Inside the Floral Hall

Coreen Connell, from Kevock Garden Plants and exhibitor at this year’s Gardening Scotland, shares what it’s like to be part of Scotland’s famous gardening festival.

Gardening Scotland is the biggest plant show north of the border and situated in our very own backyard at Ingliston,  It is mainly a national competition for growers – not only flowers but also vegetables. Schools, colleges and horticulturalists strive for a gold medal in their chosen category. I have been privileged to work in this show since its forerunner, held in Strathclyde Country Park in 1988 .

It all begins with an application setting out the design and brief to describe the overall reasoning behind the proposed display. If accepted,  allocated space will be made available for the show. The next step in the process is to grow the plants; setting them aside and nurturing them for almost a year. This is my real responsibility and I love it.

KevockAs the event draws closer, I assist in the setting up of a small display in the Floral Hall; a chance to show off these dedicated plants. Some of them are extremely rare but others, everyone will recognise, for example, primulae and poppies. We always endeavour to represent the wild habitat of the plants we show, which involves rockwork as found naturally in the Himalayas.

Not everyone likes alpines so we divide our display in two with a representative of either a dry scree gully or a ‘dry’ mossy river. The alpine section set in stonework features plants such as saxifrage, small alpine Primula and Lewisia, whereas the second part of the stand is the herbaceous area where the dominant plants may include Trillium, Meconopsis and more Primula.

As an exhibitor, the aim is for a stunning display that features the more unusual and rare plants in peak condition, emulating as close as possible, their natural environment.  The other aim, of course, is to obtain a Gold medal and Best in Show!

portrait pic (white)All the displays and show gardens are judged the Thursday before Gardening Scotland opens to the public. Sales tables and stalls accompanying the display are also evaluated, so there is a lot of work to carry out and a deadline to meet. A brown leaf, a dead flower head, a broken stem would each cause the loss of a point. The display needs to be immaculate without any pot or container showing, we have to top-dress the alpine area with small gravel and top-dress the woodland side with moss.

The atmosphere in the Floral Hall is electric with a real sense of comradeship between neighbours offering help when required. The time, pressure and stress is considerable, but coming in early on that Friday morning to find a medal displayed, is worth all the effort. There are tears of joy and handshakes throughout. There are film crews and journalists all vying for the exclusive interview, to be the first to announce the Gold medal winners and to reveal Best in Show and the Plant of the Year awards.

rockery (portrait)The thrill received from displaying both a wonderful stand and the Gold medal is intensified by members of the public approaching, full of praises for the beauty of it, the plants, and the complexity of the design. There’s always a kick out of watching people’s reaction to it, some just stand and stare, astonished, others look on in disbelief and everyone has questions we are only to happy to answer.

I have been exhibiting for over seven years now, not only in Scotland but also winning Gold in Chelsea and other shows and I still get a buzz from it all.  Still, it isn’t always smooth sailing, but that’s another story….

Coreen is a representative of Kevock Garden Plants, Kevock Road, Lasswade, EH18 1HX (Tel:  0131 454 0660).  Kevock Garden Plants is not open to the public, so please do visit them at Gardening Scotland.

Gardening Scotland is at the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, from 29 – 31 May 2015.  For more information go to  or phone the ticket line on: 0131 333 0965


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