Garden ideas & inspiration from the RHS Cardiff Show

Reimagined Past garden RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
At the 2018 RHS Cardiff Flower Show there were unusual plants, lots of upcycling, and clever colour schemes. Read on for the best examples... 

If winter is the time to sit indoors by the fire and read about other people's garden ideas, imagine what you might do with your own garden, then spring brings the opportunity to see other people's ideas made real and start putting your own into practice.
RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
Magnolias and daffodils are all that separates
the RHS Cardiff Show from the city centre

Behind Cardiff Castle, just a short walk from the city centre through a host of daffodils and a grove of magnolias, the RHS Cardiff Show is the first big outdoor gardening event of the season, and the first chance to see show gardens and exhibits full of ideas and inspiration. 

Garden ideas & inspiration from the RHS Cardiff Show 

Upcycling in the garden

I usually head for the show gardens first. Several of them this year championed the reclamation and re-use of materials, demonstrating that there is probably nothing that can't be re-purposed in your garden with a bit of imagination. 

The Reimagined Past garden was designed by Pam Creed and was essentially an outdoor room surrounded by informal planting. More on the planting later, but the central area was like a Victorian house taken outside. 
Reimagined Past Garden RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
The Reimagined Past Garden by Pam Creed
A fireplace featured on one wall, and a basin full of succulents on another. In the centre, a variety of reclaimed drain covers formed part of the paving. Some sash window weights were also included as a decorative element at the edge of the planting area. 

Mike Furse was similarly imaginative with his Disequilibrium garden. This successfully combined the natural beauty of Japan with the country's industrial heritage, by re-purposing several items and integrating them into the garden. 
Disequilibrium RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
Disequilibrium by Mike Furse

A rusted barrel was used as a planter, aged steel re-bar became a bridge over a stream, and sheets of corrugated iron with water cascading down them provided a dramatic backdrop. 

The planting was a clever representation of a wild Japanese valley, and included small pines, a flowering cherry, ferns and nettles, and water irises. Note also the beautiful rosette of pebbles in the foreground - beautifully done and positioned, but simple enough for anyone to try at home.    

Other Upcycling Ideas

Here are some other interesting ways of re-purposing things that I found at the show:

A car tyre chair

This was on the Grow Well project exhibit, promoting gardening as a therapy to be prescribed by GPs. Sawn logs have been attached for legs and the seat is a piece of board cut to fit the centre of the tyre and decorated with mosaic tiles.
Car Tyre Chair RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
Grow Well Project's car tyre chair
A terrarium in a jar

There were workshops where you could do this and take it home with you. Plants that enjoy a humid atmosphere can be grown in an enclose environment, even if that is an empty old jar. It could be an old jar of pickled onions or olives, or anything - the bigger the better. Activated charcoal is needed to get things going but then you can leave it to become it's own ecosystem!
Terrarium in a jar RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
A terrarium in a jar
Bug hotel from a log

This is quite a nice old log, but whether you've got one just like it or just a scrappy old bit of leftover timber, all you need to do is drill some holes and you've got yourself a bug hotel. 
Bug hotel log RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
Bug hotel log

What a simple way of helping the wildlife survive in your garden. In return they'll help you out by feeding on those pesky aphids and other pests, saving you from having to use chemicals or watch your favourite flowers get devoured. 

Unusual plants

There are dozens of plant stands and exhibits at the show, both in the two floral marquees, and outside. If you need to stock up on anything for your garden you will probably find it, but there are always some more exotic or unusual specimens to be found too. I featured a couple in my previous post:

Here's the rest of my selection:

Banksia spinulosa 

Banksia spinulosa RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
Banksia spinulosa
This is from the East coast of Australia, and belongs to the protea family. This particular variety is "Collina".

Hardenbergia violacea 

Hardenbergia violacea RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
Hardenbergia violacea
This is the purple coral pea. It's an evergreen climber with these delicate racemes of flowers between February and June. It might not have survived outside in the unusually cold temperatures we had during March this year but it is frost hardy, so could add some fabulous extra flowers to late winter in your garden if you're able to protect it from the extreme cold occasionally when necessary. 

Podophyllum "Spotty Dotty"

Podophyllum Spotty Dotty RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
Podophyllum "Spotty Dotty"

No prizes for guessing how this one got its varietal name. It's a shade lover, ideal for a woodland garden, as long as it's moist.

Pseudowintera colorata "Red Leopard"

Pseudowintera colorata RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
Pseudowintera colorata "Red Leopard"
This appears a little scruffy at first sight but with such interesting colouring this is a really useful plant to use in combination with others. It needs a sheltered position but is fairly hardy (to -5C). It could blend well with either purple heucheras, or compliment something like an acer or a cercidiphyllum (katsura tree).

Tillandsia (air plant)

Tillandsia air plants RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
Tillandsia - air plants

I've been thinking about buying some air plants for a while. The great thing about a show like RHS Cardiff is the exhibits give you inspiration as to how to grow things or display them. 

Air plants have minimal roots, if any, and survive by drawing the moisture and nutrients they need from the air. You can therefore put them anywhere, at least in theory. In nature they nestle in the hollows of trees or rocks, or hang from branches, so they're usually displayed in this way. 

Clever colour schemes

To conclude, I'm taking you back to the Reimagined Past garden, which featured an outdoor fireplace and various other reclaimed materials. I was very impressed by the subtle blend of a range of purple and green tones in this planting scheme. 

Reimagined Past garden RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
A blend of greens and purples in the Reimagined Past garden

It included straightforward purple heucheras, and hellebores, but also bronze grasses like anemanthele, and plants with the slightest tinge of purple or bronze along their stems, like aquilegia and astilbe. 

Then there were purple flowers of Lamium orvala. Euphorbias added occasional bright green highlights, but even these had purple tints to their stems and bracts, and the pink bergenia flowers were also edge purple. 

Reimagined Past garden RHS Cardiff Show 2018 Green Fingered Blog
A clever use of subtly different tones makes for a great overall effect
Along one wall was a line of purple fritilleries too. Overall the effect was beautiful. It was all very co-ordinated, whilst not looking like an obvious colour arrangement. It wasn't in your face, but every plant gently complimented the one next to it with an overlapping shade of one colour or another.

This is another example of something it would be easy to try in your garden. If you're planting up a bed or border, or even a single container, look for the small details in colour that will make different plants sit well together. The flower of one may match just a vein of a leaf on the plant next to it, and have a mere hint of a similar shade to something else nearby.

The great thing about RHS shows is they enable us to see things like this and take inspiration from it. And the great thing about gardening is you don't have to copy it exactly but you can use the idea in a different way or in a different place. 

I hope you've enjoyed looking round the RHS Cardiff Show with me, and that it's inspired you to head out to your own garden, whatever size and style it is, and get growing! I'll be back with more ideas soon. 

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