Scotland’s biggest garden show opens later this week with thousands of horticultural fans expected at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh, writes Agnes Stevenson
Fancy doing something different with your houseplants? What about turning them into giant animal sculptures or cladding your bathroom wall with succulents? Then make a date this Friday with Gardening Scotland when the national festival of flowers returns to the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh.
This annual show, celebrating its 20th anniversary, is a highlight of the horticultural calendar for gardeners. It’s the biggest plant sale in Scotland and a chance to meet growers from the many specialist nurseries across the country who fill the Floral Pavilion with beautiful flowers. Outside there are show gardens that use the latest ideas from the world of gardening to create beautiful plots and there are dozens of stands selling every imaginable accessory, including greenhouses, tools and equipment and garden furniture.
Advice on-tap is a feature of the show and it comes from expert growers who are as happy talking in horticultural Latin with green-fingered visitors as they are in sharing friendly and straightforward growing techniques with novice gardeners.
So what has this got to do with pimping your pot plants? Well on stage at this year’s event, sharing some of the highlights of his work, will be Ian Drummond, who creates eye-popping displays made from flowers and foliage for red carpet occasions including the Baftas.
Ian is co-author of At Home With Plants and Creative Director of Indoor Garden Design, and his work has decorated the Barbican Art Gallery and St Pancras Station in London among other sites. He has collected an impressive array of medals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, most recently for #PlantsWork in 2018, which was a co-creation with Ikea. His witty approach to growing plants indoors has won him a legion of admirers and has helped to popularise houseplants.
The seeds of Gardening Scotland were sown in 1999 by a group of horticulturists and members of The Caley, the national garden society, who decided that Scotland deserved a show of its own. It opened for the first time in 2000, returning every year since, and it’s a mark of how far the show has come in those two decades that this year the popular Beechgrove Garden Q&A sessions in the Theatre will be sharing a platform with the stylist who makes fabulous floral creations for Sir Elton John’s White Tie & Tiara Ball.
But then the message of the show has always been that gardening is for everyone, wherever their horticultural interests lie, and this year is no different. It will be buzzing with advice on gardening for bugs and bees. The RHS will be demonstrating how to grow edible kokedamas – hanging Japanese moss balls filled with herbs – and the results of efforts to get children gardening will be on display throughout the showground, where Pallet Gardens, Pop-Up Pocket Gardens and other mini plots will tackle big themes, including climate change and biodiversity.
The Show Gardens are always a source of creative ideas and this year they include ‘Operation Market Garden’ by Bravehound, the charity that trains therapy dogs for combat veterans. This isn’t a vegetable plot, instead it’s a garden that commemorates an heroic mission by the Parachute Regiment during the Second World War.
Beechgrove Garden presenter Kirsty Wilson, whose day job is working with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, has created the Coffee Garden to highlight the importance of this one bean to everyday life and to make visitors aware that a lack of genetic diversity could threaten the future of their flat white.
At the centre of the Otherness Garden by Angel Horticulture, will be an Urbanpod, a contemporary outdoor room, while the YMCA will be celebrating 175 years of helping young people with a garden that’s built around the charity’s triangle-shaped logo.
New this year is College Street, a line-up of front gardens created by gardening and design students from the Oatridge, Elmwood and Edinburgh campuses of SRUC, Scotland’s land-based college, and also by students from Dundee and Angus College.
It’s fascinating to see what the different groups have made of their identical plots and how they’ve come up with inventive ideas for some of the practical issues, such as off-street parking and shady sites, that can make front gardens tricky to get right.
Gardening Scotland isn’t just for those who are obsessed with plants. Artisan foods, live music, afternoon teas and a Big Back Garden filled with fun activities for families and children, make it a great day out for everyone. But if your heart beats faster at the sight of a peony in full bloom or you crave scented azaleas, dream of filling the damp spots in your garden with candelabra primulas or are searching for exactly the right iris to complete an elaborate planting scheme, then Gardening Scotland is where you’ll find them.
Gardening Scotland 2019 runs from Friday, 31 May until Sunday, 2 June at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh. Visitors can save £2 off the gate ticket price by buying tickets in advance from www.gardeningscotland.com