How to prepare a stunning garden for the Sandringham Flower Show
They're given a bare plot and less than a week to showcase their skills come rain or shine.
While teams and businesses are competing for the coveted EDP Best in Show trophy, they’ve been mucking in - literally as the heavens opened - to get ready for the big day.
Aylsham-based Woodgate Nursery sent a task force to Sandringham to help Ralph and Linda Nichols build their Order and Chaos garden.
“I’m never going to be able to repay them,” said Ralph, who’s in his fifth year at the show. “I’d never have managed without them.”
Ralph admits conditions were challenging as he moved delicate plants from his allotment to a show garden which echoes his passion for growing edibles for their looks as well as their taste.
“We were sliding in mud yesterday afternoon,” he said. “We had to go for a cup of tea, you can’t move delicate plants when it’s wet.”
Flowing leeks jostle with sunflowers, ripe raspberries and a riot of blooms in front of a rustic shed.
Suze Crook overcame the heart attack she suffered out of the blue at the age of 53 last December, bouncing back to design and build two gardens with husband Andy and Snettisham-based family business ABC.
“The first thing he said when he picked me up from hospital was: ‘We’re not doing Sandringham,” she said.
“I said we are doing Sandringham. I need something work towards and that’s what we’ve done, the family’s pulled together and it’s been great.”
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Show stalwart John Shone said conditions in the run up to today had been some of the worst he’d encountered in 14 years designing and building gardens at Sandringham.
His garden, built by family business Rutland Willows, remembers Geoff Hamilton, the late BBC Gardener’s World presenter of the 1980s and 90s, who was a personal friend.
“I first met Geoff by delivering hazel - not the girl Hazel, the tree hazel,” he said. “It’s my memories of Geoff, personal memories.”
John’s garden features Geoff Hamilton trademarks including shrubs and alpines, along with a bust. It’s in aid of Geoff Hamilton New Gardeners’ Foundation, which supports students of horticulture.
Shadow Hall, another show regular, has this year turned her attention to what can be achieved in a modestly-sized courtyard plot.
“It’s an all year round courtyard, there’s colour and interest all year,” she said. “There’s a fire pit so you can sit outside when it’s cooler, it’s a heat sink in the heart of the city.”
Howard Jones has put his money on a turf-themed garden for his first entry at the show, called A Day At The Races.
“It’s something totally different,” he said. “I’m not really a garden gardener, I’m having a go.”
Frederic Whyte’s Into The Woods evokes the magic and peacefulness of our green spaces in a woodland glade.
True Fair Trading’s Japanese Tea House does what it says on the tin, with contemporary style and plantings inspired by Wabi, Sabi and Suki - tranquillity and simplicity.
Gardens are judged by TV gardeners Chris Beardshaw and Alan Mason, who say standards at Sandringham are on a par with major horticultural shows. You can vote for your favourite in the people’s choice poll and see if you agree with the experts.
This year’s show also marks the first competitions set to members of the newly-formed Sandringham Kitchen Garden Group.
One challenge was to see who could grow the best fuschia from a potted plug plant. The other was to see who could ice the best cake.
Membership of the group, which meets at West Newton Village Hall, is open to gardening and baking fans living within a 10-mile radius of Sandringham.
Making a return this year is Madame Zucchini, a children’s entertainer who performs Hollywood-themed vegetable puppet shows dressed as a courgette. Younger show-goers can catch Parsnips of the Caribbean near the picnic area.
Norfolk produce will be at the fore in the expanded food and drink marquee, which this year features award-winning wines from Surlingham-based Winbirri Vineyards.