a blast! We’ve enjoyed every minute – especially being awarded SILVER MEDAL  for our little garden

The camaraderie between exhibitors has been amazing: Clive Scott (who won Silver Gilt for his ‘Spheres, Spears & Grassy Ears’

show garden) was a great help, as was Andrew Walker, who also won Silver Gilt for his NSPCC ‘Legacy’ garden.

Congratulations to you both guys – we loved your gardens.

It’s been crazy busy today: there seem to be gazillions of visitors – most of them looking for a bargain as plants

are sold off at 4pm. When the hooter went….man it was like a scrum!

So, from 6pm we started disassembling ‘Plight of the coral’, barrowing plants, rocks for what seemed

like miles to our vans. Feeling a bit deflated after all the excitement, but hey-ho, back to reality tomorrow

and loads to do!

Day one: Martin hard at work
Day one: Martin hard at work putting our design into practice

Detail 1


The planting all came together nicely – phew!


Hot reds conjure up the glory of the coral reef
Hot reds conjure up the glory of the coral reef


Silover medal winner
Silver medal winner


Sharon at Tatton 2016
Sharon from MOOR magazine loved our design
Love this Gold Medal design from Caitlin Mclaughlin
Love this GOLD MEDAL design from Caitlin Mclaughlin


Horse sculpture
Horse sculpture
Amazing representation of BFG at Tatton
Amazing representation of BFG at Tatton


Designers Martin & Dan
Designers Martin & Dan

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