Saturday, June 16, 2012

Judgement Day

With great enthusiasm, Monty Don introduced last night's garden viewing  from BBC Gardener's World Show in Birmingham, commenting that it was the very essence of summer! Well maybe he wasn't there on Tuesday when we judges shivered our way round the various exhibits with our clipboards, under a leaden sky. By the end of the day I was frozen! It felt like Judgement Day! Being a judge at shows like this is a great privilege and a challenge but the down-side is not being able to really see the rest of the show. My judging day started at about 8am and finished at 6.30pm by which time enthusiasm to wander round had gone! Nevertheless I did see some excellent entries amongst those exhibits that I was judging.

The Best of Birmingham by Birmingham Park Department - very traditional floral decoration
but won the Best in Show Award
One category at this show, which surprisingly wasn't even mentioned in Monty's program (did we really need to keep returning to that hideous planted wall?) was the Birmingham Borders. These were small plots, just 9m2, enclosed by timber sleepers. Most of the entrants were students, private gardeners or small landscapers. Inevitably the results were varied but included some inspiring cameo schemes.

The most exciting of all and a Gold Medal winner was 'Mirror, Mirror o'er the Wall', designed and constructed by students from Moulton College. At a glance you might miss it as half the elongated plot was a shaggy meadow. Regular readers will know that meadows in small spaces don't float my boat! The plot was bisected by a beautifully constructed section of dry stone wall in lovely honey coloured stone. It then became apparent that for each of the wildflowers in the meadow there was a corresponding cultivated garden form on the opposite side of the wall. A small gnarled elder bush sat against the wall and on the far side there was a plant of the black leaved Sambucus 'Black lace'. There was yarrow and Achillea 'Paprika', Queen Ann's lace with the bronze leaved 'Ravenswing', common foxgloves and the white garden form, buttercups and a cultivated double Ranunculus, docks and Rumex atrosanguineus with the striking red veins, brambles and the golden leaved Rubus 'Golden Vale' plus so many more. The meadow itself was perfect looking natural rather than transplanted which is particularly tricky, bearing in mind all the precise collection of plants it had to display. And of course the grasses were mirrored with a tiny patch of mown turf on the cultivated side. This was a small garden with a huge amount of interest.

Wild species

Garden forms of wild plants

There were other good ones ranging from John's Fence, another small wild corner, the neatly planted Obsessive Vegetable Disorder, through to the Indiana Jones Jungle Adventure, a tiny exotic garden with a solar powered waterfall which amazingly was operating on this dull day.

Indiana Jones Jungle Adventure by City of Wolverhampton College

Diamond Jubilee by T&A Tree and Garden Services
John's Fence by Emma Scarborough - a curious mix but well executed and finished

Fibonacci Gold by Moulton College

Nirvana by Kerry Barehead
Sadly one of the gardens got a 'No Award' signifying that the quality and finish just wasn't acceptable for an RHS Award. As judges we consider very carefully before reaching such a decision realising how devastating this is for the entrant. However in this instance, as it was another student entry, I do feel it reflects on the college rather than the individual and suggests that not enough support and resources were allocated to this group of students.


  1. A fantastic read Ian, coupled with delightful photos of some of the entries at the recently concluded GW live. It's good to get a little insight from a show judge, basing on the gardens that 'rocked their boat'.

    Funny you mentioned about the living wall, difficult to get it organised when anyone can just drop in a plant in one of the slots (?).

  2. Thank you for giving internet space to the Birmingham Borders. It is unfortunate that the television show of the same name and the RHS website do not feature these up and coming designers. They battled through high winds, torrential rain and high expectations to produce some noteworthy designs albeit on a small scale.

    They are the future faces of horticulture let's give them the opportunity to shine and celebrate their victories as well as defeats.