New 2024 Show Gardens promise enchanting experiences and dramatic landscapes, as RHS Malvern Spring Festival announces its prestigious list of 2024 designers

Visitors to RHS Malvern Spring Festival can expect a journey of discovery when the four-day horticultural showcase, held in association with My Pension Expert, returns to Three Counties Showground from 9 – 12 May 2024.

From an experimental hidden grove reached via a disco polytunnel to a thought-provoking artistic reflection on environmental issues inspired by Elizabethan poet John Donne and Korean islands, not to mention a brand-new Festival of Houseplants, the popular event promises to live up to its reputation for breaking new ground.

This year’s feature garden, The Secret Escape, is by RHS gold medal-winning Jamie Langlands – Lead Designer at Oxford Garden Design, who was responsible for last year’s ‘Best in Show’ and ‘People’s Choice’ for The Wildlife Trusts: Wilder Spaces garden. He has come up with an enchanting hidden grove in which there’s an unconventional dance floor surrounded by nature, with a DJ maintaining a constant groove. Access to this one-of-a-kind garden is through a ‘disco polytunnel’ filled with lush greenery and a mirror ball casting kaleidoscopic reflections. The entire space has been carefully designed to blend seamlessly with the natural surroundings, while offering a contrast of untamed wilderness and cultured beauty, including upcycled marvels.

This year will see eight RHS Judged show gardens that promise an eclectic mix of designs reflecting traditional ideas and avant-garde concepts.

Renowned designer David Wyndham Lewis, well known for his work at the Roof Gardens in Kensington, will be bringing a sample of The Laskett in spring to Malvern, both as an homage to the creators of the famous Herefordshire garden, Sir Roy Strong CH and his late wife Julia Trevelyan Oman CBE, and to raise awareness of Perennial, the charity for everyone working in or retired from horticulture. Sir Roy gifted The Laskett garden in Herefordshire to Perennial in 2021. At RHS Malvern Spring Festival, David’s show garden, called The Laskett – one of Perennial’s Gardens – An Autobiographical Garden, will include representations of the iconic Victoria and Albert Temple, yew topiary and woodland planting, along with spring bulbs and border auriculas.

Three-times Malvern gold medal winner Mark Draper will be returning to the festival with The Cotswold Garden, the highlights of which will include a self-supporting stone dome, over which a natural spring will run on its way through the garden and into a stream, and a timber pergola set on staddle stones. There will be distinctive dining and lounging areas, meadow planting and beautiful borders. Mark is a designer for Graduate Gardeners, which has a long association with the festival and celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The Botanic Blonde Laura Ashton-Phillips will be looking to add to her Malvern silver and bronze medals achieved in 2023 and 2022 with ‘Eat, Drink and Be Rosemary’, a native wild space and kitchen garden combination. Patients at Gloucester’s Wotton Lawn Hospital are helping to grow some of the plants and afterwards everything will be absorbed into a children’s wellbeing garden at Gloucester Royal Hospital.

Lu Wenjuan and Yun Sunmi’s Green Islands garden is inspired by the John Donne poem ‘No Man is an Island’ and the breathtaking natural scenery of Korean islands. This artistic garden will seek to reflect the relationship between people and nature, with resilient planting and the use of moss among the stand out features.

Meanwhile Suzy Dean, a paediatric intensive care consultant at Bristol Children’s Hospital, will be presenting the Grand Appeal garden, a place for childlike exploration and adventure with woodland-inspired planting. Suzy, a director of Ammil Garden Design, completed a diploma at the Bristol Garden Design School in 2022 and now balances two careers. The Grand Appeal charity provides places for families to stay when their children are in hospital.

Michael Lote’s garden, ‘It Doesn’t Have To Cost The Earth’, is based on real gardens in many housing developments around the UK and will highlight the need to reinstate habitat for native wildlife that has been impacted by property construction. Representatives from the Soil Association will be on hand by the garden throughout the show to answer questions around the subject of soil health. Following the festival, Michael’s garden will be repurposed for community benefit at Woodoaks Farm, Hertfordshire.

Kerianne Fitzpatrick and TJ Kennedy will present ‘The Macmillan Legacy Garden’ – a thought-provoking circular garden offering visitors the chance to experience plants at different growth stages alongside the human lifecycle.

Concrete 2.0’ by Ian McBain seeks to highlight the need to use reclaimed and recycled materials in our gardens. It also seeks to promote the responsible use of water, as well as rethinking paving options and opting for the use of sustainable materials.

Along with the show gardens, children from 11 schools across Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire will be showing off their creativity with mini plots at the School Gardens on a theme of ‘The Magic of Music’.

Malvern is renowned for its displays of plants, and with more than 50 nurseries exhibiting in the Floral Marquee and many more offering a tempting array in the Plant Village and Pavilions, expect to find everything from native blooms from new to Malvern Swansea-based Celtic Wildflowers to various Phalaenopsis, Cattleyas, Debdrobiums and Masdevallias (orange) African species from Laura Hobbs Orchids of Sussex.

There will be an opportunity to get up close and personal to eucalyptus and discover the value of this climate change-resilient tree with a walk-through display combining lofty taller varieties and smaller types that visitors can touch and smell.  RHS Master Grower Grafton Nursery Ltd from Worcestershire will be relating the history of eucalyptus, which first came to the UK with Captain Cook’s third expedition to Tasmania in 1777, and showcasing its various uses, from floristry to flood amelioration. The display will also draw attention to the smaller dwarf species and cultivars such as the fabulous bushy ‘France Bleu’, which has neat bright blue adult foliage sitting beneath rose-pink new growth, and specially-pruned bushy fragrant Eucalyptus archeri shrubs.

New to the show this year is a Festival of Houseplants, in collaboration with Green Rooms Market, offering an opportunity to step into a world of indoor greenery. Expect vibrant botanical displays from much-loved classics to rare and exotic specimens, engaging workshops from expert horticulturalists and popular social media personalities, plus an abundance of shopping opportunities.

rmsf-logo-2024Tickets for the RHS Malvern Spring Festival 2024 start from just £15 for a new ‘Taster Ticket’ (with under 16s free of charge) and can be bought here