Doncaster isn’t the first place people think of when they hear the words ‘flower show’. That could well change with the inaugural Frenchgate Flower Show, opened on the 26th of May. With claims that it is ‘Doncaster’s answer to Chelsea’, it is hoped the show will attract more people, both visitors and retailers, to the Frenchgate and inspire creativity in the community. For this event, four exhibits are open to the public.
Toby Buckland, formerly of Gardener’s World, was on scene to officially cut the ribbons and give his thoughts on each submission. First up was the Forget Me Not Garden, designed by St. John’s Hospice and our very own Rachel Horne. Inspired by and a tribute to Japanese gardener Itaru Sasaki, the story behind the submission (which I won’t spoil here- go see for yourself) struck a chord with me. I would later go back and enter the box myself.
Next up was The Vintage Garden by Flourish Enterprises. Described as a ‘peek inside the gardener’s potting shed’, this submission felt like the perfect summary of Britishness. The only thing missing to complete the picture was the gardener sat in the chair, enjoying a brew. Andrew Marshall, the gardener in question, obliged by sitting down, almost completing the quintessential British shed picture.
Due to its position near the main doors, this particular plot caused many passersby to stop and look. Granted, some looked on in bewilderment, but with others I noticed an approving nod. High praise indeed. Not just because this is Yorkshire, where ‘it’s alright’ in the highest honour there is, but because everyone who’s lived in Doncaster for any length of time soon starts to feel like the Frenchgate is somehow theirs. So not only were Doncolites accepting this spectacle into their town, they were accepting it into an extension of their home.
After a potter around the shed, we moved out into the garden for exhibit number three: The Little Gems Gardens, by Grange Lane Infant Academy. A charming little four-parter, the garden is designed with accessibility in mind. The pathways are wide enough for wheelchairs, allowing any and all to enjoy the mini gardens and their plant-renditions of favoured pets.
Once again, many onlookers stopped to take this particular garden in. Perhaps this is partly because it was perched right outside WH Smiths and therefore on one of the main routes through the centre, but I believe that, much like myself, they were equally stilled by the relaxing simplicity of this particular submission.
Finally, we headed up the escalator and around to the final exhibit: The Imagination Garden, by Richmond Hill Primary Academy. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this was the very first exhibit I saw prior to the opening. Situated outside Game and right around from the escalator from the interchange, this Mad Hatter’s Tea Party sufficiently captures the surrealness of its inspiration.
With the final ribbon cut and the opening over, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. As someone with hayfever and little to no knowledge of gardens, I found I was both fascinated by the design choices and stories, as well as astounded I had not sneezed myself into a teary mess by the end. All of the gardens have stuck with me for different reasons, though my favourite has to be the Forget Me Not Garden. Not just because my boss is behind it, but because the story resonated with me enough to return twice after the opening just to contemplate it.