It was a tough build-up, with hot, summer weather making plants wilt and tempers flare, but designers and growers rose above it all. This year's show gardens were, above all, places to relax in - unlike the floral marquee and the BBC Gardeners' World Plant Swap, which became a hive of frantic activity as thousands of plants changed hands.
Stylish show gardens
Fruit and vegetables made a major comeback at the show. Several of the show gardens proved that vegetables can be grown in the garden without making it look like an allotment.
'The Plot', winner of best in show, and the only gold-medal winner in the large gardens category, featured standard-grown gooseberries and runner beans, interplanted with white-variegated horseradish and purple ruffles of Lollo Rosso lettuce. Designed by Reaseheath College, Cheshire, it was aimed at teaching primary school children about healthy eating.
At the heart of the garden was a domed greenhouse, planted with exotic carnivorous plants - always popular with children - and more edible plants from around the
world. The greenhouse uses state-of-the-art technology that could make shading paint and netting things of the past.
"The light level's beautiful, even on a very hot, sunny day," says design lecturer Carol Adams. "There was no scorch damage, and we had incredible heat during the build."
"I do landscaping, not gardening," says Alan. "I like to pick things up and move them around."
Other show gardens range dramatically in style, from traditional cottage gardens to some very challenging modern gardens. Designer Alan Gardner says he likes to provoke, and in 'Land Art' (Silver-Gilt) he did just that. His garden was a series of sand cones echoed by conical turfed indentations, with the only plants being five identical trees.
Elsewhere, there was a relaxed attitude, and wildflowers featured strongly in this take-it-easy approach to gardening. Sarah Eberle's 'Grow Wild to Know Wild' (Silver-Gilt) had cowslips, poppies and potentilla growing in between wide, curving white steps that led to a secluded seating area.
Watch a short video
Go behind the scenes of a show garden as we talk to first-time exhibitor Lee Bestall.
Several of the small show gardens brought a touch of the seaside to the heart of landlocked Birmingham. They included the winner of best small garden, 'Sea Hear',
designed by Tracy Foster, her first show garden and a gold-medal winner. Her lovely, gentle garden, designed with the visually impaired in mind, conjured up a seaside retreat. Two deckchairs on a reclaimed wooden deck overlooked a flowing planting of grasses, sea hollies and splashes of pink thrift bedded in gravel.
"People don't relax any more," she says. "I wanted to make a garden like a little bolt-hole, where people wouldn't come and bother you and you could have that seaside feeling."
The seaside inspired another gold-medal winner, 'Cunard Mayflower Garden' designed by Anthea Guthrie. The garden also won the most Creative Garden award for its innovative planting in baskets, barrels and hessian sacks. The plants were the same as those taken by the early pilgrims in the Mayflower from Britain to America in the early 17th century, and the garden featured a scale model of the ship, complete with rigging.
The other gold-medal winner in the category, the cheekily-named 'Y Fronts', was a front garden and picked up on the edible theme. The bold Y-shaped design was planted with cabbages and lettuces that could win a giant vegetable prize at a local show.