On Sunday 25th July I attended my first ever flower show in the UK. That’s it, I am officially an 80 year old in a 24 year old’s body. Seriously though, this is something I’d been meaning to try for age, since my mum had brought me up with her love of gardening and recurring plans to go to the Southport Flower Show. When I heard on the radio that the RHS flower show was on that weekend I knew we had to go!
After raiding the house for my sunglasses (which I still have yet to find), my sister, my mum and I rocked up to Tatton Park just after the opening time, 10am. We swagged out of the car, like so many other show-goers, embossed in floral print and sun cream. Tickets were £35 (pretty steep I know) but parking was free when it would usually cost about half the price of the ticket!
The walk from the car to the flower show entrance was pretty long but they had buses for anyone who would struggle with the walk. We managed the 10 minute scuffle in the gradually warming sun and once we’d scanned our tickets at the entrance, we took a hard right towards the food stalls (we were hungry!)
Even passing the shopping stalls in a hunger-fuelled blur, I knew we were in for a good day. There were plant nurseries selling off plant babies, ceramics businesses, jewellers and a whole array of really beautiful products that we’d look at after stuffing our faces. There were a couple of foodie zones throughout the flower show, where different food stalls would offer anything from healthy falafel wraps to churros and oreo-stuffed donuts, from katsu curry to strawberries and cream.
Our first food stop, yes there were a few, was to a little van selling blooming onions and tornado potatoes. Tornado potatoes are my absolute favourite festival food, I tried my first ever at the Cosmos festival in Japan and the thought of it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy with happy memories and BBQ powder. The blooming onion had the same effect on Beck, who had tried it in America and had promoted it ever since. Sadly, both foods were a bit of a flop. The tornado potato wasn’t properly seasoned while the blooming onion wasn’t fully cooked.
Feeling a little disheartened, we decided to dive into the closest flower marquee. It was pretty small, with a centrepiece garden design in the middle. The garden was bursting with colours and different plants (disclaimer: I am not a plant expert, but I do love looking at them!) Behind that centrepiece was a stall for bees and another for bonsai.
After leaving that marquee we passed some children’s gardens. They were really beautiful and there were some that I preferred to the adult designs! Then there were stalls selling amazingly ornate plant pots. A lot of them were in the Japanese-style and there was a standing vase that really caught my eye. It was as tall as me and the detailed paintwork was breath-taking! At just under a grand though, looking was all I was going to do! There were outdoor seating companies, more plant nurseries, first aid tents and a bandstand lining the way to the main tent.
I’m not going to list off everything that was going on in that tent because there was a LOT. Crowd-wise, it wasn’t too bad. It was a bit cramped but nothing too major and everyone was pretty patient. My personal favourites were the bonsai displays, the lilies, alliums and the sunflowers. At the bonsai display, I found a gingko bonsai which before seeing it, I had no idea they existed. In Japan, I’d seen the gingko tree standing tall, lining the road to my Japanese grandma’s house and their orange leaves lining the floors of the town in Autumn. I hadn’t seen this compact, homey version before and it was really beautiful.
Our second pit stop was to a healthy food stall, where Beck and I bought falafel pitas and my mum just had a tea. The falafel cost £8.50, and it tasted pretty good. I really liked the salad that accompanied it; it had a pretty nutty undertone which was lightened by a sprinkling of dates.
Next up was some other display tents – one was for flower arches which I was immediately in love with. There were a lot of different styles, but my favourite was the dried flower arches. The colours and textures of dried flowers is so different from fresh flowers. The use of dried flowers in design was popular in the cafes I would visit in Kyushu and it’s an aesthetic that I fell in love with, especially bundles of dried flowers hanging from a high ceiling. Some people dream of Ferraris, others of hanging dead flora, each to their own.
Another tent was flower fashion – where the designers had the prompt of breast cancer in their dress designs. They were so inventive and creative. My favourite design was the one I’ve included below. I feel like I would wear this as a real life outfit, the mossy green bralette especially; H&M get to it!
After ogling at the insane gardening, design and craftsmanship skills, we snapped a picture with these adorable bee mascots, mooched around some of the stalls and had a drink and sat in the shade (by this point it was getting pretty hot). I bought a sunhat that is definitely not my usual style but I love it anyway, and we stopped back off at the bandstand. A vintage 1940s themed girl band was playing, called The Femmes, and they were really good! We hunted the grounds for a metalcraft snail that my mum had seen and wanted to buy (because it was ‘metal and had weird eyes’). After having no luck and filling our boots with the remaining outdoor garden designs we headed for the exit.
My favourite gardens were either Dreamscapes or It’s Okay Not To Be Okay. The former reminded me of one of the gazillion low-budget set planets that Jean-Luc (Patrick Stewart) would visit in Star Trek, which zapped me back to times where my imagination would just run wild and I would fully immerse myself in the sci-fi universe that I shared with my dad.
The latter was a sensory garden, promoting mindfulness and highlighting the importance of addressing mental health. I found it especially touching that this message was said through the use of flowers, something that we associate so much with their aesthetics. Really, flowers are so much more than just pretty things to look at. They, just like us, are scratching and clawing to stay alive, to maintain the world that they know around them, to establish roots and stability whilst also trying to grow.
I see the roots of a flower as the ugly shadow work that we all need to do as people to build a foundation of self-acceptance and understanding. By shadow work I mean asking the difficult questions; sitting with uncomfortable feelings and asking why exactly they’re making us uncomfortable; and learning to truly accept the people that we are, rather than the person we present or perform. We need time to pour energy into ourselves, into our passions and the things that make us, eventually, want to bloom. We then need to embrace the curling, wilting petals that come after a bloom, the regeneration and knowledge that we’re going to bloom again and again and again, as long as we give ourselves the right nutrients.
The flower show was brilliant, it came at a time when I’m being mindful and trying my best to improve my mood and lifestyle. I’m trying to be in the moment, to accept that I need to rest some times and to try and bring myself back to the here and now. To literally stop and smell the flowers, to feel the heat of the sun glaring down on my fancy sunhat, to smell the frying of noodles and freshness of lemonade, to taste the bitterness of an unseasoned tornado potato and the sweetness of a mango and pineapple smoothie.
I hope you’re able to do something today, or this week, that grounds you and reminds you that you are alive, that your life has beauty and meaning and that you are in a constant state of bloom.