Fairytale themed gardens at the 2018 Southport Flower Show

‘Devine’ tomatoes laid out as a book on the British Tomato Growers’ Association stand

‘Devine’ tomatoes laid out as a book on the British Tomato Growers’ Association stand - Credit: Linda Viney

Britain’s biggest independent flower show attracts huge crowds and the admiration of BBC celebrities

Victorian Times’ show garden designed by Jonty Murphy

Victorian Times’ show garden designed by Jonty Murphy - Credit: Linda Viney

The sun brought crowds flocking to Victoria Park for this years’ Southport Flower Show, the largest independent flower show in the UK. This year the face of the BBC’s Gardeners’ World, Monty Don, and Countryfile presenter Anita Rani toured the show gardens before declaring it officially open. Monty was very impressed and described it as ‘one of the great shows.’

They had the opportunity to talk to the designers and find out what lay behind their displays which included a design by Jonty Murphy using the legs of an old Victorian marine bridge and an anchor which was reclaimed from the end of Southport Pier.

They then heard the emotional story of one man’s journey of life beyond the diagnosis of cancer, in the Macmillan Garden designed by Jason O’Donnell. He was moved to create it for the charity after his father died from lung cancer last December.

The School’s Design-a-Garden competition always receives plenty of entries and the two winners Sophia Steer from Helmshore Primary, Rossendale, and Misha Kamran from Tonacliffe Primary, Whitworth, were thrilled to see their designs created by apprentices from Myerscough College. Both Schools won £500 Bents Garden and Home voucher while Sophia and Ruth were awarded a certificate and £50.

Floral Art ‘Treasure’ by Emma Kelly

Floral Art ‘Treasure’ by Emma Kelly - Credit: Linda Viney

The theme of this year’s show gave exhibitors plenty of scope when designing their displays. Fairytales from Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, Dr Doolittle and A Midsummer Night’s Dream all added to the interest especially for the younger visitors.

Inmates at HMP Kirkham and HMP Thorn Cross designed gardens on show in the Grand Floral Marquee, the latter awarded The Lady Pilkington Trophy for the best exhibit depicting the theme of this year’s show. They had chosen ‘Alice in Wonderland’ giving plenty of scope from The Queen of Hearts to a large chair and Alice herself.

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Floral Art is a popular area where you admire the skill of the flower arrangers. Patience is obviously a virtue as well as the artistic skills needed in the planning. Bill Dixon, who has done floral displays for many years and represented England in the World Championships, was this year asked to design one of the smaller show gardens. ‘A challenge but assisted by my partner, retired GP Phil Jennison, we thoroughly enjoyed it,’ Bill explained.

Flowers and gardens aren’t the only attractions – the Cookery Theatre saw a series of celebrity chefs, including Victoria Copley, Simon Rimmer and Great British Bake Off star Flo Atkins who gave inspiring demonstrations.

The Food Hall gave visitors to sample everything from pies to beverages and in the Bee and Honey Marquee you could learn about the importance of insects.

The Amateur Marquee had displays of everything from vegetables to begonias with huge flowers.

Over the four days, celebrities were on hand offering inspiration and ideas as well as answering questions. Award winning broadcaster Matthew Wilson also gave tips on coping with the changing climate.

Visitors enjoyed watching the displays in the Arena from Ben Potter with his hawks and eagles to the sheep dog and duck display by Bob Hogg.

Southport has many awards, the most prestigious being The Brockhouse Gold Challenge Trophy for the best exhibit.

It went to J & A Japonicas for their stunning display in the Grand Floral Marquee. A local nursery, they specialise in plants of Japanese and Chinese origin, and their display included a large pagoda feature raising up to the roof and a water feature complete with misting and colour from dahlias. The Salopian Trophy for the best runner-up went to ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ with their display of bromeliads in a natural setting with associated plants.

Southport goes from strength to strength and preparations are already underway for next year’s show which will be the 90th.