Exploring the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019

Take a look around the RHS Flower Show Malvern 2019, including the Show Gardens, Green Living Spaces and Floral Marquee.

The Garden of Quiet at RHS Malvern 2019

Recently I was invited to attend the RHS Malvern Spring Festival. The show is held each year at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern, with the beautiful Malvern Hills providing a stunning backdrop.

I really enjoyed looking around the show, it’s a fantastic day out. There are wonderful show gardens, innovative small gardens and the fabulous floral marquee.

As well as all of that, you can buy everything from plants to garden furniture, and indulge in some delicious food and drink.

So join me for a look around some of the highlights of this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival, and find out who won some of the most coveted awards in gardening.

RHS Awards

The RHS awards medals at each of its events as a mark of excellence. They are judged by a highly experienced panel, who award four grades of medal: Bronze, Silver, Silver-Gilt and the coveted Gold medal.

There’s no limit to the number of medals awarded at a show but not every garden will receive one. If the judges consider that a display is below Bronze standard, they don’t award a medal.

The Show Gardens

The Show Gardens at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival are inspired by a wide range of subjects. They include a Spanish railway station, man’s impact on the natural world and the impact of a cancer diagnosis.

So let’s take a look around the beautiful gardens and discover which designer won the ‘Best Show Garden’ award.

A Garden of Quiet Contemplation

Designed by Peter Dowle

The Garden of Quiet at RHS Malvern 2019

This was one of the gardens that I was most looking forward to seeing. Peter Dowle’s designs are always stunning, and this year’s garden was no exception.

As with previous show gardens designed by Peter Dowle, this is a quiet, calm, contemplative space. A series of viewing points are focused around a central pool, drawing the attention inwards.

A glass-fronted building at the front of the garden looks out onto a reflective long pool. It’s a place to sit, rest and contemplate.

A sculpture of Zephyr, the Greek god of the west wind, stands on a circular infinity pool, poised as if about to dance away. It is made up of metal hornbeam leaves, reflecting the row of hornbeam trees which partially encloses the garden.

The statue of Zephyr in The Garden of Quiet at RHS Malvern 2019

This hedge makes the garden feel very secure and comforting. But breaks in the hedge allow the garden to benefit from the ‘borrowed landscape’ of the Malvern Hills beyond.

Plants along the side of the pool in the Garden of Quiet at RHS Malvern 2019

The planting in this garden is exquisite, and features several semi-mature Acers and shrubs like Vibernum and Photinia. This which gives the garden a very established appearance.

And in the borders, calming whites and other soft colours contrast against shades of green.

Yet again, Peter Dowle has created a fabulous design that left me wishing I could just take it home to my own garden.

It’s no surprise that he was awarded a Gold medal for this garden. It also won the highly coveted Best Show Garden award.

The Orange Express

Designed by Villaggio Verde

Villaggio Verde create imaginative show gardens that tell a story – last year’s garden even included some adorable little goats!

This year’s garden transports the viewer to an area of fruit production in Spain.

It is centred on a small railway station which was built by the local fruit co-operative to take their produce to market.

An orange grove merges into typical Mediterranean shrubs and trees, including olives, pistachios and pomegranates.

Planted containers and vibrant red bottle brush shrubs add colour to the station, with a range of fruit and olive trees thriving around the area.

Villaggio Verde were also selling a fabulous selection of trees, ranging from young olive trees that you could carry home to massive specimens retailing at more than £1000!

This delightful garden really made me feel like I’d been transported to Spain. It was awarded a well-deserved Gold medal by the RHS judges.

The Habit of Living

Designed by Karen Tatlow & Katherine Hathaway

Did you know that diabetes affects more people than cancer and dementia combined?

This beautiful private garden has been designed to raise the profile of the charity Diabetes UK, and for use by patients, visitors and staff at a Diabetes Centre.

Its design is inspired by the path taken by a patient from the point when they are newly diagnosed to when they are able to manage their condition well.

This is represented by a pathway which is initially dark and surrounded by plants in rich tones of plum and purple, like purple leaved elder and rich purple bearded iris.

Further on, the path becomes wider and easier to follow, while the planting turns to softer shades of silver and blue. These include an Artemisia and a pale blue iris.

And a shimmering silver-leaved Elaeagnus ‘Quicksilver’ contrasts against the dark foliage of the yew hedge.

The porcelain cladding around the seating area represents the highs and lows of living with diabetes. And the metal sculpture has bars of differing heights to illustrate the vital monitoring of blood glucose levels.

This is a very thoughtful garden, which was awarded a Silver-Gilt medal by the RHS Judges. It also won the Best Construction award and the People’s Choice ‘Best Show Garden’ award.

What If

Designed by Sebastian Conrad in collaboration with Kate Rees

What If is an eye-catching show garden in support of the Rees Foundation, a charity which supports young people leaving care.

Its vibrant design and warm colours inspire positivity and a peaceful state of mind.

The full-on colour of the artwork in the garden is balanced by warm tones of reclaimed stone and relaxed planting.

The grasses add movement and the large pine trees, rosemary and box give a sculptural edge.

Large pines sit alongside reclaimed stone, salvia and rosemary. And the garden’s vibrant, warm colours inspire positivity and a peaceful state of mind.

It’s a garden which offers space to think and plenty of talking points!

This garden received a Gold medal from the RHS judges.


Designed by Anna Galagan

This was one of my favourite gardens at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019, both for the concept behind it and for the way in which it was executed.

This design invites us to consider how how behaviour impacts the future of the world, and what kind of world we are going to pass on to our children.

The garden challenges viewers to experience life in two contrasting parts.

The first is a dull, grey world filled with concrete, and the second is a joyful space filled colourful planting.

A wire statue of a child sits on top of the ‘concrete’ section of the garden, which is actually made from foam.

A rock garden aids the transition from the concrete section to the natural side of the garden. It’s filled with alpines, sedum and moss-like Scleranthus. These could be grown in your own garden in rock gardens, walls or alpine containers.

And the final section of the garden is a beautiful meadow full of perennials. It represents the world you might hope to pass on to future generations.

The planting scheme in this section includes apricot coloured Geum ‘Mai Tai’, purple Centaurea and delicate pink-petalled poppies. It’s an effect you could certainly replicate in your own garden.

I was delighted to see that this thoughtful garden was awarded a Gold RHS medal.

The MacMillan Legacy Garden

Designed by Alex Bristow

The MacMillan Legacy Garden is another garden with an important message.

The message behind this garden is that of the vital importance of gifts left in wills to MacMillan Cancer Support. Over a third of the charity’s income comes from this source.

The garden is inspired by a fictitious couple, and celebrates their life and the legacy that they leave to future generations.

A collection of objects and curios is dotted around the garden, representing the legacy left behind by the couple.

The planting scheme features perennials, bulbs and self-seeding plants. These return year after year, so in a way they create their own legacy.

The white area of the garden represents the challenges faced when a person receives a cancer diagnosis and life seems to lose its colour.

However, the garden develops into more colourful and tactile planting, which expresses the warmth and energy provided by MacMillan’s support network.

This garden was awarded a Silver-Gilt medal.

Grace and Dignity

Designed by Lucie Giselle Ponsford

This garden represents the life and passion of an elderly woman named Mrs Grace.

It’s an illustration of her hard work, personal endeavours and the beauty she created. It’s also a source of joy and a way to claim her dignity in later life.

The design includes a series of interlocking circles. Each has a different tone and purpose, representing lenses of the colour spectrum.

The planting scheme features a glade of birch trees to give dappled light, and a circle of bright herbaceous blooms at the front of the garden. Ferns, euphorbia and hellebores soften the overall feel of the planting.

A winding path links together the various elements of the garden, while a carved oak seat provides a place for Mrs Grace to sit and enjoy her garden.

‘Grace and Dignity’ was awarded a Silver medal by the RHS judges.

Green Living Spaces

The Green Living Spaces were a new addition to the RHS Malvern Spring Festival in 2018. They offer design ideas for smaller spaces, taking into account the fact that more people than ever are living in apartments or house with small gardens.

These imaginative designs are packed with ideas that you can easily incorporate into your own space at home.

Let’s take a look around, and see which design won the ‘Best Green Living Space’ award.


Designed by Sara Edwards

This garden was designed for a plant-obsessed traveller, who has returned from Brazil to his inner-city apartment. He still craves the lush green tropical surroundings he saw on his travels.

The design is inspired by balconies overflowing with plants in a concrete facade, and the joy they bring to those who see them.

The planting in Defiance has an tropical feel to it, which is inspired by the garden of Roberto Burle Marx. The Brazilian landscape architect introduced Modernism to Brazil, and was famous for his designs of parks and gardens.

The lush planting in this garden contrast with the concrete elements in the design, and show how even an urban space can be given a more organic feel.

The planting is very full and overflows in a way that feels very natural. It’s a beautifully executed design, a Gold medal winner and the well-deserved winner of the Best Green Living Spaces Garden award.

An Artist’s Studio at Home

Designed by Jessica Makins in collaboration with Stephanie Tudor

This garden was inspired by the home, studio and art of the American artist Georgia O’Keefe.

She was best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscape

The garden was designed as a space to imagine, make and exhibit artwork, with several views to paint and draw. It’s a home art studio, which could either be created in a garden room or a converted room.

The soft colours of the natural materials used in this garden provide a neutral backdrop for the planting. The materials used include timber and clay as well as natural fabrics such as wool and linen.

And shelves and seating have been carved out of the clay wall at the far end of the garden.

The planting scheme features flashes of yellow, purple and white against predominantly green planting. This is full of rich textures like the acid-green euphorbia and one of my current favourites, the oh-so tactile silver leaves of Senecio ‘Angel Wings’.

Meanwhile succulents are used to line the shelves inside the room, bringing a sense of the outdoors inside.

‘An Artist’s Studio at Home’ was awarded a Gold Medal by the RHS judges. It also won the People’s Choice ‘Best Green Living Space’ award, which is voted on by the public.

ZETA Memories of Home

Designed by Anastasia Yakovleva

This garden was designed for a professional Russian couple who are working in Europe and miss their homeland. It blends elements of Loft, Scandinavian and Rustic design.

The outdoor entertaining space is surrounded by tomatoes, peppers and other edible plants for the couple to cook with.

And traditional Russian elements have been incorporated into the vibrant design.

Small trees and herbs make up much of the planting, while bright orange geums and other vivid flowers provide an extra pop of colour against the predominantly grey hard landscaping.

The RHS judges gave this design a Silver medal.

Mediterranean Terrace

Designed by Gabriella Pill

This space was designed with a young professional couple in mind. They are living in their first home with a small outdoor space, and want to be able to relax outside.

But their busy lifestyle means that they need a low maintenance garden.

To make the most of the space available, elements of the design flow from the indoor space to the garden outside. This includes the potted plants, cushions and rugs as well as the flooring.

And the walls are rendered and painted white to give a spacious feel, enhancing the Mediterranean style of this design.

The planting features a number of Mediterranean plants like aloe vera which are tender in a British climate. Planting these in pots means that they can be moved indoors in the colder months.

Three statement trees, Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree), Chamaerops humilis (Mediterranean fan palm) and Trachycarpus fortunei (chusan palm) give a relaxing, holiday vibe to the garden.

The RHS Judges gave Mediterranean Terrace a Silver-Gilt medal.

Ikhaya: Home

Designed by Stacey Bright

Ikhaya brings a little piece of South African farm living to the city.

Its minimalist design blends clean lines with indigenous South African flora, allowing the owner to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

It’s a space for relaxing and unwinding, as well as an open air pantry. The garden is mainly planted with edible plants, allowing the owner to connect with nature.

Pots of herbs and a large raised planter provide plenty of space to grow-your-own.

And the edible green border lining the front of the space also provides seclusion for the small seating area.

This garden won a Silver medal from the RHS judges.

The Floral Marquee

The Floral Marquee at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival is a wonderful place to visit. It’s full of colour, chatter, and shoppers picking out some treats for their garden at home. In other words, it’s paradise for anyone who loves flowers, plants and gardening.

So here are some of my favourite displays from the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019, from the brightest colours to plants that prefer to stay out of the limelight.

And of course one grower was singled out for special attention, as the RHS Master Grower for the Malvern show.

Glorious Technicolour

These glorious Ranunculus Rococo Pink were unveiled for the first time on the John Fielding stand. He developed them from the wild Ranunculus species, and they looked absolutely stunning at Malvern.

These gorgeous blooms come in two colour varieties at the moment, Pink and Apricot. And they make a fabulous bedding plant, flowering from May onwards.

They have slightly thicker stems which reduce the need for staking, and they are hardy down to -15C.

I’m certainly tempted to add them to my own garden!

And as always, the Cook’s Garden Centre was covered in a mass of frothy hydrangea.

Their displays are often dominated by the pastel shades of pink, blue and white that look so beautiful at weddings. But this year, the stand caught my eye with some fabulous bright shades.

Hydrangea Romance Blue have star shaped double flowers that are a gorgeous deep blue colour when in acidic soil. But you can change the colour of hydrangeas by altering the pH of the soil they are growing in. These ones had a lovely purple hue.

And I adore the vivid red colour of this Hydrangea Hot Red. It’s a mophead style hydrangea which grows to 1m tall so it’s perfect for small gardens. It also grows well in containers, and will flower throughout the summer.

Definitely one of my favourite hydrangeas!

Beautiful Bulbs

Some of my favourite bulb nurseries were exhibiting at RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019. As always, the Pheasant Acre Plants had a fabulous selection of bulbs from daffodils and narcissus to a wonderful range of tulips.

Bulbs are a great way to add colour to your garden, especially if you don’t have much space to play with. You can plant up a number of containers with different bulbs, and swap them into position as they start to flower.

Or alternatively, you could pot one container with a variety of bulbs. Place the earliest flowering ones highest and the later flowering bulbs lower down.

Once the flowers have gone over, you can move the containers out of the way to be replaced with something else.

And the Avon Bulbs stand was as eye catching as ever, with flowers of every colour and shape.

I was particularly taken by the large Alliums that they had on display, including Allium schubertii which you can see in the bottom right hand corner of the photo above.

These will flower in summer, but those fabulous ‘tumbleweed’ flower heads will look amazing dried. You could even spray them silver or gold and incorporate them into your Christmas decor!

And these pretty Tulip ‘Lilac Wonder’ are very unusual. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tulip quite like these before.

Having said that, there were tulips of every colour over on the Blom’s Bulbs stand. It’s always a highlight of any floral marquee for me.

Whatever your favourite colour, I bet you’ll find it in their display, and their flowers are always such exceptionally high quality.

But there’s still nothing that stops me in my tracks quite like the heady scent of the lilies on the Harts Nursery stand.

I absolutely adore lilies but of course they’re toxic to cats and dogs. But if you’re worried about your pets, planting the bulbs in containers out of reach may be a good option.

Cool and Shady

But what if your garden isn’t south facing with a fabulously sunny aspect?

You can still fill your garden with beautiful plants if it’s in full shade or partial shade. You just need to be a bit more careful about selecting the right plants for the conditions.

Hostas are a great choice for partial shade, as they do like some dappled sunlight during the day. Blue, green and variegated hostas will cope with slightly deeper shade than yellow and gold hostas, which need more light to bring out their colours.

And there’s such a massive variety of shades, colours and sizes available, as you can see on the Mickfield Hostas stand above.

Heucheras are another popular choice for shaded areas, and they were a popular plant in the Show Gardens at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

They come in many colours ranging from very dark purple to bright acid green. And on the Plantagogo stand, they also had Heucherellas like the ‘Brass Lantern’ above.

These are a cross between a Heuchera and a Tiarella, and they’ll be happy in partial shade or full sun.

RHS Master Grower – Mendip Bonsai

The Master Grower for the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019 was Mendip Bonsai, who are based in Somerset.

The RHS Master Grower award recognises one specialist nursery at each of five RHS shows throughout the year. 

They receive special attention at the show, celebrating their ethical and sustainable business practices.

I’ve seen Mendip Bonsai at many shows over the years, and their trees are always stunning. It’s no surprise that they regularly win RHS Gold Medals for their beautiful displays.

I’m always fascinated by the skill exhibited by the top bonsai artists. And Mendip Bonsai had a fabulous display at this year’s RHS Malvern Spring Festival.

The beautiful wisteria in the photo at the top of this section looked like it was just a few days away from bursting into beautiful colour. And I loved the skilful wood carving in the windswept style juniper in the photo above.

And each of the trees was complemented by an accompanying accent plant. These represent the type of plants you might expect to find near the tree in the wild.

It was lovely to see a bonsai nursery being highlighted by the RHS in this way, as it’s a skill that is not always well understood by garden enthusiasts.

I enjoyed a fabulous day out at the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019. I can’t wait to come back soon!

10 thoughts on “Exploring the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2019

  1. Jaillan Yehia says:

    I have been to a couple of RHS gardens and shows, including Chelsea but I must admit I didn’t know about this one at all – what a gorgeous setting, I hope I can make it next year!

  2. d says:

    Wow, these show gardens are stunning. I’m a keen gardener and have always wanted to get to Malvern but the timing has never worked. I follow some of the gardeners on Twitter who have been involved in these builds, so it’s lovely to see the finished products. I’m constantly inspired by gardens, and am moving home soon so hoping for a nice blank canvas to get working on!

    • Sally Akins says:

      It amazes me how they create these gardens in just a few days. Hope you get chance to visit Malvern soon – it’s a fabulous show

  3. Suzanne Jones says:

    I do love a flower show and these pics remind me of the days I used to go to Chelsea flower show and once to Hampton Court Palace. I like the Habit of Living garden – how lovely to relax on that seat surrounded by gorgeous planting.

    • Sally Akins says:

      I’ve never been to any of the London shows – they’re definitely on my list for a future visit though

  4. alison abbott says:

    What an incredible display of inspirational garden ideas all in one spot! The RHS Malvern Spring Festival is truly a special event for both green thumb enthusiasts and hopefuls. I think my favorite feature was the Zephyr sculpture. What an amazing piece to have on display.

  5. Lucy says:

    I don’t live far from Malvern at all but I’ve never been to the show – I must put that right! Such a lovely mix of gardens and so colourful, lots of inspiration for my little garden.

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