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malvern1A happy day yesterday pottering among the plants at the RHS Spring Festival at Malvern. This is one of the most low-key of flower shows, rarely talked about yet hiding treasures at its heart. Not least of which is one of the very best floral marquees of them all: for my money, second only to the marquee at Chelsea in terms of quality, quantity and sheer wow factor. I never tire of it.

By the time I left I was three scented-leaf geraniums, three salvias, a solar-powered irrigation system and a lot of large bamboo plant labels the heavier. All of which, no doubt, more later. But since I also had a camera loaded with pics I thought I would resurrect an old Constant Gardener tradition, last seen in 2012, and dish out a few gongs for the bits of the show that I thought were worth singling out for special attention.

Best Use of a Borrowed Landscape
At One With… A Meditation Garden (Gold and Best in Show)

Head and shoulders above the rest, and a shoo-in for Best in Show, Peter Dowle’s garden was a study in how to transport you to another place using plants, water and very, very clever design. Not least of which was nicking the grandeur of the Malvern Hills to make your acers look like they’re at one with the landscape.

Best Use of Recycled Materials
Team AK’s Grand Day Out, Ashton Keynes CofE Primary School, Wiltshire (Highly Commended)

I adore the school gardens at Malvern: they never fail to provide new ideas. I think it’s something to do with the way that kids see the world differently – and that includes gardens. Loved this painted bottle path edging – it just made me smile.

Best Wildflower Planting
The Refuge (Gold)

Ragged robin and corn poppies in a sublime little mini-meadow on Sue Jollan’s garden for Help Refugees UK.

Wall of the Year
Buckfast Abbey Millennium Garden (Silver)

How lovely this garden was. Dominated by a delicate wire sculpture of a deer drinking, it combined gentle, airy planting with green oak arches – infilled at the base with cut logs to make a wall which combines natural beauty and elegance.
Highly Commended:
Molecular Garden (Gold)
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best: this wooden wall art transformed a stretch of render in the winning garden in the Spa Gardens category, by visiting designers Denis Kalashnikov and Ekaterina Bolotova, on an exchange from the Moscow Flower Show.

Garden Furniture I Most Wanted To Take Home
Ocean Garden (Bronze)

Colour… and comfort. Love it.

Funkiest Sculpture of the Year 2017
Nik Burns

Garden grunge at its best. Loved this chap right down to the bulb. Now that’s what I call garden lighting.

Plant of the Show 2017

They were everywhere: breathtaking, blowsy, beautiful. I particularly liked that the ravishing display on Primrose Hall Nursery’s stand was staged close enough for you to be able to smell the blooms and work out which are as perfumed as they say they are. I will be filling my garden with la Duchesse de Nemours forthwith.

Most Astonishing Stem Colour
Acer palmatum “Sango-kaku” (Staddon Farm Nurseries, Gold)

Extraordinary: and those lime green leaves just popped against the stems.

Plant That Most Resembled a Pillow
Scleranthus biflorus (D’Arcy & Everest, Silver Gilt)

Hands down the weirdest plant in the marquee. I had to look twice before I realised it even was a plant. Then all I really wanted to do was lay my head down on it and go to sleep.

The “Why? Oh Why?” Wooden Spoon Award for 2017
Bubble Drops (Spa Garden, Bronze)

It had one slightly lonely-looking plant in it. In a pot. ‘Nuff said.