The RHS show in the heart of Manchester that plants ideas for city dwellers

When the first announced a new urban show for April 2024, I was thrilled to discover it was to be held in the heart of Manchester. The venue is Depot Mayfield, a historic former railway station next to the 6.5-acre site of Mayfield Park. The building was transformed in 2019 to provide a 10,000-capacity venue for arts, music and culture, and it is the perfect place for the RHS to host this exciting venture.

Mayfield Park was completed three years later and has the distinction of being the city’s first new park in more than a century. It proudly joins RHS Bridgewater and the Castlefield Viaduct in the green revolution quietly unfolding in Manchester and Salford and provides an oasis of calm for residents, workers and visitors. Walkways and bridges that cross the meandering River Medlock guide you around the park and lawned areas, and when I visited in early February, I found a fascinating art installation called Journey, by Kelly Ma. The sculpture was created for ‘Six Places in a Different Light’, a public art trail featuring six hand-painted head sculptures promoting mental health awareness and well-being across Greater Manchester. It seemed to me to link perfectly with the whole ethos of gardening and the benefits it brings to everyone involved.

The RHS Urban Show aims to spark a gardening revolution, inspiring people from all walks of life to embrace the joy of growing plants, even in the most confined urban spaces. As RHS show manager Lex Falleyn puts it: 'If you care for a plant, you are a gardener.' This inclusive approach underscores a broader trend that began gaining momentum four years ago during the nationwide lockdown. Confined to our homes, the idea that we could transform even the smallest of spaces into a green sanctuary became of increasing importance. Influential figures including garden designer Jason Williams, known as The Cloud Gardener, have played a pivotal role in elevating the profile of urban gardening. With more than 80 per cent of the UK population living in towns and cities, the potential for positive environmental impact is immense. Not only that but gardening and plants are proven to be extremely beneficial to our mental well-being, and that applies regardless of whether you have a large garden in the country or a small balcony terrace. While aspects of urban gardening were explored at RHS Tatton last year, via such exhibits as the RHS and MEN Ginnel Garden designed by Jason Williams, this new show promises to take things a step further, resonating with a broader audience, particularly the younger generation.

Great British Life: Depot MayfieldDepot Mayfield (Image: Alison Moore)

So, what can visitors expect to encounter at the show? Lex says: 'We’re going to have a mixture of content, retail, talks, with maybe some practical workshops mixed in as well. The content is going to be horticultural, but through the lens of popular culture and interests – whether that’s linked with food and grow your own, or interior design and art, and everything has an emphasis on wellbeing.' Will there be show gardens at an indoor venue? We know Emma Tipping who won Silver at RHS Tatton in 2022 with her garden called Come Lime with Me, has designed the RHS and Manchester Evening News PUB Garden, and I’m sure there will be many more colourful exhibits to see.

Hosting the events on stage will be Michael Perry, author, speaker and TV presenter who is a familiar face at RHS Tatton. He shared his enthusiasm with me, saying: 'I’m so excited to be hosting the stage at the upcoming urban event by the RHS in Manchester, it looks set to be a very unique experience, with a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. It won’t just be about houseplants either. This will be inspiring for anyone or space they’re growing in.'

What I’m particularly looking forward to is the promised link between plants, art and interior design, and a new dimension to how we use plants inside and outside our homes. I fully expect to be coming home with a new houseplant or two, and as I know much more about outdoor plants than I do the indoor varieties, the talks and workshops at the urban show are firmly on my agenda.

The RHS Urban Show is from April 18 to 24. To book visit: