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2017 Southport Flower Show - photo special

PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 September 2017

BBC presenter and broadcaster John Craven with TV gardener, Charlie Dimmock, in their competing charity gardens

BBC presenter and broadcaster John Craven with TV gardener, Charlie Dimmock, in their competing charity gardens

Archant

Southport Flower Show wowed visitors once again with fantastic horticultural displays, writes Rebekka O’Grady.

A detail from Gate Posts and Garden by Jonty Murphy A detail from Gate Posts and Garden by Jonty Murphy

So much has changed at Southport Flower Show in the near 20 years since Charlie Dimmock last visited. The ex-Ground Force star and now presenter of BBC’s Garden Rescue officially opened this year’s show alongside Countryfile’s John Craven, and spoke about how much the annual floral extravaganza has developed.

‘It’s much bigger now, but it’s always had that real garden party, festival atmosphere. It’s full on. There’s so much here for everyone – even if you’re not interested in gardening,’ said Charlie, who has spent time in Lancashire working on a few gardens for both television shows. ‘Nobody has an excuse not to come along.’

For John, it was his first visit to the show. After captivating crowds in the new Celebrity Theatre marquee, the ex-Newsround presenter was keen to explore the showground, mentioning that he was on the lookout for some Floribunda roses to take home with him.

‘I’ve filmed various Countryfile items in Lancashire, it’s a lovely county and the Forest of Bowland is a favourite spot of mine. It’s my first time visiting the Southport Flower Show and it comes across as a wonderful family event.’

Mr Flower Gardener, aka Steve Bullen Mr Flower Gardener, aka Steve Bullen

The theme for this year was The Curious Garden, and the various show gardens and stands in the floral marquees certainly didn’t disappoint. Visitors at the Victoria Park showground marvelled at fascinating displays, which featured everything from upside down trees and eye catching floral floating designs to hidden grottos and colourful entertainers.

For those exhibiting, all their hard work and effort was rewarded with a medal and in some cases a trophy or two from the judges. Leyland’s C.W. Berry walked away with the same awards as the year before: the Brian Aughton Memorial trophy for best use of plants, Pontins trophy for best outside garden and the Southport Corporation trophy for best large garden class one. Their striking large gold medal garden, Kuro, is inspired by that of urban spaces in Japan with its dark materials and angular aesthetics.

‘Kuro means black in Japanese. So we wanted to create something that you would see in the centre of Japan,’ explained Andy Kirman, who designed the space. ‘It’s quite austere and maybe brutal – very minimal. The only planting we have are weeds called equisetum. However, the inside of the cube is a white ornamental forest, which acts as a contrast to the dark outside.’

Ryan McNair’s Reflection garden earned him his first trophy, an accolade the Southport designer is very proud of. ‘This is my second show garden, my first last year won a gold medal, so to get a gold and a trophy this time around is such a step up,’ said Ryan, on his win of the Mulland trophy for best small garden class three.

‘The garden is somewhere to reflect and chill out. The water is relaxing and the orange planting and hard landscaping adds a bit of warmth. I was proud when the judges said they could see the progression, and that I should be aiming for a large gold next year.’

Taking home a large gold medal alongside the Finchett Trophy for best medium garden class two was fellow Sandgrounder, Stephen Pey. He designed and built his show garden, Curiously Contemporary, and said the win came as a bit of a surprise. ‘It’s brilliant, especially to win a trophy. I really enjoyed creating something with this year’s theme, it was a pleasurable build. I have done plenty of gardens for other people in the past, so to do my second one for myself is just great.’

Over in the floral marquee, students and staff at Bridge Inn Community Farm in Formby were enjoying hearing the compliments from visitors on their display, The Curious Garden. Based on the children’s book of the same name, the garden tells the story of Liam, who discovers the joy of growing things in an urban environment, bringing plants back to life.

‘It’s reflective on the students. They have all enjoyed building, planting and growing everything shown in the garden,’ explained director, Carl Craven. It’s their first time in the floral marquee, after they outgrew the exhibition space in the society tents.

‘Students at both Bridge Inn and sister site, Edda in Ainsdale, have been working on the garden in conjunction with St Helens College, so they have been gaining qualifications too. It’s so important they get recognition for this as it really is their garden.’w

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