When my parents came to visit me they made sure it tied in with the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the biggest annual flower show in the world.
Views along the water
It was the first time me and my parents had been to it, which made the day even more memorable. We caught the train from Hertfordshire to Surrey and then the ferry across the water to Hampton Court itself. The weather was glorious, very hot and sunny until 7pm when the heavens decided to open – luckily we were safely on the ferry by then and managed to only get a tad wet as we sprinted for the train station!
Ferry on the river
I didn’t realise how big Hampton Court was, compared to Chelsea it was massive! There were thousands of people there, however as there were more places to go it wasn’t as manic and crowded as Chelsea. We could actually walk without following the pace of people in front of us!
The Show Gardens were split into different categories, there were: Summer Gardens, Conceptual Gardens and Your Garden Your Budget Gardens as well as normal Show Gardens like the ones at Chelsea.
The Conceptual Gardens are designed to engage, provoke and stimulate debate. This year at Hampton Court they were themed around the seven deadly sins, so each garden was designed around a specific sin.
I really enjoyed them, some were a tad strange like the “Sloth – Quarry of Silences” garden, with spades stuck in the ground and gravestones around them. Slightly morbid but very unique!
Sloth – Quarry of Silences Garden
My favourites were “The Stonewall Garden: Breaking Down the Walls of Pride” which was inspired by the designer’s own experiences and the difficulties she faced as a young gay person. The planting was very clever, representing the dark periods and then the freedom of coming out with vibrant, thriving flowers.
The Stonewall Garden: Breaking Down the Walls of Pride
The other one I really enjoyed was “Wrath – Eruption of Unhealed Anger”, designed to capture uncontrolled feelings of anger. It was a bright, bold garden, with a striking palette of hot coloured plants and a volcano in the centre which erupted periodically. It looked even more authentic on such a perfect summer’s day!
Wrath – Eruption of Unhealed Anger Garden
The Summer Gardens were all beautiful in their own way, they were all in a long line next to each other – I loved how no two were alike.
Plants on a roof!
“Hedgehog Street” was so cute, it was designed to show visitors how they can help to stop the decline in hedgehog numbers. The details were great, I loved the mosaic of a hedgehog on the wall.
Hedgehog Street Garden
“The NSPCC Legacy Garden” was very touching, it celebrated the charity’s 130th anniversary. I loved the messages from supporters and young people which were displayed on a copper beech tree at the centre of the garden, as well as the planting as a whole – it was a joyous garden.
The NSPCC Legacy Garden
The Your Garden Your Budget Gardens were brilliant, they were only four gardens in this category but they were all different.
Your Garden Your Budget Gardens
Garden of Solitude
My favourite was easily “Green is the Colour”, the second I clapped eyes on it I squeaked “it’s a Norwegian hut!!” It wasn’t really(!) but it looked uncannily like the wooden huts my relatives have near their summer homes in Norway.
Green is the Colour Garden
It was inspired by the magical woodlands and forests of eastern Canada, with a budget of only £7,000. I loved the tranquility it created, with lots of green space and grass. It’s a shame the hut was too big to take home with me!
I had several favourite Show Gardens, I thought I had found the best one and then I’d come across another which I adored!
The Just Retirement Garden
Macmillan Legacy Garden
Connecting with the Real Sound of Nature Garden
The World Vision Garden
Vestra Wealth’s Vista Garden
A Hampton Garden
One Hundred Years From Now Garden
The One Show Garden
“Essence of Australia” blew me away, I have a soft spot for arid plants so when I saw this garden I got very excited! It was designed by the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, celebrating the beauty and diversity of the flora and landscapes of Australia.
Essence of Australia Garden
It took inspiration from the Rainbow Serpent, an iconic dream-time creature from Aboriginal culture that inhabits deep permanent waterholes and controls the presence of water. I loved the amazing display of native plants, the covering of red sand contrasted the greeny-grey foliage perfectly. It made me even more determined to visit Australia for real!
“Jordans Wildlife Garden” was designed to encourage visitors to bring a taste of the British countryside into their gardens. The way the meadow pathways curved through the naturalistic style of planting made it very relaxing, especially when you could hear the grasses swaying in the breeze.
Jordans Wildlife Garden
It was easy to see why it won the People’s Choice Award, an award which is voted for by the public alone.
The other garden which captured me was “The Flintknapper’s Garden – A Story of Thetford”. It was a community garden sponsored entirely by local businesses, residents and people passionate about the ancient historic town of Thetford.
The Flintknapper’s Garden – A Story of Thetford
It featured the Thetford flintknapper practising the Stone Age skill of flintknapping, the planting scheme was inspired by the area in and around Thetford. It was like a history tour of Thetford in a garden! The story behind it was inspirational, the way a community came together to achieve something as wonderful as this was incredible. It’s an example of what can be created with hard work, dedication and passion!
“The Quiet Mark Treehouse and Garden” by John Lewis was an amazing Show Feature, with a nine metre tall and six metre wide tree house as the main feature. You could actually go inside it, the views from the top were awesome!
The Quiet Mark Treehouse and Garden
View from the treehouse
The idea behind it is a dream home in the form of a quiet tree house, with naturalistic planting and sculptured landscaping. It was so cool inside, a mini oasis out of the scorching sun. Something else I wished I could have taken home with me!
Another Show Feature I thought was stunning was “Lest We Forget”, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. It was inspired by the Remembrance Sunday services, designed to remember the generation who fought in the war.
Lest We Forget
It had a tank, trenches, an allotment, and actors playing the roles of soldiers. I thought they did a wonderful job, I wouldn’t have wanted to wear a soldier’s uniform in the heat!
50 Golden Years: A Celebration of Britain in Bloom (another Show Feature)
As well as looking at gardens outside there was plenty to see inside the various tents and marquees. The Festival of Roses and Floristry was a delight, I absolutely loved the Rose of the Year 2015 ‘For Your Eyes Only’.
Rose of the Year 2015 ‘For Your Eyes Only’
It was a single rose in a delicate shade of pink with a deep red centre – the petals then faded to apricot as the blooms started to go over. It had a divine scent too, a perfect rose!
The floristry really was out of this world, the theme for the displays was the circus so you can imagine how wacky some of the designs were! The Gypsy Rose Lee caravan was brilliant, so were the elephant heads and mermaids.
Various floristry and rose displays
The Floral Marquee was out of this world, I saw the people I helped out at Chelsea (HW Hyde and Son), their lily display won gold of course! They are the best!
The Hydes lily display
The quality of displays overall was fabulous, I saw Burnham Nurseries which are our local orchid growers based in Devon. Another gold medal for them!
Burnham Nurseries orchid display
There were eye-catching cacti and succulents, carnivorous plants, collections of dahlias, sweet peas, bonsai plants, more orchids, alpine plants. . . it was like horticultural heaven!
Other plant displays in the Floral Marquee
Sweet pea display
Cacti and succulent displays
Disa aurata orchid display
The Plant Heritage tent had National Collections of plants from across the country. Sir Harold Hillier Gardens were there, as well as Tale Valley Nursery, Bristol Zoological Gardens and more.
Displays in the Plant Heritage tent
The First World War scarecrow competition was a lovely little area, I wished I could have made one! To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, infant and primary schools from all over the South East of England designed and built scarecrows for a competition at Hampton Court.
First World War scarecrow competition
My favourite was a sweet pigeon wearing medals and surrounded by poppies. He reminded me of the characters in the animated film Valiant!
My favourite scarecrow!
The highlight of the day was being able to look round the Hampton Court Palace Gardens, for free! It has sixty acres of formal gardens, we didn’t have time to look round all the areas but what we saw was just sensational.
Seeing the Palace up close immediately took my breath away – it was like I could feel the history in the air, its presence was mesmerizing.
Views of Hampton Court Palace
The bedding displays on the main lawn were fantastic, since I’ve been at Ashridge I’ve come to understand and appreciate the amount of hard work it takes to create and maintain bedding.
There was a jaw-droppingly long herbaceous border than went all the way down one side of the Palace and continued into the distance – it looked like it disappeared over the horizon!
The Privy Garden had a symmetrical pattern with intricate topiary and marble statues, it also had a Hornbeam Tunnel at one end of the garden. Like the herbaceous border it looked like it went on forever!
The Privy Garden
The Great Vine (Vitis vinifera) was impressive indeed, it was planted in 1769 and is the largest grape vine in the world. That’s some title to have! I’d be terrified if I was in charge of it, in case I killed it – talk about a major responsibility!
The Great Vine
Other areas of the formal gardens
We were pretty exhausted after our day at Hampton Court but it was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for anything. If I get the chance to go again next year I’ll be there like a shot! 🙂