Phil's Garden Show Survival Guide

Phil’s Garden Show Survival Guide

Buckle up - It’s Garden Show Time!

We are slap bang in the middle of show season. Not village fete, crushed grass, homemade cakes and bunting type shows (they come later) but glitzy highly advertised shows such as Chelsea, Hampton Court, Gardeners’ World Live and Chatsworth. And Tatton. Something for everyone.

But there’s also an underscore of equally entertaining shows, dripping in superb garden design and quality plants across the whole of the country. The ever so exciting inaugural show at Belvoir, classy Blenheim and suave Henley spring to mind. Add them all up and I reckon you could spend every minute of every weekend from now until the end of summer visiting a garden show. And that means tactics.


Get in early. Ridiculously early. Often shows are in gorgeous locations and that usually demands navigating small lanes and narrow roads leading to the place. You also want to get in early to check out the show gardens without the queues and jostling.


Do not resist a show’s temptations. You will spend money. Fact. Give in before you go. It might be a good idea to withdraw cash and leave your debit/credit cards at home. It depends on how self-controlled you are. It might actually be a fantastic idea as many traders at smaller shows don’t have card machines and will only accept cash.


I once went to the Chelsea Flower Show in brand new shoes. Ouch. Blisters. Wear worn in shoes. Comfy shoes.


Drinks are always expensive at shows so take your own refillable bottle. There should be taps you can use. Think about the plastic issues we all face and act accordingly. ‘Taptastic not plastic’ and ‘refill not landfill.’ End of lecture - you know this stuff anyway.


I like to check everything out at a show and then go around again, delving deeper into various plants, bits and bobs and design ideas. I still miss lots but I feel I get the most out of the entrance fee.


Use your phone. Honestly, carrying around a camera all day is a pain and you only need a little snapshot of ‘remember that plant under that tree near the bench in, oh you know, that garden near the coffee place, next to the shed display, the one you liked, oh you do - green walls and an old roller outside? Yeah, that one’ as a kind of aide memoire. You aren't going to print and frame that photo of the quirky ice cream van, are you? Or are you?


Not for the children but your plants. Use them. After all, you get in early, find a plant you like and the last thing you want is to hawk it around, flowerheads snapping as you push through the crowds, to arrive back at the car with a few stubby stems devoid of bloom and leaves. But exercise self-control - your area of the plant creche can quickly grow.

Follow that lot and I guarantee your day will be most enjoyable. In fact, so enjoyable you will seek out another show. And another. I might even see you there in my old shoes, camera phone in one hand and refillable water bottle in the other.