RHS Urban Show: Growing in the City

Above: East facing balcony, part of the RHS City Spaces: Cloudscape by Jason Williams -‘Happy Houseplants’ by GrowTropicals – Pop Culture Planting: Punk Rockery. The New Wave and 24-Hour Party Planting by Amanda Grimes- 

What is urban gardening?

This, and other key questions surrounding the growing urban gardening movement will be raised at the inaugural RHS Urban Show, from 18 to 21 April at the Depot Mayfield in Manchester.

In a major milestone for the Royal Horticultural Society as it celebrates 220 years of enriching people’s lives through horticulture, the charity’s first large scale indoor show explores the cutting-edge of modern gardening, from a seven-garden vision for a greener city to vertical structures for awkward urban spaces, the secret to growing happy houseplants and a horticultural exhibit celebrating the heyday of the Manchester scene’s Hacienda days.

Major exhibits include RHS City Spaces: Cloudscape by Manchester Cloud Gardener Jason Williams, who challenges horticultural retailers, local authorities and developers to rethink the ways in which they interact with communities with a vision of how to make our towns and cities greener. Designed through a collaborative process involving students on Manchester Metropolitan University’s Rise programme and Notcutts Garden Centre, the exhibit brings together four balconies each facing north, south, east and west with a maximum budget of £500, a north-facing shaded rented patio, an urban farm and a communal garden.

Williams said that RHS City Spaces: Cloudscape addresses different residents’ needs, microclimates and pay brackets. He added: “The concept as a whole is an ambitious blueprint of how we can bring a city together. These are not show gardens, they are learning exhibits designed to teach residents, local authorities, retail and developers how we can all improve to make our towns and cities greener.”

Four-time RHS Chelsea Flower Show medal-winners GrowTropicals reveal the secret to which houseplants are best suited to your home’s unique environment. Their exhibit featuring dozens of plants, from the rare to the exotic, will be grouped together into three structures featuring the best shade-loving plants for north-facing rooms, thirstier varieties ideal for humid sports or sun-worshippers which love sunny windowsills.

Midlands-based designer Amanda Grimes brings her exhibit, Pop Culture Planting: Punk Rockery, the New Wave and 24-Hour Party Planting, a two-part installation set over three years showing a design at the time of planting, one year on and two years on. Her aim is to give new and inexperienced gardeners the confidence and inspiration to “just go for it” by showing visitors what they can expect as a garden develops naturally over time, even with poor soil or rubble.

She said: “Punk Rockery hits Manchester in the same way the Sex Pistols did in June 1976, though possibly with less swearing and a bigger audience. That now-legendary gig was the spark that lit the touch paper of the whole Manchester New Wave music scene which included the Buzzcocks, Joy Division/New Order, The Fall, Magazine, The Smiths and Factory Records, and went on to inspire so many more. The installation is named in honour of all that creativity which was, and still is, uniquely Mancunian.

“24-Hour Party Planting is a celebration of Manchester’s thriving nightlife, restaurant and entertainment scene. It references the Happy Mondays’ track of the same name, and with it the hedonistic days of the Hacienda. It traces that legacy through to 2024 and the incredibly diverse, vibrant and endlessly creative energy of the Gay Village, Northern Quarter, Salford and beyond.”

The RHS Urban Show, sponsored by Mad About Land, also debuts “content cubes” for gardeners with small spaces, including RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 2023’s People’s Choice and gold medal-winner Conal McGuire’s Urban Shade which utilises modular ‘grow frames’ offering a creative, versatile and eco-friendly solution for growing in awkward urban spaces which can be reconfigured in different ways. 

A programme of talks also takes place touching upon subjects from cut flowers to juggling plant life with work and family life. A host of shopping opportunities will be on offer, from a variety of indoor and outdoor plants suitable for urban growers to a new clothing range by MAD, as well as pots and macramé. 

RHS-run workshops including how to make your own terrariums will also take place, while free guided tours of Mayfield Park will also be available for guests to hear from designers and architects about the regeneration of the area.

Lex Falleyn, show manager for the RHS Urban Show, said: “Urban Gardening is diverse and dynamic and the inaugural RHS Urban Show is an exciting opportunity to explore the important role gardening plays in greening up cities.

“We’ve chosen to work with a wide range of gardeners, from award-winning designers to community groups to enthusiasts who juggle gardening with day-to-day life. We hope this will bring a balance of relevant yet realistic advice to get people growing.”

Tickets can be purchased at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-urban-show

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