Was it really a year ago I came to the BBC Gardeners World Live show at Birmingham's NEC? Well yes it was, and doesn't time fly by?
The normally soul destroying, packed in like sardines, bus ride from the outer wastelands of the NEC car park, was an absolute delight this year thanks to Sue, our driver. With a West Midlands accent and a gravelly voice which hinted that she may smoke a hundred Marlborough a day, she kept up a non stop cabaret as she drove to us to the show...and actually got the sardines laughing and even talking to each other. Top marks Sue...
You can tell the real GWLive fans - the excitement was palpable as they almost ran towards the entrance gates, unfolding their jumbo trollies as they did so, eyes scanning the horizon for plants. Rare plants and loos.
I took things a little more steadily, and enjoyed a casual wander through the show gardens first of all and as it was very early, managed to get a really good look at all of them.
The Twenty One Senses was a garden which appealed to definitely more than Aristotle's five senses. Such a vibrant, cheerful garden by Yvonne Matthews and Andrew Richards which embodied sight, smell (not just the fragrance from the plants) , taste as they began to cook, touch, and balance in the planting .
And I just loved this border...
And it was my sense of smell which drew me to the Spice garden....plants from the Middle East , Africa, Asia and the Americas with homage to the ships which brought their precious cargoes of exotic spices back to England and Birmingham. A very thoughtful and cleverly designed , not to mention aromatic, garden which suddenly made me feel very hungry.
By now, the heat was intensifying the wafts of scent drifting along from the plants....and the Kitchen Garden Talks tent, situated right next to a Pimms stand was looking increasing desirable.....to be able to sit in the shade, sip a drink and listen to the ever gorgeous Phil Vickery.
That man has such a lovely way with him. Self deprecating, interesting stories and some banter between him and Jim. That's Jim Buttress, the former royal gardener who has bloomed into a real TV personality in BBC 2's The Big Allotment Challenge .
But let's get back to Phil...and why not? I interviewed him eight or so years ago when I had a spell as presenter of our lunchtime show. He was so charming , and told me the first love of his life was a Bridget.
Out in the sunshine was a very easy on the eye garden which attracted me - firstly because everything was so accessible to buy, and also because there were a couple of garden loungers in there. An important part of anyone's garden surely? Down the Garden is a garden for all ages.
It's a given that the RHS Marquee is a teeming mass of noise, colour, scent and brio. Some of the displays were beautifully bold
But there were two gardens which caught my imagination and my heart at BBC Gardeners World Live...one in the RHS Marquee and one outside. Both commemorated the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War 1.
Now this is a subject very close to my heart. As regular readers of this blog may remember, my great uncle Percy was killed at the age of 19 in Flanders, and for a number of months I've been working on a BBC radio series called World War 1 At Home.
So I was very interested to see how the war would be interpreted through garden design. Firstly, Birmingham City Council's display in conjunction with the British Legion and the charity Thrive was a tour de Force...in terms of scale and attention to detail.
Yes , there were poppies, but so much more....we walked past the sandbags...
into the display, where we walked on duckboards ...through the sombre shades of a recreation of a trench while overhead grassy planes hovered overhead.
before coming into the brightness
Really, it was quite remarkable.
Outside, I also was struck by the stark simplicity of Andy Tudbury's garden "We shall remember them". It's a place to sit, to be silent....and this garden really is a labour of love for him.
Firstly, two of his ancestors died in World war 1, both only in their twenties. Secondly, Andy was commissioned to do this only two weeks before the opening day. Two weeks to design, to source plants, a sculpture...and build the garden. Talking to him , he admitted he's had sleepless nights and it has been hard work, but the pride on his face as he showed me around, and the admiring sounds from visitors has proved it's been worthwhile.
The rosemary for remembrance planted by the seat, and the ghost like swaying of the silver white planting were so effective...
At BBC Gardeners World Live, there really is so much to see and inspire...ideas to mull over, new plants to fawn over...and even though we had to queue to get on the bus to take us back to the outer wastelands of the car park, there was still lots to see, as I shamelessly ogled the jumbo trolleys and bags of other visitors to see what they had been tempted to buy...
Please note...although I work for the BBC, I am not paid to go to go this show or write about it..I visit the show and write about it, because I love gardens and gardening, and I want to!