RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019: The Journey begins February 12, 2019 20:54

Today has seen the start of some serious plotting and prepping. RHS Malvern is just 12 weeks away. Yikes! So as well as making stock and thinking about our interior stand design, today I got to enjoy the sunshine in the garden with my fab Dad, who helped me get my wildflower seeds underway...

Festival Theme: Life Through The Lens

When we were invited to apply for a stand, an intriguing addition to the Show is the theme for this year: Through The Lens. While this tempted me to dust down one of my favourite Robbie William's albums (remember that one?!), it also set a whole idea in motion. Around 15 years ago, I discovered the work of John Gay; a photographer that captured British Life in the Forties and Fifties. An era that heavily influences our fabric prints and designs.

As well as photographing the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 1958, John Gay was a very keen gardener himself, working weekends at Highgate Cemetery. Along with his wife Marie, John Gay was part of ‘Friends of Highgate Cemetery’; a local, community organisation which sought to restore and revive the site. His specific contribution was around nature conservation and woodland management - two areas we feel extremely strongly about as individuals and as company. For us, humour, a love of nature, people and life imbue John Gay's work. It is these elements that we hope to capture in our display. 

Which brings me nicely onto planting and today's activities... 

RHS Malvern Spring FestivalWildflowers

John Gay’s planting was considered, naturalistic and sensitive to the wider environment. So, our plan is to use his favoured native spring flowers along with a few of our own favourites, throughout our stand design. Today, we started sowing wildflower seeds. Unlike the big nursery boys, my horticultural resources are a little more limited. We filled old seed trays full of Ox-eye daisies, Ragged Robin and Cowslips. These are being germinated inside - by the backdoor for the daisies and Ragged Robin (I'm assured that both prefer a cooler temperature), while the cowslips are enjoying the warmer climes of the upstairs landing. 

RHS Malvern 2019Outside, we're going to fast forward the seasons. My two, lovely old apple bins that have been serving me so well as raised flower beds have had a makeover. Apple Bin One has been made good today; resident grasses and the odd perennial removed, the depleted soil topped up with compost and top soil from the other bin and then replanted with it's previous occupants and a few others from 'Apple Bin Two'. After removing all of the dry stuff from the top, we found a seam of rich, earthy compost in the compost bin. This got transferred to Apple Bin Two, which, thanks the carpentry / DIY skills of my lovely, long suffering Dad, will become a nursery bed for some more wildflowers - namely Corn Cockle and Cornflower. We plan to make a cover for this one over the next day or two (pics to follow) warm up the soil in the bin and then get sowing. Our aim is to 'fool' the seeds into thinking it's March or April, rather than February. By warming up the soil and planting directly into it, we hope to create a lovely little nursery bed for these beautiful wildflowers.

While all this seems logical, I have to say, I'm nervous.

Dancing on the compost heap - Malvern Spring FestivalI've seen the quality of planting at RHS Shows. It is incredible. The serious nurseries make great use of artificial / sunlamps, controlling temperatures and climate to get the flowers and foliage picture perfect for the big reveal. Over the next 12 weeks, we plan to work solely with Mother Nature and a hefty dose of good luck. We can't control the weather. There is no large, heated greenhouse in the offing. And we can't create more sunlight in our garden, nor, for that matter, in the upstairs landing. But by working with what we have, we hope to create a display that celebrates our native wild flowers and the beautiful work of one incredibly talented photographer. On a personal level, I really want the overall impact of our stand to feel unashamedly joyful and to transport visitors, if just for a minute, to those enriching sentiments that for me, are part and parcel of a John Gay Photograph: a love of nature, people and life. It's not always glamorous or flash, but as my time with my Dad reminded me, it is real, authentic and life affirming. 

P.S: Yes that is my Dad, pictured above, 'dancing' on the compost. We had to put the dry, 'yet-to-rot' stuff back... Cue a quick jig and a bucket load of water to aid rot and decay (compost, not my Dad :))

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