I was about as unprepared for going to Tatton as you could be - no plant lists, no nurseries to look out for, no gardens on my list of must sees. A big blur of family things had taken up all my time and thought and suddenly it was Tuesday and Michelle, Karen and Jane were arriving late afternoon and there were beds to be made and no food in the house. The long awaited shepherd's hut was arriving the next day and the bit of my brain that had not been taken up with family stuff had been occupied making curtains and cushions. I looked up and it was the day before we were going to Tatton. Aaargh, time to engage.
I went to Tatton years ago, soon after it became an RHS venue. I don't remember much about it. I think there was mud. The show gardens were very small.
On Wednesday the forecast was for constant rain so we arrived with wellies and waterproofs. The sun shone all day and my feet got hot. I was going to show you a host of evocative photographs of the show but my general abstractedness seems to have seeped into my camera and there are a lot of photos which somehow miss the point or cut the head off. So here, in no particular order are my impressions of Tatton, with and without photos:
There are lots of staff and marshalls and porters and they are universally friendly and cheerful and helpful. I don't know how they did it or where they got them from but they are fab.
Loads to see in the Floral Marquee and some great little nurseries. My favourites?
Bluebell Cottage, run by Sue Beesley - great plants, really helpful staff and a good garden too if you visit.
Cath's Garden Plants - as it says on the tin. Always has that plant you are trying to track down.
Trecanna nursery - this was a new one on me, specialising in bulbs and crocosmia. They had a perfect piece of planting on their stand, which this photo does not do justice to.
Crocosmia Lucifer, white achillea, sparing verbena bonariensis, carex. Very simple, very stunning.
I wasn't blown away by the show gardens although there were three which I liked very much.
A Taste of Ness by Philippa Probert for Ness Botanic Gardens had for me the best planting in the show.
World without Torture by Howard and Dori Miller for the Quaker Concern for the Abolition of Torture set up a fluttering confusion of peace and unease.
I loved the shapes and vibrant colours of Nature Squared by Reaseheath College.
The Best in Show garden left me cold as you can probably tell by this rather unsympathetic photograph: too much hard landscaping, not enough planting, not enough soul.
But really I am not a lover of show gardens. Every now and then one will turn your head and make you engage and over turn your preconceptions and perhaps it is worth seeing a hundred gardens which seem to have been designed by computer for the one which shakes you up. But really I like gardens which belong to a place and which take years to grow. I am the wrong audience.
What I was really there for was the company and the plants and the giant vegetables.
I had a great day. The sun shone. I bought Eryngiums and salvias and I saw Monty Don who unaccountably did not seem to be aware that I had spent half the morning defending his presenting of Gardeners' World so did not engage me in grateful conversation. It is a good show. I shall go again.