There’s no more sure sign of spring and warmer weather than the arrival in Edinburgh of Gardening Scotland 2012
There comes a point towards the end of May, as the soil is warming up nicely and the risk of frost has started to subside, when gardeners can rejoice in the fact that the main planting season of the year is officially here. Another sign is the trucks laden with trees, plants and compost heading for the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh, where the build-up for Gardening Scotland 2012 is under way.
The national gardening show opens on Friday and already teams of landscapers, designers and gardeners are hard at work transforming rough grass into fantasy show gardens that will look as if they have bloomed on that spot for generations.
In nurseries across the country, growers are moving plants in and out of greenhouses as the weather dictates in order to have them bursting into flower on the show’s opening day, while hundreds of amateur growers, including school children, gardening clubs and members of specialist plant societies, are putting the final touches to their exhibits.
It takes many months of planning and preparation to put on a show that lasts for just three days, but Gardening Scotland has been taking place for well over a decade now and in that time both the organisers and the hundreds of regular exhibitors have become proficient at creating an oasis where there was none.
For first-time exhibitors, the challenge is to be ready by 4pm on the Thursday afternoon, which is when judging begins.
However, Alastair Hunter is better placed than most to keep track of time as the countdown gets under way. Alastair is a sundial maker from Edinburgh and he will be bringing his beautiful timepieces to Gardening Scotland for the first time this year. Alastair says: “My interest in sundials began five or six years ago when I thought it would be nice to have one in the garden. I couldn’t find one that I liked, so I decided to make one myself.”
After a lifetime spent in the engineering industry, Alastair took a thorough approach to the subject, learning everything he could about sundials before coming up with a prototype. From there he developed a range of contemporary designs that are both sculptural and accurate, and last year he launched them under the name of Macmillan Hunter. For the show they will stand in a garden by award-winning designer Amber Goudy.
Art and gardening are inextricably linked, and many of the gardens and exhibits at this year’s show will involve works ranging from the beautiful to the quirky.
The centrepiece of the Serenity Garden, which is being created by Ray Howie and fellow ex-servicemen as a means of raising the profile of veterans’ charity Gardening Leave, will be a life-sized, wrought iron sculpture of a man cutting grass.
Horticultural charity Perennial will be displaying work by renowned artist Ann Fraser, and Anna Knights’ painting Peacock Butterfly on Apple Blossom will be the centrepiece of an indoor garden created by Dalgety Bay Horticultural Society on behalf of the British Thyroid Foundation.
The show will also feature the largest exhibition of botanical art outside London and in the massive Craft Marquee, which has had to be extended this year because of its popularity among both exhibitors and visitors, there will be other artists selling original works.
Meanwhile, in The New Hopetoun Gardens Floral Hall, the focus will be on plants – hundreds of thousands of them. This is the largest plant sale in Scotland and it attracts the finest growers from all over the UK, including many who have had just enough time to pack up their stands at the Chelsea Flower Show and head to their nurseries to stock up with plants before dashing to Edinburgh in time for the opening of Gardening Scotland.
Among them will be Bowden Hostas and Binny Plants from Ecclesmachan in West Lothian, which this year will be creating a display of cut peonies and a stream-side garden with lush planting.
Gardening Scotland show manager, Jim Jermyn says: “It is the range of quality plants on offer that makes Gardening Scotland so special. Here, visitors can buy them directly from the people who grow them and get advice on their cultivation.”
This is especially important after recent harsh winters, which have devastated many gardens and left gardeners questioning which plants they should be growing.
Fortunately, alongside the plants, the show also offers plenty of expert advice, in The BBC Scotland Beechgrove Theatre; through the workshops being staged by specialist societies such as the Scottish Bonsai Association; and from members of the Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
This year, RBGE staff will be joined on their stand for the first time by members of the Royal Horticultural Society’s advisory service.
A total of 13 show gardens will be created this year. That’s the highest number in Gardening Scotland’s history, and they will include a giant, wicker horn of plenty filled with Scottish fruit, made by students at the Scottish Agricultural College in Edinburgh and ‘From Dundee to Antarctica’ by Rococo Gardens of Carnoustie, which will mark the centenary of Captain Scott’s doomed race to the South Pole.
Competition for gold medals in this category is always fierce and for the first time this year members of the public will be able to vote for their favourite garden in the GreenThumb ‘I Dig It’ award.
But there’s more to Gardening Scotland 2012 than plants and flowers, and this year in the Zero Waste Scotland Cookery Theatre, an impressive line-up of Scottish chefs, including Paul Wedgwood and Mark Greenaway, fresh from his appearance on BBC 2’s The Great British Menu, will be cooking up a storm with top-quality Scottish ingredients while, at the same time, encouraging audiences to waste less food and to consider the journey that can transform kitchen scraps into the crumbly compost that is used throughout the showground.
And young visitors aren’t forgotten either. As well as fun with bugs in the Living Garden, they can encounter bees and birds of prey in the Big Back Garden, and take up the ‘Are you as strong as a panda’ challenge with a team from Edinburgh Zoo. And in the Pallet Garden area there will be a chance to get their hands dirty during sessions of the Dobbies Garden Centres’ Little Seedlings Club.
The organisers of Gardening Scotland 2012 hope this year’s show will satisfy serious plantaholics while helping to cultivate the next generation of gardeners at the same time. k
Gardening Scotland 2012 runs from Friday, 1 June until Sunday, 3 June at The Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh. Tickets cost £16 (Fri), £14 (Sat/Sun). Children go free (0131-333 0965, www.gardeningscotland.com).
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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