What does a Royal Horticultural Society Medal mean?

When I first went to do a Show Garden, I was thinking what you may be thinking now: it’s not a real garden. It’s a show piece. A display. Sometimes, that’s exactly what it is; some of my favourite Show Gardens were pure fantasy. A show is the only place you are likely to find such things!

Increasingly, though, Show Gardens are being made in just the same way as a genuine project. Plants that have been forced or are completely out of season are very much de-rigueur and the judges are interested in the potential longevity of the Show Garden they are looking at.

TV coverage is making more of the fact that Show Gardens must have a brief, as a real project will, and that the judging is carried out to this brief to give the element of objectivity. In fact many would like to think that the judging is entirely objective but as there are human beings involved this cannot ever be entirely true. Thank God perhaps!?

Things may get damaged, lost or fail to flower but the show must go on. And everything you put into your Show Garden will be held to the highest standards and scrutinised accordingly.

With a Show Garden, you have the same elements in play as with a real project but perhaps even more so. You will be judged tightly to your brief, no matter if it looks fantastic, if it’s not entirely to brief there will be no Gold Medal. You have a deadline, a very, very real deadline.

The other thing which has bothered me about shows is the environmental impact. Fortunately Show Gardens are increasingly being designed for specific locations and relocated there after the show. Pretty much all the elements of the Show Gardens I have made have been used elsewhere after the show, even if it was only to board out my loft!

We cannot avoid having some environmental impact and perhaps the most realistic approach is outlined in Carbon Detox, by George Marshall, who talks about driving. Basically, you minimise and care about your every day impact (walking or biking for short trips), which makes a massive difference all in all, and when you want (or arguably need) to have a big blow out you go to a race track and get some real satisfaction. Metaphorically, that is what shows and Show Gardens are doing for us gardening junkies.

RHS Gold Medal at Hampton Court 2011

RHS Silver-Gilt Medal Malvern Show 2010