Festival: RHS Show Tatton Park, Tatton Park, Knutsford, July 22-25 2010
The regional version of the Royal Horticultural Society's annual show has become renowned for showcasing young and up-and-coming talent since launching in 1999 in the salubrious grounds of Tatton, establishing itself as the edgier offspring of the Chelsea and Cardiff versions.
Highlights this time include Tony Smith, a self-defined "leftfield" designer who won awards at Chelsea after abandoning a career in tennis coaching to become a gardener. He's made an alien lying in a crater planted with lettuces for the 2010 show.
"It's much more fun doing shows than the real world and, to be honest, that’s why I do it," he confesses, dodging the "bread and butter" work of his day job. "Obviously I do have to earn a living but, for the past year or so, I’ve been able to make a living from show gardens."
Tatton Gardens Manager Sam Youd, who was "instrumental" in originally bringing the festival to the gardens, has made a Mod-ieval Garden, positioning contemporary plants in a plot inspired by the 15th century owners of the Park.
"I was told once I was a showman, so I suppose that sums me up really," he says, aiming for a Gold medal this year. "I like all the razzmatazz. It's great to walk out and see everyone enjoying the show – there are so many people there and they all have one thing in common, which is gardening."
Tatton Park Gardens Manager Sam Youd has made a Mod-ieval design
Eurofleurs, a World Cup for gardeners running every four years, comes to Tatton this year in an ultra-competitive international challenge run hosted by the British Florist Association. Bulb betters might want to plant a few quid on Joe Massie grabbing the garden gauntlet this year, having won the Chelsea Young Florist of the Year nod for two years running.
"There are five tasks, and three of them are kept under wraps," he says, planning a break from his "exhausting" recent run of competitions once the design he has spent six months working on for Tatton has been launched.
"On the day, we find out what we have to do with the same plant material and containers. We'll really be flying by the seat of our pants.
"I think Russia is going to be hard to beat and Austria has won it the last three times, so they are always ones to watch."
Rock and roll wildchild Jon Tilley returns for a third consecutive year with The Garden of the Crystal Skull, a gothic garden inspired by grunge, rock and punk culture.
There are also 20 nursery rhyme-themed front gardens being built by 18 schools, a children’s centre and free admission deals for children as the show celebrates a record 20 schools taking part for 2010.
Coverage on BBC Two on July 22, 7.30pm-8pm and July 23, 8pm-8.30pm.