Our recent endeavours at producing displays
at flower shows have resulted in some excellent feedback from garden
designers, together with Gold and Premier medals and trophies. The
only problem is these displays are temporary, so the ideas are lost
at the end of the show. Therefore, we have created this section
of the website to share some of the most successful planting concepts
and give you some ideas of how to adapt them to your own garden.
Breaking up areas into smaller planting plots
Sometimes features already exist in established gardens, which can
help stimulate ideas on further planting. However, many gardens
are blank canvasses, often flat and featureless, especially within
newly built estates. This is what we start with at every show, a
blank, flat and featureless expanse of board! We have to think about
using props, both natural and man-made, to create structure and
form but on the right sort of scale. We often use immature trees
to help us achieve height but this can also be done using pergolas
and shaped trellis.
In our 2012 Malvern Spring Flower Show display we created two separate
planting areas with a slate path winding between the two. Each end
of the path had shingle areas used to display potted hostas.
Bog oak was used to create the illusion of roots from pre-existing
trees, as if the garden had been created in an area of recovered
In the right hand image we have used varieties
ranging in size from giant down to small. It illustrates how you
can underplant more statuesque hostas with smaller varieties to
create a cascade of foliage. This is a good way to create shade
for less sun-tolerant varieties, if you have a more open and sunny
Malvern Spring 2012
(click on images to view larger)
Height & structure
Using trees is a great way to add form and structure to a planting
scheme and anyone seeing us at shows over the past 10 years might
have seen one of our star features - our copper beech. Time
and again we have used this lovely chance find because of its architectural
form and fantastic leaf colour. We particularly
like to use the shape to pull display elements together and help
lead the eye from one part of the stand to another. The photographs
below show the beech doing just this at Gardeners' World Live in
2012. The exhibit was being considered for the 'best in show' award
because the judges were so impressed with the design of the stand.
This was particularly gratifying due to the effort taken to put
it together. It was 17' in diameter, which is a big space to fill.
However, it did give us plenty of space to experiment with lots
of different sized hostas, in different growing conditions:
left: we used the beech to create a curved canopy to draw
the eye down the shady, dark gulley between planted beds.
Above: another view showing large and small varieties planted
together in a mound.
If you click on the left-hand image you will
see how effective it can be to plant giant and small varieties together
rather than sticking to plants of a similar stature. It is a great
trick in smaller spaces and is something you could scale up or down
depending upon the space you have.
If any of our ideas inspire
you, don't forget you can select specific plants using our
'. Simply click on the dominant leaf colouring
you desire and those varieties with that leaf colouring
are listed in order of size, with an indication of the flower
Working with existing features
This is perhaps easier than starting with a blank canvas because
you have something around which to work, whether to cover, hide
or enhance. A fellow exhibitor came to us with a large piece of
wood, which he could neither fit into his display, or conceal
within the parameters of his stand for the duration of the show.
We took one look and knew precisely where to put it on our own
display, after trying unsuccessfully to underplant H. 'Olive
Bailey Langdon' and H. 'Abiqua Drinking Gourd' with any
other plants - see photo.
Sometimes large-leaved varieties need something much bolder and
architectual than other plants to emphasise their habit.
This piece of wood could easily have been a partly disintegrated
wall or a statue, looking to be softened with planting. Edging
stepped areas with hostas is also a good idea as the soil can
be quite banked up. Hostas will help keep the soil in place and
they love being planted in banks, alongside ditches or water courses.
A dear friend of ours once had a garden in the Clyde Valley in
Scotland, which was quite precipitous in places. She grew the
most fantastic hostas there.
Over the past couple of years we have used decking in some of
our displays because it has become very popular with gardeners.
Decked areas can look stark if not incorporated into the overall
garden scheme, so we came up with a number of ways in which decking
could be used to more effect, especially if shapes other than
rectangles are used.
||Our 2011 display at Gardeners'
World Live used three decks, each round but of different diameters
and place at different heights. The largest deck was used,
on the base of the stand, to create a planted ampitheatre
- click on the image to view larger.
The medium deck was raised 18" and used at the back of
the ampitheatre (unfortunately, the photograph is a little
fuzzy to use). This deck we surrounded at the back with upright
habit varieties such as H.
'Krossa Regal', to show off their beautiful petioles.
The planting continued around that deck and down alongside
two wooden steps.
World Live 2011
The smallest deck was used to show off some miniature varieties
What we were trying to achieve here was to
highlight how you can tackle a large area of garden and divide
it into areas to tackle separately. It is quite often a daunting
task to set about landscaping a large area in one go, breaking
it up into different areas not only help you to tackle the job
a bit at a time, it can also stimulate ideas, which can evolve
as you go - this is one of the best things about gardening.
World Live 2011 - another view!
Don't let a lack of space thwart plans you may have, it is quite
possible to create something interesting in quite a small area.
In 2014, we decided to refine the idea of creating a spiral garden
in a 12' diameter circle. The idea was to show how you can create
something that takes you on a journey round the space. We found
customers moving round the stand as their eyes followed the design.
We created two main spiral paths, linked by two decks and the
wooden bridge. We then selected plants that would add definition
to the spaces in between.
Display at the
Royal Norfolk Show - 2014
The idea was simple and very effective. By
Hampton Court Flower Show we had perfected the design but our
favourite photos were of our display at the Royal Norfolk, immediately
before Hampton Court - click on the images to view larger:
As we get more adventurous with our exhibits,
and start on constructing our exhibition garden at the nursery,
we will add more photos to this page.