Sunday, 4 October 2009

Gardening & Food Show: Malvern-3

View from the Showground, looking towards the northern end of the Malvern Hills.

A week ago we were attending the Autumn Gardening & Food Show at the showground of the Three Counties Agricultural Society. Notes on our journey to Malvern are already in my Journaling blog; here I will share some of the Show highlights.

I come to these events with such anticipation, not sure whether I will be enthralled or disappointed. You never know what you will find or discover – but that’s what I love about reviewing: the atmosphere, the unexpected, the need to meld what I see into a cohesive whole whilst following the briefs of the magazine editors for whom I will be writing. This year was no exception; I was captivated from the moment we arrived (a day in advance for photography purposes).

Claire Potter's stunning design for the 'Good Life' stage and cookery theatre was a masterpiece, reflecting four stages of the 'grow-your-own' ethos: wild but edible plants at the perimeter of an allotment, brick-bordered conventional beds, container-grown produce and harvested veg in the kitchen. Truly, you could eat the stage set! And Claire won a 'best feature in show' award as well as appearing on stage in a cookery challenge.

What transpired will appear in two forthcoming articles in the December issues of ‘Grow it!’ and ‘Kitchen Garden’. What follows here are my personal observations that are not relevant to the features already on their way to the magazines concerned. For ease of working, we stay on site, alongside other exhibitors, in tent or caravan or motorhome. There is a camaraderie … late nights by candlelit barbecues in a field below the idyllic Malvern Hills. We do not participate: we work late and start early (on the pre-show evening Raymond already has over 100 photos manipulated and printed. We eat well in our motorhome on my pre-prepared beef stew, drink a 1986 Grand Cru Classe ‘Cos Labori’ from the Medoc (France), chat, plan my articles … and fall asleep still writing.

Our motorhome combines living space and a working studio, so we are able to work on site.

The next morning (Sat 26th Sept), we arrive early in the Press Room and I am instantly asked if I will help judge the Commercial fruit Juice Competition – they need a journalist on the panel. Nonplussed but honoured – I’ve never done anything like this before – I agree and am soon being initiated into juice colour, ‘nose’ (aroma), taste, homogeneity and clarity. Three classes and around 40 entries, each to be assessed and tasted! Three hours later, nine winners have been selected, I am way behind with my planned schedule and feel as if I am literally floating in fruit juice.

I am bewildered at first by the technicalities of 'juice judging' but soon find myself deep into a long but enjoyable tasting session.

New to the show garden scene were Helen Williams and Caroline Lennon, who designed and created a very clever contemporary courtyard kitchen garden with raised planting trays, specifically for the less-able or wheelchair users.

Throughout the weekend I interview various lovely people whose work I admire and chat to others about their participation at the show. It is incredibly busy with a perpetual buzz of excitement, particularly within the 'edible garden' marquee.

Paul Hervey-Brookes captured the spirit of Autumn with his circular 'Equinox' garden with a wonderful colour palette of edible plants. Paul's allegorical designs are always a delight and he well deserved his 'best in show' award. (Lots of close-ups of this will go into my journal.)

Raymond takes ‘proper’ pics for my articles (over 500 during the weekend), whilst I snapshot those needed for my blog. I cannot resist old nostalgic artefacts and vegetables, fruit and berries for shape, colour and texture, thinking of the nature journaling that I will do come winter. I make a few personal purchases: yet more paper napkins (I am an obsessive collector of these), some lovely cream-coloured hessian potato sacks to cut up for journal pages, a basket lined with lace-edged linen to hold my sewing, crochet or knitting, and a realistic pear-shaped candle and wooden coaster to light our m’home supper.

I take lots of quirky shots like this for my personal 'pocket-page' journal, which will be assembled come winter.

By the end of each day we are exhausted, continually walking from one end of the showground to the other, to catch various timed activities, all connected with ‘the celebration of nature’s harvest’. It is late; the sky pales in the north-east silhouetting the dark shapes of the hills; a half-moon (just post-equinox) rises in the south-west. Parties are in full swing in the camping field: exhibitors sitting around braziers, woodsmoke, lamps on poles glowing in the quiet dark. Our candle is lit, food on the table, a glass or two of beer, fruit, chocolates.
We eat by candlelight looking towards the hills, now silhouetted against a gradually darkening sky.

Forever Malvern! It's been a useful weekend; we are tired but content. And we'll be back in the Spring of 2010.


  1. Hello Ann,

    I agree with you on the spirit of Malvern and since my first show garden have felt very at home nestled under the Malvern's. You also capture the spirit of the show ground and bring to life the people and intricacies which makes the strange show world we all inhabit such a pleasure to be part of.

  2. Drawers full of plants! What a great concept, and the kitchen garden is too! I don't know if you can beat the Malvern Hills shot with the sheep. Absolutely lovely and it looks like you had a good time at the show.

  3. It is always a true pleasure reading your very well written entrees. I feel as though I am there myself experiencing the joys and little challenges you have encountered.

    Thank you for sharing and enjoy the upcoming week

  4. this is truely amazing. I esp love the idea of gardens for those in wheelchairs.

  5. Enjoyed this visit to the show - looked like such a busy but fulfilling time. xx

  6. It looks as if you had a very interesting and enjoyable time in Malvern, such a beautiful place too.

    Thanks for telling me about Duttons for Buttons, this is now on my wish list of places to visit!

  7. Ann, What a pleasure for someone like me who has been away far to long to read your posts again. As always you and Raymond take lovely photos of gardens and plants. And the way you write is so pleasing. Can I have your job? To write about gardens is a joy. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Hello Warwickshire, greetings from Shropshire!

    We missed the Malvern Autumn Show this year but your post has brought me up to date! Thank you.
    I have just come across you via Frances' New York blog and thought I'd pop over. When I saw that Mozart's Clarinet Quintet is your favourite piece of music I read on.... and on.....
    I like what I see and I see that we share many more interests.
    I'll be back.

  9. Hello and thank you for your comments. (The Shakespeare Garden derives its name from being located adjacent to the Delacourte Theatre, where open air Shakespeare is performed every summer. When orginally planted, there was an attempt to try to have many plants that were mentioned in the Bard's works. There are also little brass plaques featuring some quotes, scattered through the garden. It is a very special place.)

    It certainly sounds as if the Malvern Show was also a very special occasion. It was very interesting to read your post.


  10. Thanks for visiting my blog! This is a very interesting post, I'd love to try a juice tasting one day...

  11. You are a very good writer-- I almost felt like I was there with you.

  12. Oh Ann, what a lovely post. I am so delinquent at getting around to reading all the blogs that I enjoy. I have spent the last half hour catching up on so many of your posts.

    That was so very thoughtful of you to bake a friendship cake in honor of September 11th. It truly is a date that no one should forget.

    Congratulations on your 50th post! Isn't it amazing how the internet has brought the whole entire world to our doorsteps? None of us would have met each other only just a few years ago. I never would have imagined myself using a computer as much as I do now. And now I can't imagine a life without it!

    Your most recent post is so beautiful. I loved walking around this wonderful show with you. You really are a good writer and you describe everything so well. I adore the raised bed plantings for the one kitchen. What a wonderful idea. And those gigantic cabbages!! How beautiful. I love going to home and garden shows as they always provide me with so many useful ideas. Thanks for taking us along.

  13. Thanks for your kind comments on my blog - I really like yours too and will be popping back to read it all through more thoroughly. I have had a very busy few days but I am hoping to add some posts about what I have been up to recently.

  14. Thankyou to you all for commenting on this post; I am truly grateful.

  15. Thank you for your comment on mine and so good to read about Malvern here. I keep meaning to go and haven't yet made it but you have inspired me to make it a bigger priority. Like your photos too, especially the pots!