Do you know your begonias from your buddleias? Your rhododendrons from your ranunculus? Whether you’re an experienced gardener or an enthusiastic novice, the best way to find inspiration and pick up expert knowledge is by spending a day at a flower show. Although, there’s so much happening at these floral festivals you don’t need to be into gardening to have a great day out.
From cookery demonstrations to show jumping to unusually-shaped vegetables, these 10 flower shows (in no particular order) are blossoming with fun and entertainment for all the family.
When: 12 & 13 August
This flourishing flower show is one of the most popular in the UK, attracting top exhibitors from all over the country. It’s a perfect summer’s day out, as there are a huge range of things to see and do. Take a ride on the steam locomotive, watch an impressive show jumping event or browse the handmade goods in the craft marquee. There are some headline acts to look out for too, including music from The Red Hot Chilli Pipers (not to be confused with the ‘peppers’), cookery demonstrations from celebrity chef, Gizzi Erskine, gardening know-how from Sarah Raven and children’s entertainment from Cbeebies’ Mr Bloom.
When: 16-18 September
What better time for a giant vegetable competition than autumn? With its massive marrows and super swedes, the competition is one of the highlights of this seasonal flower fest. Other must-sees include the spectacular plant pavilion, bursting with brilliant blooms, the live cookery theatre where you can find out how to put those veggies to good use and the stunning displays of floral art. And if you’re looking for inspiration for your own garden, take a stroll down Green Lane where you’ll find works from up-and-coming designers and landscapers.
When: 3-5 June
The Holker Garden Festival is in its 24th year and this year is shaping up to be one of the best ever. With over 200 exhibitors, you’ll want to spend plenty of time simply wandering around taking it all in. There’s much to tempt you, too, as you’ll find a huge array of homemade gifts, crafts and produce on offer. TV gardener, Charlie Dimmock will be on the showground and the Garden Theatre on 4 June sharing her expert tips. The Horticultural Marquee, with its Japanese maples and colourful chrysanthemums, is a flower-lover’s dream. There’s plenty of family entertainment on offer too, such as the Victorian helter skelter and the ‘Horsemen of the Knight’ jousting show.
When: 5 & 6 August
If you fancy watching a bit of competitive gardening, then the ‘Ready, Steady, Garden!’ competition is one to watch at the Taunton Flower Show. Two expert garden designers are given just two hours to create a beautiful garden and the winner is awarded the coveted Cann Cup! Other events at the festival include floral marquees, rural craft traders and a family fun zone where adults and children can get stuck into all kinds of flower-themed activities. If you’re feeling peckish, you’ll be spoilt for choice as there’ll be food hall traders selling a wide variety of cuisine.
When: 25 & 26 June
It doesn’t matter whether you’re an experienced horticulturalist or a green-fingered novice, the Woburn Abbey Garden Show is an inspiring event. Pro gardeners Pippa Greenwood and Martin Fish will be sharing their top tips and answering questions too. New for 2016, Woburn Abbey will be welcoming members of the RHS Plant Advisory Committees who’ll be on hand for advice throughout the weekend. They’ll also be a Floral Beard competition (yes, you read that right) so expect to see some magnificent, flower-adorned facial hair. The gardens themselves are breathtaking – be prepared to spend the whole day there as you won’t want to leave!
When: 5-7 August
Taking place in the picturesque Rozelle Park with its feature trees, woodland walks and ponds, this family-friendly flower festival is a must for any nature lover. You’ll get to see some of the best examples of gardening on show, such as specially-created miniature gardens and themed gardens. If you’re feeling inspired, you can buy some beautiful blooms to take home for your own outside space. Foodies will be in their element too, as there are cookery demonstrations to watch and unique food and drink to sample. It’s just as well this festival is on for three days as one day might not be enough.
When: 30 & 31 July
It didn’t take long for this flower festival to get noticed. In fact, the festival managed to scoop second place in the event category at the Lancashire Tourism Awards in its very first year. Applications are now open for amateur gardeners who want to take part in the competitions – check out the website for details. If you’re not quite ready to have your radishes reviewed and your pumpkins prodded, there are plenty of exhibits to admire and activities to get involved in. The festival takes place in Astley Park, one of Lancashire’s most-loved tourist attractions, where you’ll find a woodland, lake and a fantastic children’s play area.
When: 7 August
Knowsley Flower Show is celebrating its 18th year in 2016. It’s also celebrating another special date: the 300th anniversary of the birth of revolutionary landscape gardener, Capability Brown. This year, there’s an English Garden theme to the exhibitions and events to commemorate Brown’s staggering contribution to gardening as we know it. Family-friendly events include falconry displays, woodwork and craft demonstrations, gardener’s question time and over 400 exhibits. You’ll no doubt pick up a treat or two at the farmer’s market, which is a real feast for the senses.
When: 27 July
As the longest-running flower show on our list (2016 will be the 135th year), Sandringham Flower Show is one of the most prestigious in the country. Visit the Royal marquees to see the fantastic competitions where you’ll see some amazing examples of floral art, vegetables, fruit and flowers. At The Gardener’s Forum you can hear talks from gardening experts such as TV’s Chris Beardshaw and allotment guru, Terry Walton. And as admission charges include entrance to Sandringham Gardens, museum and church, (all of which border the showground) you’ll be able to explore this stunning estate at the same time.
When: 18-21 August
There aren’t many flower shows where you can also see Spanish dancing horses, but Southport Flower Show is one of them. There’s so much to see and do at this festival that it’s impossible to list it all here, but some highlights for 2016 include a host of celebrity guests, including Ainsley Harriott who’ll be opening the show, a gala evening where you can get glammed up, a bandstand buzzing with live music and working dog demonstrations. It’s also home to the largest amateur growing competition in the country so look out for some fierce competition and some extraordinary examples of horticultural magic.