Richard Nicolle is the brains behind Garden Up, a Sheffield version of the Chelsea Flower Show at the Botanical Gardens on Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8.
He spent five years at Hampton Court Flower Show and, more recently, Sheffield’s Winter Garden. “Garden Up is all about innovation and we are aiming to showcase the very best talent from the worlds of horticulture, architecture, landscape and design,” said Richard, who hails originally from Zimbabwe, and now lives with his Sheffield-born-and-bred partner in Beauchief. He has a daughter recently graduated from Southampton University and a stepson who graduated from Hallam University and now runs a successful business in Moscow.
Of Sheffield’s parks and gardens, one of my favourites is Whinfell Quarry off Ecclesall Road South in Whirlow. It’s a deceptively small valley with so many specimen trees and has been lovingly restored by volunteers. It’s quite a romantic place, in the original sense of the word.
Southerners always think that Yorkshire people are stubborn, but I think it’s because they are forthright and it’s strongly tribal here. In Cornwall and Devon and parts of Wales you get a strong sense of identity, like here. There’s also an energy about the city because, I think, there are so many students. Couple that with the creativity and invention that courses through Sheffield and you get a place with unusual dynamism.
Barking Tree sculpture
I love to see children’s look of amazement when they press the buttons and the thing starts barking in the Millennium Gallery! It appeals to my sense of humour. There’s always something of interest going on in the gallery, but few things beat Johnny White’s Barking Tree sculpture.
There are so many woods, parks, gardens and green spaces, it is easy to see why it is the greenest city in Britain. A particular favourite is the sprawling Graves Park near where I live.
There are so many plants of interest and majesty. You can’t beat the early morning when the sun shines and the whole place glows with hues and highlights of so many colours. We’re privileged to be holding the Garden Up event in such a lovely setting.
‘Cheesegrater’ car park
The architecture of Sheffield has some quirky and interesting modern buildings. The ‘cheesegrater’ in Arundel Gate is a splendid work where form successfully disguises function. I defy anyone to find a pattern in the metal panels.
There are some great new university buildings - the new Jessop building is elegant and restrained but has a refreshing splash of woven coloured panels around it. Then there is the music department’s sound studio – a rubber-clad building like an upholstered box!
Winter Garden and Tudor Square
How many people know the floor in the Winter Garden is heated, from the waste from the Bernard Road incinerator? In Tudor Square, the planted pods represent seed pods that have blown from the Peak District moors complete with trees, marsh grasses and heathers. Even the mist from the peat bogs sometimes emerges from sprays in the paving. On the other side of the Winter Garden is a favourite image I call ‘Happy’ - one of the steel ball fountains in Millennium Square. Look closely and you’ll see he has a smile and a round clown’s nose!