1. Read the RHS manual’s before hand and then read them again. Tomes I thought, one was 90 odd pages. “No time“, “not really going to be relevant“. BUT how wrong I was. They were mines of information and preparedness, not entirely infallible but unless you’ve read it/them you don’t know this. The H&S manual was dull. I am sorry Tim but they are. That said they answered several questions before we arrived and we were better prepared for having slogged through them. Mine were covered in coloured post it’s for super relevant passages. I took a copy in ‘The Office’ (see 8) but didn’t actually look at it as we had a fantastic H&S manager on site who we saw daily on his rounds.
2. Meet with your landscaper and discuss the process in detail before you arrive we didn’t and this caused a few issues in the first days. Make sure you both understand how you will work, what the schedule of work will be and what the best ways of working are. You do not want to be debating construction methods/materials in the very short time you have for build.
3. Gather all your materials together in one place and check they work well. I was expecting a beige gravel to arrive with the wonderful creamy grey stone setts, the gravel was yellow when it arrived. DISASTER. It put us back 4 days while a more harmonious match was sent up and caused quite a bit of strife in the interim as we had to work around unfinished hard landscaping, contractors had to return to site to complete the path and so on. Pulling them together beforehand would have flagged this up and cost less in time and resources to our wonderful paving sponsor CED.
4. Don’t plan on having internet or even phone network access. In our case we were in a field in a rural area (Tatton Park), suddenly a few hundred smart phones arrived all demanding on the local network. When the show started that bumped to several thousand users. The local network didn’t cope. I could stand in the same place and go from 4G to nothing in a matter of seconds without moving. All social media updates were done at night over family/hotel wifi!
5. Take everything with you to site, try not to leave site during the day. It will take time to walk to and from vehicles, to get on and off site to the various suppliers and of course unless you know the area well, finding locations of suppliers/shops will be a bit hit and miss (see 4)
6. Buy a cuppa for your neighbor – go out of you way to make friends. This is probably THE most important point in the list. The People make the show and the kindness of strangers will be so incredibly welcome when every single thing is going pear shaped for the 100th time that day. You borrow, they borrow, you share , they share, they offer help and advice (only if asked!). Challenging neighbors only adds to the stress of it all. Don’t be a challenging neighbor. We had the most fantastic neighbors and near neighbors.
7. Plan for the expected and KNOW that unexpected things will go wrong, lots of them.
8. Have an ‘Office’ box – you will forget where adminy things are, you won’t always be there when things are needed, you’re laptop/phone battery will run out of power, collect all the papers at home put them in a box, we used a wheely collapsible plant box and keep it all together. If it comes out of then it goes back into The Office, everyone knows what The Office is and what it contains. It contains ALL plans, usually 4 or 5 copies and a plastic bag for wet weather, construction drawings, setting out drawings, planting plans, measurements, 3D model print outs, admin forms/paperwork, badges, passes, copies of orders, contact lists, in fact any kind of paperwork you’ve prepared along the way that might be useful. I also took tape measures, tape, stapler, hole punch, a box of pens, elastic bands (mostly for my hair updo’s but they came in handy for other things too) a blue Ikea bag to keep it clean and dry-ish. It was totally invaluable.
9. Print your garden PR flyer as late as possible, if you’re including a plant list. We spent a good deal of time explaining why some plants were not on the list and some not in the garden but on the list. There will be last minute changes to your plants, that I can guarantee. We also had a very dark flyer, which looks cool but is hopeless for folk wanting to write useful names of plants down. Have a white writable space on your flyer. Have a flyer with your contact details and social media clearly showing, ask people to share their positive thoughts on social media and to link to you. Retweet and say thanks to every single one of them! 7k flyers, which is the RHS recommendation, is too many (for Tatton) unless you’re a machine and can hand out relentlessly, we had 3 of us handing out relentlessly and we only managed to pass out 4.5k over 6 days.
10. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Try not to let it get to you. You and everyone around you will be under pressure to deliver amazing gardens, a great show, for clients, for sponsors, for themselves and so on. It’s a real pressure cooker environment and things will go pear shaped, people will let you down, the weather will be too hot, too cold, too wet all in the same day and sometimes more than once. We all have melt down days but if you can find the funny, the humor and let it pass you will be the winner. If you can’t, and trust me there were days when I simply couldn’t, then remember to apologise…and see no 6.
And remember lovely people will come to your garden and fall in love with it…. it’s really totally worth it.
We won a Silver Gilt for our very first show garden, Inner Sanctum, a Back to Back at #RHSTatton 2016