THE first big event of the UK gardening calendar swings into action today.

More than 1,000 exhibitors have spent the last few days preparing their displays for the Harrogate Spring Flower Show which runs until Sunday, including an eye-catching floral hat.

The "Fifty Shades of Green" hat, made by the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies out of flowers and foliage, will be on display at the Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate, beside the traditional show gardens including a tropical courtyard and a coastal retreat with driftwood decking.

Show director Nick Smith said: "2014 is set to be an exciting year and we are delighted to get the UK gardening calendar off to such a great start with celebrations for a number of landmark events and anniversaries.

"We have reached a few milestones of our own here at the show this year, increasing the range of large-scale show gardens along The Avenue, introducing new Pocket Gardens to enable community groups to showcase their valuable work, and launching a series of new 'meet the head gardener' talks in the Dig It Garden Theatre."

The pint-sized "Pocket Gardens" are just 1m x 1m plots, and include a Tour de Plants in honour of the Tour de France's visit to Harrogate this July, an austerity garden and the county's smallest cottage garden.