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RHS Urban Garden Show Launches in London

The Royal Horticultural Society launches a new London show this weekend – RHS London Urban Garden Show. Based at their halls in Victoria (Nov 12 & 13), the show is certainly different from the traditional London shows.

It’s a Friday evening and I’m heading for the preview event. As I turn the corner of Vincent Square there is a large queue. I’ve never seen such a large line of people all wanting to get into RHS Lindley Halls. I walk around to see where it ends, to my surprise it travels around two corners and into the nearby streets. Darkness and a biting nip in the air is descending over London so I head inside.

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The entrance is filled with shiny boxes and potted plants at various locations with a light projection dancing across it – installed by students from the Chelsea Collage of Arts. Certainly the most glamorous entrance to an RHS show I’ve ever seen, but the space here is too restrictive. Standing back to admire the piece and I’m being pushed around as people, keen to get out of the cold weather after waiting such a long time, make their way into the warmth of the hall.

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There is a set layout to any RHS London Show, tables are always places in a certain pattern but not tonight. The rule book has been thrown out and it’s all about being different – I like it. In the centre of the hall there is a large seating area with plenty of space to eat and drink. There are food stalls, two drinks bars (alcoholic and non), a vegan cake stand and then some of the familiar faces such as Pennard Plants – click here to see the full list of all the stands and exhibitors.

On the balcony, where tea and coffee are usually served, is a DJ pumping out a stream of dance music. This makes it difficult to do any business with the stall holders directly under the balcony. It was so difficult to hear how much their products were I decide to take a leaflet and check them out online when I get home.

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The atmosphere is more like London nightclub meets Camden than an RHS event but this is a preview event. The place is full of trendy twenty and thirty somethings, direct from a hard day at work and needing to relax. There are two drinking bars, the queue for the alcoholic one is so long I initially thought it was another art installation. I head for the non-alcoholic bar and am served within seconds with an elderflower and cucumber twist – I would prefer a tea to be honest.

Stalls are selling spring bulbs, garden accessories and seeds but mostly it’s all about indoor plants such as cactus and terrariums (which apparently are making a comeback in 2017).

While sipping on my elderflower and cucumber twist, I chat to the stand holders. Everyone is pleased with the crowd but wonders if it’s the right audience for them. “Who comes out on a Friday night wanting to buy a tulip bulb?” remarks one. The food stalls are being kept busy, so are the house plant stalls but I haven’t seen anyone at the seed and spring bulbs stands.

Overall, I loved the event and praise the RHS for trying something new and aiming to attract a new audience to the charity. But next time, I’d like a cup of tea to go with my delicious vegan cake.

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RHS London Urban Show is open on Saturday 12 November and Sunday 13 November.

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  • David Bentz

    Sean, I applaud the RHS for trying some thing different but some times it’s just best not to try to change the successful way it’s been, don’t you think? I know that sounds so old fashioned. Wait …. I am old so not surprising that I dislike change. 🙂