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I was kindly invited to the Woburn Abbey Garden Show and was enchanted. There was such a mixture of gardening styles to wander around, from rolling parkland with grazing deer, close cut lawns, formal parterres, frothy borders, truly magnificent trees, patches of grasses – some small, some large, and even a hornbeam maze!

Grasses were in evidence everywhere. To be honest, never the bride, but always as a very interesting and alluring bridesmaid. As BBC Gardeners World presenter Adam Frost remarked in one of his presentations, grasses give life to a garden, constantly swaying to the breeze’s tune. And they were certainly doing that today at Woburn.





One part of the showground showcased how versatile grasses can be. It was grass in three ways. You could look through Stipa gigantea in the centre of a border to see a pocket of close mown lawn directly behind, which itself was bounded by much taller wildflower meadow – dotted with common spotted orchid. Perfection.




In the main tent, Adam was telling everyone to throw out the rulebook of planting in odd numbers and grading a border from large at the back to medium in the middle and small at the front. He encouraged us to go out into the meadows and see how nature places her plants and try and bring something of our surroundings back into the garden.

This might have already started in my garden this spring, when two or three cow parsley plants set up home amongst the alliums in the borders at the front of the house!

I like Adam’s idea for garden design to be driven by a word –like lively, romantic or peaceful. And start sketching a skeleton of shapes and think of objects not plants at this stage. Use lots of colouring pencils and give the sketch a rhythmic pattern. THEN, start thinking which plants you love that fit this brief. And start with the trees and the shrubs – it is important to get these right, Herbaceous plants can be moved from year to year if they don’t perform as expected.


There were lots of great nurseries exhibiting and selling plants at Woburn. Two of particular note were The Plant Specialist, with a nursery and display garden based at Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire. They were selling two magnificent grasses, the very tall, straight and not in the least bit droopy Stipa gigantea Gold Fontaene and the silken headed Stipa barbarta– which owner Sean Walter explained he had first seen at Sissinghurst and had had a particularly good take of seeds this year.

Coincidentally, Adam had picked these two grasses in his selection of show exhibits and we shall see him planting them in his gravel garden at home on Gardeners World in the coming weeks.

Finally a word about Lavender and Leeks – a father and daughter combination, selling vintage, hand made and new, beautiful gardening bits and pieces. I had noticed their plant supports on the way in –plain and simple and exceptional value for money. They were selling like hot cakes and I came away with quite a few!

Thanks for a great day Woburn Garden Show!

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