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Gardening Scotland 2012 opens tomorrow

by Antonia Reid

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Gardening Scotland credit: Mid Calder Camera Club, Chris Watt and Gary Doak

More than 30,000 gardening Scots can’t be wrong! That’s the number expected at this year’s Gardening Scotland show which starts tomorrow.

Run by a charity dedicated to promoting gardening education, the emphasis is on green living, learning, growing your own food and above all having fun.

Every year, dozens of schools across Scotland give the professional designers a run for their money with their cleverly-planted pallet gardens. And this year, with the Olympics just weeks away, there is a brand new challenge too. Children from 26 primary and special schools across Edinburgh will be taking on the ‘Country in a Basket’ theme, filling a container with plants that represent one of the competing nations at the Games. This involves growing seeds of plants that are native to that country, filling the basket with flowers that match the colour of the flag or even growing the ingredients for the national dish.

For green-fingered families, there are also plenty of inspiring attractions. The Big Cooking Bus will be packing in the customers and showing that making healthy food is possible from a very young age. The Big Back Garden will offer a whole variety of activities, including close encounters with bees and birds of prey and storytelling sessions with Janis Mackay, award-winning author of ‘Magnus Fin and the Moonlight Mission’, who will be welcoming her audience into a huge multi-coloured tipi.

Amongst the show gardens, the students at the Scottish Agricultural College in Edinburgh have taken on the challenge of creating the same design at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and at Gardening Scotland. There are just five days separating the two events – a major test for the students if they are going to have a chance of following up their silver-gilt award at Chelsea with a second medal success. The theme of the exhibit is a ‘Plant Explorer’s Garden’ and it will depict the sort of green space that a plant hunter would make in between expeditions to high mountains, deep jungles and arid deserts.

Scores of exhibitors will also be taking the high road to Edinburgh straight from Chelsea. One of these is former engineer Alastair Hunter who creates beautiful contemporary sundials (www.macmillanhunter.co.uk). Each piece is hand-built and many are made for the exact latitude and longitude of their location. Prices start at £425.

Perhaps it is only when you leave Gardening Scotland, staggering under the weight of the plants you have bought, that you begin to process how much you have learned (and spent!). I have been going to the show for more than a decade and over the years, I have gathered some extraordinary plants, tried my hand at dry stone walling and bee-keeping, and learned all sorts of tips and techniques. But most of all I never leave without the certain knowledge that Gardening Scotland has once again, made me a better city planter.

Gardening Scotland 2012 takes place from Friday 1st June to Sunday 3rd June at The Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh. www.gardeningscotland.com

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