This year, RHS Flower Show Tatton Park is putting a greater emphasis on sustainability and is introducing ‘Greener Front Gardens,’ a new garden category focused on utilising front gardens for environmentally friendly gardening. As the show creeps closer, the RHS is looking for designers to take up the challenge of incorporating more green gardening practices into their show gardens.
Pip Probert started designing show gardens at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park in 2005 and has exhibited at the show ever since. She now has 37 show gardens to her name and medals to match, giving her a wealth of experience in garden design. As a RHS Tatton Park regular, Pip shares her advice on designing a garden and why she would encourage other garden designers to apply to take part in the 2022 Show.
Q) Why would you encourage designers to apply to exhibit at RHS Tatton? What keeps you coming back each year?
A) I feel that there is no better way to demonstrate what you as either a designer, landscaper or even a plants person can do, than show them something real. This is a sample of your work and expertise. Although the medal is an honour and something that drives us all, the main reason for being at the event is to create a public profile. Designers want to be known for their style. A photograph is brilliant, but nothing beats standing next to what you have created and discussing it with a client. They can see and touch the products, and if clients are particularly interested you can allow them a closer look. As a ‘shop front’ this is perfect for a designer.
Sometimes you hear from designers that exhibit once and then don’t return, thinking that they will come along once, win gold, fill their order book and never need to return. In my experience this is not the case. I have been exhibiting at RHS Shows for 17 years now, and worked on 37 gardens, at all shows. It has taken me time to learn about what works and what I want to achieve each year – this is very important… what do you want from being at the show? Is it a gold medal? Is it to build your profile? Is it to get work in for the coming year? You definitely get out what you put it, so think about what you want to achieve NOW.
We are always very well prepared for the show week. It is not just about the garden itself, you need to sell yourself. I often feel very guilty, as I don’t manage to look around the show as much as I should do. I don’t see all the exhibits, which is a terrible admission really. But, that is because I stay on the garden – very often there are other opportunities and other connections to be made. These tend to be at the quieter times of the day, and very often before and after the public come in. Please don’t go into this half-hearted. Embrace the challenge and put the hours in – as it will pay off!
Q) What experience do designers need in order to apply?
A) Designers that come to the show don’t always have experience. The Young Designer categories are a prime example of this. I had zero experience when I started, and I used the event as a learning curve. I listened to the advice given by others and tried new things, got to know my team better and constantly work on site myself, again absorbing as much info as possible. This goes back to my earlier advice – think about what you want from the experience. If this is your first time, you can’t be disappointed with anything less than gold. That is ridiculous! It is extremely hard to get a gold medal, and that is the whole point! So if this is your first time, treat it as an opportunity to connect with others in the industry. Learn about methods you have not used before, find new materials and soak up all the information you can. You can still benefit from new clients and kick start your career.
Q) What do designers need to prepare to apply? What are the main things to consider?
A) You need a good solid idea. Something that you are passionate about, something well thought out. Try to imagine all the possible issues and problems you might encounter, and have some sort of a backup plan. Discuss your design with the team – other people might just have the key to the issues you come across. A concept makes the garden strong, something for the public to embrace and be absorbed into. You could pick an unusual theme, or something seen in your everyday work that you want to demonstrate to future clients. But make sure that whatever it is, it is achievable. The last thing you want is to arrive and not have a clue how to create your design.
Sponsorship is a huge advantage. I tend to work with smaller product sponsors, rather than a larger, overall sponsor. This is partly because sponsorship is something I really struggle with, and partly because I like to have the overall control of the garden. You need to have a good relationship with a sponsor, and that way the experience will work well for all involved. Sponsors need to be aware of what it is you are offering them, and the deal you are making with them. You also need to agree to some boundaries – make sure you are happy with what happens once they arrive and the show begins. These are all things you need to discuss prior to the project starting.
Q) As RHS Flower Show Tatton Park is going green this year, why is it important to include sustainable practices in designs for show gardens?
A) This is very important to the world in general and the more that people like us can help encourage the general public to go green, the more it helps the planet and our future. People that visit the show take a lot away with them. They really do embrace the ideas they come across and if we can make it fashionable to be green, garden sustainably, use sustainable products and recycled materials, then this will encourage people to do more in their own homes and gardens. Plus, we can show them how to do it in style!
Q) What are the main benefits of exhibiting at RHS Tatton?
A) I love RHS Tatton Park – not only is it an amazing venue that gives me a sense of calm and happiness as I enter through the gates and approach the show ground via the avenue of tall trees and dappled shade. It is a tribute to the horticultural expertise of the North! There are so many Southern events and this is a chance for us to show off our skills. Tatton gives the younger generation a chance to experience the industry and gain knowledge. Personally I see the show as a very specific networking event that introduces me to many people and businesses that we can connect with on future projects. Most importantly we have a unique audience, and huge range of people to showcase our work to. These people generally have come to the event specifically looking for a designer and landscaper to carry out work on their property. This is direct marketing, targeting the people that are looking for you!
Applications for exhibiting at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park close on 17th January 2022.
For more information on applying to exhibit at RHS Flower Show Tatton Park and other RHS Shows, visit https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/exhibit-at-a-show