Wednesday October 21 2020



TheVillage Gardening

Garden festival

Posted on April 30 2016 at 3:25:32 0 comments

Mosaic pots

Hannah Genders prepares a stage garden for the Malvern Show.

I said last year after the Malvern Spring Show that I wouldn’t do another show garden, not for any negative reason but because there are some other projects I’d like to do, and the time it takes to create a show garden from design to completion is so long that it stops me doing other things – one of them that I’ve had in mind for ages is to write a book.

In addition, the garden I did with Matt Sanderson for last year’s show, in aid of Michael’s Hospice, ticked all the boxes for me so I thought it was a good one to finish on.

This year I’m not actually doing another show garden, but I do have the honour of being asked by the show organisers to build the stage for the celebrity theatre – this is the area where all the talks and forums take place with any guests at the show.

I’m again doing a feature with Matt Sanderson and so, as it’s my passion,I’m trying to make everything locally-sourced, sustainable and edible! I think it will look very different from previous installations and my plan is to make it very colourful with a real festival feel.

With this in mind, we’ve been creating some mosaic pots which has been great fun and very therapeutic. Textile designer Nicky Perryman has helped me with these. The tiles are reclaimed from eBay and the pots were donated free as they were the wrong colour!

I have some troughs from a local farm that I want to fill with colourful vegetables and they definitely have a recycled look about them. We have also managed to source some very solid wooden crates – they didn’t look old enough so we’ve been out with blow torches and hammers to try to age them a bit!

The stage is being built for me by Toby and Aly from Say it with Wood, with whom I’ve worked on many occasions as they supply that wonderful cleft chestnut that I use in all my show gardens.

The chestnut used for the stage flooring is locally sourced from near Hereford, and is sustainable as the chestnut is coppiced each year and it regrows.

Matt, as I said before, is working with me on this stage project and is creating a tree sculpture backdrop that will stand at the back of the stage in his wonderful, organic style. The idea is to have three trees that sit together to form a hedge and the branches will have cups that can be planted up with edibles.

I haven’t seen the sculpture yet but I’m excited by the sketch ideas he has sent through. As this is such a special feature I want it to really shine and for the other parts not to clutter the stage too much. I’m sure we can make it come together when we are there on site.

Around 90 per cent of the planting will be edible – I’m using a lovely nursery near me, run by John and Wendy Hollis, who have grown the vegetables for last three show gardens I’ve done.

They are wonderful growers and although this part of the project is always nerve-wracking as you don’t know if the weather will be too hot or too cold, if the plants will bolt and go over or not be ready in time.

I’ve learnt I’m in safe hands with John and Wendy so it’s now about me trusting them to produce the goods.

Because I want the stage to be very colourful this year I’ve gone for some more unusual vegetables; a chard called ‘Pink Passion’, red and yellow lettuces, purple beans and a yellow form of pak choi.

I have to visit John and Wendy on a regular basis to see how these are coming along and either get excited or worried depending on how the seedlings are looking!

I am also including some edible flowers like calendula and borage. The really fun part is being on site and putting all the planting together. Once you know you have sufficient and the quality is good enough I enjoy the creativity of this.

My final part of the planting is two large espalier pear trees that will stand either side of the tree sculptures at the back. These will give some height and definition to the back of the stage and hide some of the tent!

I was down at the nursery last week choosing these trees and marking them so they don’t get sold; I will borrow them for the duration of the show and they will go back to the nursery afterwards.
Having thought this would be less work than doing a show garden, I’m not really sure it is – my name is still on it and it needs to look really good although one bonus is that it won’t be judged!

So if you are planning to come to the RHS Malvern Spring Festival this month, do come and say hello. My stage will be in the celebrity theatre and they have a number of big names visiting this year, including Alan Titchmarsh who is coming to the show for the first time to promote his new book – from my stage! I’d better go and check those plants again.

The RHS Malvern Spring Festival runs from Thursday May 5 to Sunday May 8. Find more information at

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