For three days every summer, the grounds of the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh are transformed by trees and flowers.
Ponds appear overnight, wildflower meadows spring up, fronds of grasses sway between topiary hedging and blooms spill from lush borders that look as if they’ve been flourishing on the same spot for decades.
Meanwhile, in the Floral Pavilion it’s as if all the flowers of June have been gathered together in the one place, filling the space with colour and scent.
Gardening is this country’s favourite hobby, a passion that has been shared in recent years by a new generation of community gardeners, window-box food growers and allotmenteers. The national festival of growing, which opens on Friday, 1 June, has something for all of them and it’s also a showcase for the latest trends. Here are some of the themes that will be shaping our gardens this summer.
The links between art and gardening have always been strong, but it’s a collaboration that’s constantly being reinvented, as many of the show’s gardens demonstrate.
A Wee Natural Gallery by SRUC Edinburgh is designed to get children excited about the natural world. Borders will be themed around famous artists, from Banksy to Picasso, and mini sculptures will portray some of the 50 words about wildlife removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary this year because they were deemed no longer relevant to children.
In The Garden Retreat: A Place For Living by designer Lynn Hill and CED Stone Group, the central feature will be a garden room decorated with the botanical illustrations of Eleanor Christopher of Rosslyn Chapel Art.
Caulders Garden Centres will be evoking memories of the First World War with their Tommies soldier silhouettes in a garden setting. These six-foot-high sculptures, part of the There But Not There campaign will eventually be installed across the UK to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice.
Military charity Glen Art will also be commemorating the First World War with All The Hills And Vales Along, the title of a poem by Scottish poet Charles Hamilton Sorley who was killed on 13 October 1915 at the Battle of Loos. The garden will feature the work of artists Daniel Campbell and Jeanne Mundy and of sculptor Dan Metcalfe.
Ancient Chinese art will be evoked by a stone moon gate in an eastern garden by the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh. The splendour of a stately home will be recreated by five pod gardens, each reflecting a different aspect of the gardens at Glamis Castle, and the Victorian art of carpet bedding will be brought back to life by design students at Elmwood College.
Plant breeding has given us some brilliant new plants and Gardening Scotland has always been the place to find the best of them. This year, however, it’s old fashioned flowers that are in the spotlight. Now that dahlias have been rehabilitated and gladioli are on trend, carnations and pinks are the latest “oldies” to be brought in from the cold.
Not that you’ll need any heat to grow them. These 1950s favourites are not the tender, hothouse flowers that many imagine, most are perfectly happy outdoors and Keith Mastaglio, of G&K Carnations who is exhibiting in the Floral Pavilion, says border carnations couldn’t be easier to grow.
“They need no looking after whatsoever. They are happy in a mixed border and some of them are very highly scented.”
Gardening Scotland is the biggest plant fair in Scotland, with dozens of top nurseries from across the UK selling a huge range of unusual and beautiful plants. Among the exhibitors this year will be Glendoick Gardens, which is famed for its rhododendrons; Macplants from East Lothian who will be exhibiting herbaceous plants, alpines, ferns and grasses; Chrysanthemums Direct; the multi-award-winning Dibleys Nurseries who are renowned for their streptocarpus and other house plants, and Holmes Farm Plants from Ayrshire, which specialises in irises and perennials.
No room for plants? Then why not go up the way? Green walls are an innovative solution when space is at a premium and at Gardening Scotland visitors will learn the principles of vertical gardening. GP Plantscape will be demonstrating their new system for growing green walls indoors, while the RHS will show how to clad outdoor surfaces in green.
Landscape architect Anca Panait will be working with the Royal Horticultural Society to create their interactive exhibit. The RHS will also be running a Greening Grey Britain pop-up garden competition, where students from colleges and school will create compact show gardens to showcase their creativity and planting skills.
Over the three days, Ikea will be showing visitors at Gardening Scotland how they can reap the benefits of plants even in small spaces, as well as how the whole family can get growing in window boxes, window sills and gardens. On top of this, there will be cooking demonstrations showing visitors how they can third the time and energy used when making family friendly dishes and how they can turn their home grown goodies into gut friendly and delicious fermented vegetables.
Ikea will also be displaying their Growroom structure at the event. Designed by their external innovation hub, Space 10, the structure was conceived as an alternative to the global food model, enabling people to grow their own food in a local and sustainable manner. It’s made of one material and is designed in a way that is easy and intuitive to build, and allows water and light to reach vegetation on every level of the sphere.
Square metre gardening, where gardeners grow bountiful food in a tiny plot, is a recent craze but at Gardening Scotland it’s been happening for years. Now the Pallet Garden Challenge, organised by the Scottish Gardeners’ Forum and sponsored by Ross & Liddell, is back again and schools, organisations and gardening groups from across Scotland will be competing to create, not just edible gardens, but also decorative plots.
Passing on the Bug
A big effort is being made to reconnect children with the outdoor world and in the Tunnocks Big Back Garden there will be close encounters with bees and mini beasts and the chance to get hands-on with Dobbies who will be holding sessions of their Little Seedlings Club to encourage children to get growing.
There will also be a chance to let off steam with ball games and inflatable assault courses.
The Scottish Men’s Shed Association will be joining the line-up of environmental and community groups in the Garden for Life area, which is devoted to caring for the creatures and open spaces that make up our natural world.
The Men’s Shed movement has taken root in Scotland and now there are 67 sheds across the country, with 45 more in development, where members can find companionship, share their skills with others and help with community projects, to the greater wellbeing of everyone involved.
Other organisations taking part in the Garden for Life this year include the Scottish Allotments & Gardens Society, Plantlife Scotland, Plant Health and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.
Plants are increasingly being used to flavour drinks and specialist nursery The Secret Herb Garden will be creating a Secret Gin Garden, full of the flowers used to flavour its Old Curiosity range of amazing, colour-changing floral gins.
Visitors will be able to sample the delicate flavours of Apothecary Rose, Lavender & Echinacea and Chamomile & Cornflower made from hand-picked ingredients, grown at the foot of the Pentlands.
Gardening Scotland takes place from Friday, 1 June until Sunday, 3 June at The Royal Highland Centre. Visitors can save money by buying tickets in advance at www.gardeningscotland.com