A day out with the RHS

Yesterday I left the house so early the moon was still in the sky, caught a rush hour train and headed off to Birmingham for a day trip to attend the RHS seminar for new show garden designers. Invited due to our interest in creating a show garden, the 70 or so designers at the seminar were treated to presentations throughout the day from RHS staff, show garden managers, and designers such as Paul Hervey-Brookes, Matt Keightley, and Roger Platts, not to mention a free lunch!

The day was exceptionally useful, filling us in on all aspects of creating a show garden, from creating a design concept, sourcing sponsors, applications, construction and breakdown. The Q&A sections gave everyone the chance to ask about anything related to show gardens, and I made copious notes throughout. I also had a burning question I felt I had to ask, regardless of so many pairs of eyes staring at me, and that was “Do they ever take a gamble on particular people and applications?”. This question is so relevant for us, as we are both young and have no previous show garden experience, not to mention we do not have a formal garden design qualification. However the response was so positive! I mentioned I am a plant scientist and that I am passionate and ambitious, and they told me they absolutely take chances on people, especially if their designs and applications are strong (which I am convinced ours is!), not to mention they said they were already intrigued by me with such a different background. And if the RHS are intrigued it can’t be a bad thing!

Matt Keightley was very lovely when I asked my question, stating himself as an example of the RHS taking chances on people, clearly showing how successful you can be if the RHS are confident in your abilities. However I pointed out he had been working in the industry as a designer for the past decade or so even though he had never created a show garden, and we haven’t. But everyone was still surprisingly confident in us, and the chatters and whispers around the room during this exchange made me think we were actually on to something exciting. A chat with an RHS member towards the end of the day also helped me to realise that we have achieved so much already, having secured donations from concrete designers and a landscaper and contractor to work with. I was given advice on the shows and categories that would best suit us and tips on the application process, and although everything is still in the hands of the selection panel, we will continue to work hard, and if we are confident enough in our abilities I feel this will shine through in our applications.

So thank you RHS for a lovely day and a massive confidence boost!

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