Ellerslie Flower Show 2014

 I rather like these.
Wooden Stepping Stones

The Ellerslie Flower Show can be full of everything but flowers - stones, shrubs, outdoor furniture, food stalls, businesses trying to sell things unrelated to gardening, tasteful musicians, and so on. And it isn't in Ellerslie, it's in my city (Christchurch), held in March. I went, this year. And it was fun.

Look, I'm really naughty about these events. I usually don't go to them, having already decided I won't enjoy the contrived exhibits, or the alleys of stalls trying to sell me steam mops, aluminium ladders, and the like. But this year a ticket came free, and so along I went. And - oops - I enjoyed myself.

My Gold Medal Winning Garden

I even found a competition display garden that I loved - it only got a silver medal, but that's OK. I took a host of photographs, went back for a closer look, and wondered if Non-Gardening Partner could build me something similar. Wow! More of that later.

A real gardener needs a certain mind-set to enjoy a Flower Show. They understand that nothing can be natural, and that many of the display gardens will be ridiculously contrived. Healthy juvenile plants will be in pots hidden underneath some covering, and the spacing thereof will be hopelessly improper. Nothing will be in the right proportion, and much will be hardly practical. With all these provisos in mind, it can be hard to be inspired. Much easier to sneer (well, really!) and make the odd chirpy, cynical remark.

As your personal, on-site Flower Show Reporter I can tell you that 2014 (in New Zealand, at least) is the year of the outdoor bath (you already knew that?), the outdoor bed, and the super-sized, quasi-rattan outdoor lounge suite. Hmm...

Garden Room Service?

It is also the Year of the Garden Maid, who carries the scatter cushions out and arranges them casually each morning. And washes their covers after a flock of birds passes overhead, and remembers to bring them in before it rains. And brushes off the spiders and the dust before a garden guest's bottom descends thereon. Room service would also be required to successfully loll (romantically or otherwise) in a breezy open-skies boudoir.

The nicest smells at Ellerslie came, not from fragrant flowers (or fast-food stalls), but from rough-hewn timber planks, which were the 2014 Garden Designer's Favourite Accessory. In fact, wood was everywhere. Burnt stumps to sit on, dead branches of trees as sculptures, artistic piles of waste timber from house-building sites, and so on. Wood is this year's aluminium?

 a Coreopsis.
Flower No. 33

Some Jolly Good Ideas...

So what does the gardener who is used to making the most of what she's got actually get out of visiting the Ellerslie Flower Show? Aha! Some jolly good ideas as to how to spend her Non-Gardening Partner's money, with the names of a bevy of garden designers thrown in the bespoke brazier for good measure... Actually, I wouldn't let my NGP anywhere near this year's exhibiting gardens. I'd never get him to clean up any old piles of timber or pull old fence-posts out of my garden ever again.

Not much is on view that fits into the core, down-to-earth business of my gardening. But peripheral prettiness is perfectly OK. And there are lots of flowery things to ogle at. Arty use of instant lawn (for example, to clothe an outdoor billiard table) is good for a giggle. And it's easy to get cute and clucky over real hens and other people's vegetables. For me the best gardens on show were a series of 'yards' designed by primary school children. The most memorable exhibits were sculptures made with food cans.

Alas - I couldn't find the 'people's choice' Pink Garden. Perhaps the blooms had faded? It was so bold to enter a garden competition and just use pink. Was it? Four years ago (when I last went to Ellerslie) blood red was the show's colour hit. There's nothing new under the sun, really.

 My personal Gold Medal garden.
Greening the Rubble

Except I loved the garden with the open lemon-coloured yellow domes, the swirly mulberry-coloured seats, and the sprinklings of plants in gravel. The exhibit was called 'Greening the Rubble'. I could easily sit in there, admire the burnt-orange Gazanias, and read a serious book. After doing a hard day's work in my real, uncontrived, greenery-filled garden, of course...