Sometimes, the best remedy for a particularly testing few days is spending time with your Mum.
Last week was just one of those weeks. Everything I came within a 50 mile radius of seemed to go horribly wrong.
You know when loads of little niggly things build up and annoy the absolute hell out of you, and then you run out of Marmite and it’s just the final straw and you bawl your eyes out? Yeah, that was totally me last week! The pinnacle of my seven days of trepidation came to a head when I was forced to smother my morning crumpets in mango chutney because we were out of Marmite, margarine and Biscoff spread. What a life.
I’ve lost count of the amount of dramas that came knocking last week! My test results from the doctors went AWOL, our house had a sudden ant infestation, Hermes marked my ‘spicy jalapeño’ nail varnish as delivered when there was no sign of it, and to top it all off, I went to pull a dead leaf off one of my succulents and somehow managed to snap the entire stem clean in half. I wore all black for days afterwards. I don’t take the death of my houseplants very well.
My first time at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show was in 2019. My husband had booked it as a surprise with my love of all things flower-and-plant in mind.
Our visit had coincided with the rainiest, windiest ‘summer’ morning know to man. The vast showground was practically deserted, and the plants cowered from the worsening weather, looking forlorn.
We paid £11.50 each for falafel wraps and argued bitterly over whether or not I needed another cacti to add to my collection of 157. (I absolutely did.)
My husband cast a disapproving eye around the show ground as we tucked into sodden, overpriced falafel.
“This is not what I expected,” he retorted scornfully. “It’s full of flowers!”
“Yeah... The clue’s in the name...” I snapped.
“When it said ‘flower show,’ I thought it was just going to be a few stalls selling hanging baskets! This is too big - it's overwhelming! It's like plants have taken over.”
We ended up leaving an hour after we’d arrived, soaked, miserable and with a very questionable looking cacti in tow.
With the Flower Show back in action after a Covid-induced year off, I was keen to give it another go. This time, I asked my Mum to accompany me – when it comes to flowers, she’s a much more receptive sidekick, and she doesn’t judge my cacti obsession.
(... Most people my age are embracing the lifting of lockdown by flocking to the clubs and bars, and then there’s me literally buzzing to spend the day in the company of plants. I rejoined my local library last week too – freedom doesn’t get more liberating than this!!)
It’s hard to imagine the magnitude of the flower show if you haven’t been. It’s colossal! It’s the stuff of plant lover’s dreams, with live music and delicious food added to the bargain. I generally prefer plants to people, so for me, this was heaven.
One of the first stalls I spotted was actually selling cacti. I’m a bit like the Pied Piper, but with cacti instead of rats; they always seem to find me, no matter where I go. I even impaled my leg on a five foot one when I lived in Ibiza.
I waded into the middle of the stall and absorbed myself in the weird and wonderful world of cacti.
"Mum... I’m home,” I stated, closing my eyes and breathing deeply. “I’ve found my people.”
My favourite flower-show moment was definitely taking in the Fleurs de Villes exhibition with my Mum.
The Fleurs de Villes raises awareness of breast cancer and celebrates the strength of women in the form of mannequins decked out in stunning outfits. Bursting with jaw-dropping creativity, the fashioned outfits were an absolute spectacle of pure decadence.
The display was both moving and empowering.
Each mannequin was fronted by an information board, offering a brief description on the inspiration behind the floral frocks.
I never knew a mannequin sporting a sprawling gown of flowers and holding up a pink wig could bring a tear to my eye, but it did. This particular mannequin – ‘CanCan’ - was representing the fight against breast cancer, and the fact that she was flourishing her wig high above her head in defiance was just so poignant.
^ CanCan, by Citi Blooms
I fell in love with the ‘1970’s Freedom Fighter’ mannequin and all that she represented in her divine outfit of vibrant, cascading bloom.
The British Summer mannequin also struck a chord with me. The theme was ultimately nostalgia, and the flowers used to craft this magical mannequin symbolised balmy British summers spent dancing through meadows of wildflower.
Many of my childhood memories are based in the countryside and feature the cathartic joy of running barefoot through buttercup fields and identifying snapdragons and foxgloves with my Grandma.
^ 1970's Freedom Fighter, by Springbank Manchester
The array of gardens were a delight. The amount of time and attention to detail that had clearly gone into each of them was captivating. They were like little miniature staples of paradise. I longed to step over the rope barriers and immerse myself in every single one of them, drinking in the infinite details that told their individual stories.
My favourite was the ‘Wind Rush’ themed garden, with its refreshing tropical hues and uplifting bold clashes of colour.
^ The 'Bee Happy in the City' garden, by Denise Reddin
One of my infamous mantras is: ‘Where there’s trouble, there are usually ferns.’
If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that I have a very hate-hate relationship with my unruly pair of Boston Ferns. I’ve had countless sleepless nights tending to these two vulgar creatures, who like a little of light, but not too much, but also require shade, but not a lot, and who like misting, but not massive amounts of watering, but also a smidgen of feeding too, oh but not too much, because they don’t like that, either.
If anybody out there is thinking of welcoming Boston Ferns into their plant families – DON’T. Just don’t bother. Save yourself the drama and purchase a wolf instead; it’ll be far less maintenance.
There was a whole entire stand dedicated to ferns in the Plant Hub tent. I almost had a panic attack. For me, this was an omen, and not a good one. Trouble was on the horizon...
I would also just like to dedicate this article to the halloumi wrap I had for lunch at the show, purchased from a little Greek stall. Halloumi, chips, salad and homemade tzatziki sauce, all encased within the softest, most tender wrap... The moment I took my first mouthful, the opening chords of James Blunt’s You’re Beautiful billowed softly through my mind. I was on a beach on some desolate Greek island, surrounded by whispering palms, with Alex Turner to my left and Richard Madden to my right, both brandishing an endless supply of baklava.
My last supper would be Aldi’s own Crunchy Nut for starter and that halloumi wrap as my main course, all washed down with lashings of jelly beans...
... Anyway!! The point I’m making is that while the food at the flower show was slightly on the pricier side, it was delectable. There was something to entice every taste bud, from fish and chips and pizzas, to loaded donuts and gourmet ice-cream. (Totally had both a cookie dough brownie and a mint chocolate chip ice-cream cone!)
The Flower Show was the perfect mother-daughter day out, and an ideal distraction from life. The heavenly other-worldly atmosphere that flowers bring is an outstretched hand in the face of life’s irritants and stresses. From the tiny little staples of rapture gifted by the gardens, to the incredible spine-tingling parody of the Fleurs de Villes, the show evoked a wistful wonderland of nostalgia, tranquility and hope.
Cara Jasmine Bradley