We’ll forget the traffic jams, our inability to navigate our way into the NEC car park and our subsequent inability to find where we parked – instead, we’ll concentrate on our day’s highlights. It was the BBC’s double whammy of green-fingered and sticky-lipped shows, hosted by Gardeners World and Good Food magazines, and we marvelled, mingled and munched our way through both to bring you the highlights…
BBC Gardeners World Live – top five highlights
There were show gardens, flower displays, interactive guides to compost and cat cushions. We sniffed floral scents, poked around futuristic sheds, swished the occasional stainless steel cutting blade and had heated gel packs wrapped round our necks. Choosing our five favourites wasn’t easy, but here’s what we decided on…
Greener Pastures by Tracey Parker
Having made a less than impressive return to playing football a few days earlier, Nick’s knees were creaking like falling timber and he hobbled round the show like a man four times his actual age. Little wonder he picked out this garden as his favourite, designed for people living an active life through retirement. A simple, social space with natural planting and room to roam or, preferably, put your feet up.
Right Garden, Right Place by Adam Frost and Jody Lidgard
Rich’s favourite display garden was a collaboration between designer Adam Frost and landscaper Jody Lidgard, who recreated some of gardening’s most awkward spaces (dry soil; shady areas; etc) and filled them with suitable plants. The garden was rich, varied and vibrant and packed with inspiration for Rich to take back to some of his own neglected and infertile regions.
Visit www.adamfrost.co.uk and www.jodylidgard.co.uk
Hybrid Pitcher Plant
Since being introduced to carnivorous plants a week earlier at Toby Buckland’s Garden Fest we have a new appreciation for this freakish form of flora. This North American hybrid, on display courtesy of Hewitt-Cooper, is known to his friends as ‘Sarracenia x catesbaei’ and manages to look simultaneously joyous and full of red veined menace.
We’re keen on growing unusually shaped courgettes to surprise our guests when serving a fresh fritter, but we’ve not seen anything quite as unusual as this chap, squirting out of the plant like bright green toothpaste. This mighty specimen comes from Robinsons’s Seeds & Plants Mammoth range. And if you think that length is impressive, wait until you see a fully grown trombincino hardening in the sun.
One of the many educational areas of the show featured a demonstration of container planting, where visitors were asked to vote for their potted solution. As much as we admired the combination of orange thunbergia, orange begonias and red pelagoriums in this planting scheme, what swung it for us was the recycled wine barrel. A classic.
BBC Good Food Show Live – our top five highlights
The food part of the show featured several celebrity chefs kneading, stirring and grilling amongst the myriad stalls peddling chocolates, oils and lots and lots of ‘revolutionary’ vegetable peelers. But we were mostly there to sample the booze. Here are our favourite finds – we would like to recommend that you don’t sample them all in the same afternoon.
Wild Drinks Elderflower Spritzer
Could this be the next taste of summer? Elderflower, perry and gin. We often dunk elderflowers into our home made cider (the drink is known round here as scrumpleflower) but this is a new idea, proudly shown off by Wild Drinks owner Jonathan Wallington. We generously gave a few bottles of this to our thirsty wives and they went down extremely well, so we’ll try to catch up with him another time to find out more about his booze making prowess.
Sipsmith Independent Spirits
From something new, to a familiar favourite. We’ve been following Sipsmith’s progress for a while now and recommended their fine gins this time last year. This summer, the buzz has caught on even more and their show stall had been almost emptied within the first two days, with their Summer Cup and sloe gin looking to have taken the brunt of visitors’ thirst. If you haven’t tried their amazing gins or vodkas yet, then we urge you to find out for yourself what the fuss is all about
Praline Welsh Cream Liqueur
While Nick was dutifully tasting Condessa’s range of hand made Welsh liqueurs, Rich was busy gassing with the ladies running their show about their home island of Angelsey. At one stage conversation got round to the clear blue island waters and the marine life thriving within, which caused Rich to foolishly suggest they make an ‘octopus liqueur’. We were swiftly led away but not before Nick had found his favourite from their range – a super smooth praline cream liqueur.
We’ve got a recipe for a world beating crème de cassis in our forthcoming book, made by macerating, heating and squeezing delicious fresh blackcurrants. But British Cassis make their currant booze another way – fermenting the fruit before fortifying and sweetening. The resulting intoxicatingly curranty booze is so successful that they’ve repeated the trick with strawberries, raspberries and cherries. That’s dedication to booze making that we admire.
Onion bhajee scotch egg
Although our priority is always to source the best booze in a show, it would be foolish if we didn’t also keep our eyes out for the best snack to accompany a drinking session. This year we found something so perfect, and so obvious, that we’re cussing we didn’t think of it ourselves: onion bahjee scotch eggs. Whatever will they think of next…*
*We are already looking for investors to help us with the ‘ponfri’ (pickled onion fritter); ‘poppazzas’ (cheese and salami topped poppadoms); and the ‘blood roll’ (a crispy spring roll filled with black pudding)