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Top 8 Highlights from the first day of the RHS Urban Show

by | 18 Apr 24 | News

RHS Urban Show

Concrete jungles? Not anymore. There’s a growing eagerness to transform grey city surroundings into green oases bursting with wildlife. Cottoning onto the rising number of urban gardeners, the RHS has launched its first Urban Show, now taking place at Depot Mayfield.  

It’s been in the works for a few years and is part of the RHS’ strategy to reach out to more gardeners in urban environments, says show manager Lex Falleyn.  

Take a look at a few of our highlights after visiting the RHS’ new show on opening day: 

1 It’s the RHS’ first large scale indoor show 

It might have been a wet start to the year, but that’s not a problem for those building gardens at the RHS Urban Show. A far cry from the vast grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea or Hampton Court Palace, Depot Mayfield – with its industrial heritage – brings urban gardening literally under one roof to create the RHS’ first large scale indoor show.  


2 And it boasts one of the largest indoor forests 

At 286sqm and six metres high, Nathan Webster’s Indoor Urban Forest is one of the UK’s largest of its kind. Inspired by Britain’s forests, Webster – last year’s RHS Young Designer of the Year – has incorporated 23 trees into the exhibit, including Pinus sylvestris and Betula nigra. It highlights the health and wellbeing benefits of urban foresting and the need to protect existing forests – and the eerie ‘fog’ surrounding the space, which makes it look like the Forbidden Forest from the Harry Potter series, is bound to make it a popular attraction at the show. 

3 A robotic dog duo working to improve biodiversity 

We’re not kidding. A pair of robotic detection dogs are stealing the limelight on The Wider Web exhibit by the University of Plymouth and designer Kenny Wilding-Raybould, one of Pro Landscaper’s 30 Under 30: The Next Generation winners who has founded the Grown That Way collective. 

Ellie and Elmo can collect data from plants and soil, which could be used in real-world settings to increase biodiversity, amongst other benefits. Hydroponics and the use of drone imagery were also being demonstrated, showing how technology and nature can work hand in hand. 

4 Different microclimates and pay brackets being considered 

No exhibit showcased this more than Jason Williams’ RHS City Spaces: Cloudscape, which brought together students from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Rise programme and Notcutts Garden Centre to create seven – yes, seven – different gardens. This included four balconies – facing north, south, east and west – a north-facing space, a rented patio, an urban farm and a communal garden.  

“Chelsea is aspirational; I wanted these spaces to be inspirational,” says Williams, also known as the Cloud Gardener, who started documenting the transformation of his 18th floor balcony garden on social media during lockdown.  

The maximum budget for the balconies was just £500, to show what can be achieved on a small budget. The north-facing garden shows what can be realised in a small space, whilst the allotment and communal garden act as a wakeup call to developers for what could be included. The Plant Co-operative, which partnered with Williams for the communal garden, already works with local developers.

5 Exhibits are being reused or relocated 

Take Emma Tipping’s Pub Garden which, following a competition, will be relocated to The Star Inn, Salford. The container garden has been designed to be “versatile” to ensure it can be easily moved to its permanent home, says Tipping. Hardy, tolerant, low maintenance plants will help lighten the load on employees to care for the space, and bee murals are a nod to the Mancunian location. 


6 Tinie Tempah talking about the benefits of nature 

Musician Tinie Tempah joined Tom Massey on the Main Stage to talk about his own experience with gardening and nature, and how working with Massey on various projects has developed his horticultural knowledge. The two have come together to create Chase Distillery’s bar at the show, surrounded by greenery and highlighting Chase’s own desire to bring the countryside into urban areas.  


RHS Urban Show7 It forms part of the RHS’ 220th year celebrations 

The Royal Horticultural Society is hitting a significant milestone this year, having celebrated horticulture for more than two centuries. The launch of its RHS Urban Show marks yet another step in bringing together people and horticulturists from all walks of life, be it through its five majestic gardens, its prestigious flower shows, and now through an event that allows even those with gardens the size of postage stamps or simply a windowsill to still be gardeners. 


Mayfield Park8 The fitting Mancunian venue 

Depot Mayfield sits within the first park in the city of Manchester for more than 100 years. What was once a derelict brownfield site is now the 6.5-acre Mayfield Park, which forms the centrepiece of a wider development of the area and the start of a series of green corridors spanning further afield. 

To celebrate its iconic location, there’s even an art installation and exhibition of historic botanical fabrics showcasing the past, present and future of Mayfield to coincide with the first RHS Urban Show, displayed in a former railway arch next to the venue. 

Better yet, visitors can take the opportunity to explore the park before or after the show and see for themselves the benefits of urban greening. 

The RHS Urban Show is taking place until 21 April at Depot Mayfield in Manchester. 

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