Last week I attended Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC in Birmingham. The event runs alongside the BBC Good Food Show: gardening and food, what a great combination for an interesting day out!
I visited with two caps on – one as a member of the press and the other as a speaker. I gave two no dig talks at the Let’s Talk Allotments stage on Thursday. I’m happy to say they were very well attended: my daughter counted 130 people at the first one and there were around 100 at the second too. People were standing 3 deep around the benches.
My daughter Caitlin and son Theo were in the audience, Caitlin took the photos of me talking.
I didn’t bring many books to the event as I wasn’t sure it was the sort of place that people would want to carry books about, but was mistaken. There was so much interest I sold out very quickly and as Somerset is a bit too far from Birmingham to go back and get any more, the books are currently on offer at the special GWLive price in my shop for the next few days.
My favourite things at these shows are the show gardens – such extraordinary talent and amazing to think that these are not real established gardens, there is just tarmac underneath. I arrived on Wednesday, collected my press pass and headed for the Floral Marquee in time for the award announcements. The winner is this fantastic garden by Alexandra Froggatt: The Watchmaker’s Garden. The attention to detail is wonderful, one could imagine that the watchmaker had just harvested some veg and popped out for a few minutes…
Of course I especially liked the little veg patch there!
All of the gardens were extraordinary achievements, especially when one considers that dreadful weather conditions during the construction week with torrential rain. Another of my favourites is this one (sorry, I can’t find the name) with a canal, boat and cottage…
Most of these photos were taken on Press Day – when the show opened, the gardens were full of visitors. Here are some more – quite fancy those horses on my allotment….. do you think they’d keep the slugs away?
There were also spectacular borders including this one with a fancy yarn tree cover and one of my favourites – planted wheelbarrows.
In the main halls, Floral marquee and outside, a wide range of talks to suit all interests – food and gardening – delighted and informed visitors. The difficulty was deciding which to attend! It was nice to meet up with Lee Connelly who interviewed me for his award winning pod cast channel. Lee’s specialism is encouraging children to garden – his enthusiasm and fantastic sparkling jackets certainly delight young growers.
The show was a great socialising opportunity too, catching up with other garden writers, blogging friends and meeting new people. I visited almost every single stall – and there were many – including Niwaki, where I enjoyed chatting with Jake Hobson. I’ve known him for some years now, after we both worked in Cameron Mackintosh’s garden (I ran the kitchen garden, Jake came and did the cloud topiary) and use a lot of their tools, especially the Hori Hori. Jake’s wearing their wonderful Japanese gardening boots – I have a pair, they really are like walking barefoot and give a great grip on ladders. Niwaki offered the opportunity of viewing the arena from on high, up one of their ladders… I declined due to vertigo (photo copied from Jake’s Twitter account).
The garden side of the show was full of interesting stalls selling all kinds of gardening equipment from gloves to greenhouses. On the food show side, almost every other stall was selling, and offering samples of, some kind of alcoholic drink. I had no idea there were so many artisan gins! Had to stop sampling them….!
I arrived on Wednesday and drove home on Saturday – wished I could have stayed longer but I had things to do. My plants were glad to see me I think.
Some of my favourite products from the show:
Lawn Hero: a charming father and son team from County Durham (like my grandparents!) selling wildflower blends for lawns and borders in compostable bags to increase biodiversity in gardens large and small.
I love the exuberance and practicality of the Rainwater Terrace water butts, another family run business, combining water conservation with self-watering planting for strawberries, herbs and flowers. They have thought of everything – even an irrigation system. This could be just the thing for outside my back door, where I have large pots under a covered area that would benefit from the irrigation when I am away – and this would be one way of keeping strawberries away from slugs!
I was intrigued to find Cannabis Tea samples on offer from Body and Mind Botanicals. The taste, reminiscent of nettle tea, is pleasant in an earthy kind of way. The herbal drink is said to help relieve stress, anxiety, improve sleep and reduce pain. (turns out one of the people working on the stall is a member of the No Dig group).
It’s perfectly legal, from EU certified organic farms in the Baltic region and not the sort of thing one might smoke!
The tea is not in biodegradable bags (that is something I suggest the company looks into) but you can buy loose tea from their shop.
I spent some time chatting with Chris and his colleagues in the Happy Pear stall, sampling their delicious cereals, hummus and dips. We discussed gardening, plant based food and the packaging they are using, which is industrially compostable – you can put it in your food waste collection.
I don’t use the local food waste recycling facilities because I have so many composting systems, so took several samples of the packaging to try out composting at home in my Hotbin, bokashi, daleks and also Charles’ compost heaps – he turns his and they get hotter than my daleks – to see what happens.
I was gifted a bag of Steve’s Dreamy Granola which is very delicious.
More compostable packaging – this time handmade crisps from Two Farmers in Herefordshire. I don’t eat crisps much but the samples they had on offer at the show really were delicious, made with Droitwich Salt (not cheap table salt) and all natural ingredients. The young farmers on the stall assured me that they use a Topper (farm machinery) before harvesting (rather than glyphosate which sadly many potato farmers spray on theirs.)
These packets are made from sustainable eucalyptus pulp, plant-based foil and biodegradable ink which break down in 6 months (according to the website) into water, carbon dioxide and biomass. I’ve got several samples of empty packets to try out in our compost heaps plus this one which I bought to share with Charles – forgot to take it over on Saturday so he has to wait until this evening.
I sampled most of the salts on offer from Dorset Sea Salt Co and I shared my recipe for making red wine salt.
The unrefined sea salt comes from the Jurassic coastline (an hour or so drive from here in Bruton and one of my favourite places to visit). They have 8 flavours to choose from – I bought salt smoked over apple wood chips. Although I make most of my own flavoured salts this is something I can’t make at home and tastes delicious. The smell is incredible – deep and smokey. I’m sitting here with the jar beside me inhaling and trying not to nibble it all!
I look forward to trying it out on my summer harvests. I think it will be amazing sprinkled over my aubergines…..
Another stall offering delicious samples to nibble, Creative Nature sells plant based, organic, gluten free, nut free, dairy free and soya free snack bars and treat mixes.
Now cake mixes and snack bars might seem like a strange thing for me to write about but these could be a great resource for someone needing to cater for a visitor with dietary requirements, who doesn’t want to buy lots of packets of allergy-free flours etc that may go stale before being used up.
Unfortunately they seem to be wrapped in non-compostable packets (I think these are the kind that can be taken to Morrisons to be recycled – shall check next time I am there). I usually keep a few snack bars in the glove compartment of my car in case of being stranded somewhere – which might sound a bit OTT but the roads around here are wiggly-wiggly and quite often very isolated. (I’ve even got emergency blankets in my car, not taking any chances!)