Peter Dowdall enthuses over this year's Mallow Home and Garden Festival

This is most definitely the time of year when the worlds of gardening and show business collide.

This is most definitely the time of year when the worlds of gardening and show business collide.

The coming week starts with the best of all, the standard bearer in the world of gardening which takes place in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea as the RHS Flower Show begins on Tuesday and there is more than a bit of Irish interest this year.

Whether you make the trip across to London or watch it on telly, the appetite is well and truly whetted by the end of Chelsea week and gardening takes centre stage once more.

Chelsea is all about the show and as with anything that is top notch and big budget, it attracts the showoffs — and I mean that in the nicest possible way — for if there wasn’t a place in which the top designers could show off their new ideas and creations, then there would be no new development in the world of garden design.

At the end of the week and earlier than usual, is the Mallow Home and Garden Festival at Cork Racecourse. 

Peter Dowdall enthuses over this year's Mallow Home and Garden Festival

I am delighted to see that this show has been brought forward in the season, as we will all be full of enthusiasm after a week of Chelsea.

Ireland’s top specialist nurseries will be there as always, and as the world of horticulture changes and less of the rare and unusual plants are available through garden centres, this is an ideal opportunity to not only source the plants, but also to speak to the growers themselves.

These nurserymen and women are only too happy to share their knowledge with anyone who shows more than a passing interest, after all it’s showtime. 

From the gardener’s point of view we get to buy that sought-after specimen from someone who has grown it outside in Ireland and who knows what they are talking about. 

We’re not buying an imported plant that may never have seen the outdoors before, as well as, of course, supporting small niche businesses.

The specialist growers will nearly all tell you that they love Mallow as there is a more laid-back atmosphere about the show, one they don’t experience in many of the other, bigger and higher-profile shows around Ireland and Britain.

Being a bit of an anorak when it comes to plants, I think this nursery area in the stable block is my favourite part of the yearly event. 

Peter Dowdall enthuses over this year's Mallow Home and Garden Festival

Even if I don’t purchase, I like to rummage through what’s on offer in the same way that a fashion addict might spend hours on the main street.

This year, as ever, sees new introductions to the show and one exhibitor who is likely to see a lot of interest is a company dedicated to the control and eradication of Japanese knotweed.

This curse of a weed which is on the list of Europe’s most invasive species seems to be colonising Ireland in front of our very eyes.

A relatively new facet to the show over the last few years is the food market and this too is developed this year with the addition of the Taste of North Cork Food Fair.

Like any garden, Mallow has developed in several areas over the years to the point where it now contains a pet expo, a vintage show and model replica display and an active retirement expo.

Let us not forget however, what this is all about and the show gardens at Mallow are unique, for they are permanent gardens. They remain from year to year and give the visitor a great idea of how a garden will look as it matures.

And while there is a permanent display, several gardens change each year and this year sees 1916 remembered by Finbarr O’Neill, as well as the return of Dominick Cullinane to the show.

I will be giving a seminar on each day of the show at 4pm on how to make your garden more beautiful, along with making it bee and butterfly friendly and on the Friday I will be joined by one of Ireland’s best-loved gardening personalities, Dermot O’Neill who will be speaking at 2pm.

On the Saturday and Sunday at 2pm the much-loved, and extremely entertaining Charlie Wilkins will be imparting his knowledge and advising on worthwhile plants available at the show.

These seminars are all free of charge and it never ceases to amaze me how this show, which receives none of the razzmatazz or sponsorship of other shows, continues to attract visitors in the tens of thousands and goes from strength to strength.

The week starts off with Chelsea and finishes with a show that Cork can be immensely proud of in Cork Racecourse Mallow. Enjoy it.


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