Every so often a particular date throws up so many opportunities for merriment that one is spoilt for choice. The next such occasion is June 21st and 22nd, when two gardening events I’ve been hotly anticipating clash over one weekend. It wouldn’t be so bad, but they’re taking place in capital cities on either side of the English Channel.
Never one to be thwarted by such obstacles, I’ve devised a means of attending both, so am feeling very pleased with myself. Too much smugness means something is bound to go wrong!
On this side of the Channel, just on the other side of Hampstead Heath from our London home, preparations are already well underway for a shiny new gardening show. GROW London is a contemporary event which will be putting up shoots in leafy North London from June 20th to 22nd. It’s the brainchild of Will Ramsay, founder of the Affordable Art Fair, and is inspired by the sort of relaxed garden shows enjoyed on the continent. Billed as a boutique event (so often used as an excuse for being plain small) the main marquee on Hampstead Heath’s Lower Fairground site will bring together around 100 exhibitors selling plants, furniture and garden decoration. The whole shebang will be curated and dressed by floral designer Shane Connolly (a Royal Warrant holder no less) and there will be talks by horticultural grandees Chris Beardshaw, Val Bourne and James Alexander-Sinclair. The show will feature four ‘pocket gardens’ offering ideas for small urban spaces and naturally there will be necessities such as a plant creche, licensed bar and posh eats.
Despite landing in one of the leafiest and most affluent parts of the city, GROW London is aimed at all urbanites with a love of gardens and gardening. And quite unlike Chelsea, which positively basks in its elitism, the show is founded on egalitarian principles – compare the £68 price tag for a Chelsea ticket with just £10 for a day at GROW London. Let’s hope Will’s idea takes root and becomes as successful as his art fairs.
As we are leaving for our other engagement on the morning the show opens, I’ve treated Him Indoors and myself to tickets for the charity preview in aid of the Garden Museum on June 19th. I am calling it a treat, Him Indoors will pretend to grin and bear it, but will secretly enjoy every minute.
If this has whetted your appetite, visit GROW London’s website to book tickets and find out more.
The weekend’s main event, which has been inked in my diary for months, is Amsterdam’s Open Garden Weekend, or Open Tuinen Dagen in Dutch. Each year, over the third weekend in June, more than twenty five of the city’s garden owners open their private outdoor spaces to the public. For 2014 the theme of the weekend is ‘Utility and Pleasure’. This reflects the period when most of the city’s gardens were designed, in the 17th century, when their purpose was principally to provide food for the household. Old maps show orchards, vegetable and herb gardens in place of what later became ornamental pleasure grounds. Across Europe the ‘grow your own’ trend means that many of Amsterdam’s gardeners are once again turning their attention to fruit, vegetable and herb growing.
Four of the gardens belong to museums, a handful to smart hotels and the others to private individuals content to have the general public traipsing in and out through their homes to access their secluded courtyards. Many follow the formal canal garden style, comprising clipped box hedges flanked by hostas, ferns, geraniums, roses and hydrangeas. The gardens were originally designed in this way to be admired from the first floor, where the wealthy families of Amsterdam had their main reception rooms.
For the princely sum of fifteen Euros a single ticket can be purchased giving access to the gardens over a three day period. As one would expect in Amsterdam there are push bikes to transport the more energectic along the canalsides between the various properties. Personally I like the idea of being able to meander at will, revisiting gardens at different times of day to see the light changing and avoid the crowds. All participating gardens are open every day from 10 am to 5 pm.
Find out more on the Open Gardens Weekend website and check back at the end of the month for a full report.