Hampton Court Flower Show 2011
I have never understood why the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show does not sell out as quickly as Chelsea.
Getting there is (a little) easier, there is room to move, there are more attractions, it is cheaper and you are able to buy plants and take them away with you. I am fully aware that the gardens are not as expensive (or often as good) as the Chelsea show, but they offer ideas and are often more achievable for gardeners with slightly smaller pockets.
Because of the abundance of space at Hampton Court, there are a large variety of garden categories to visit including: Show Gardens, Small Gardens, Conceptual Gardens and English Poet’s Gardens as well as the RHS Edible Garden. Whilst I don’t think that the overall quality of design is as high as Chelsea, the planting is generally very good and you can actually get close to the gardens at Hampton Court!
This year’s best in show was won by ‘I am, because of who we are’, a great garden designed by Caroline Comber with Petra Horackova which also won a gold medal. I particularly liked the group plantings of foxglove Digitalis ferruginea and delicate Astrantia combined with the structure of rusted metal curves and the pinkish stems of the Chinese red birch Betula albosinensis. I also really liked the WWF’s 50th Anniversary Garden ‘Why we care about chalk streams’ which was designed by Fiona Stephenson and although I would have awarded it a gold medal, the judges awarded silver-gilt.
The conceptual garden category always seem to inspire awe and derision in equal quantities (you can read my thoughts on the subject here), but continues to provoke thought and comment (which is a good thing!). This year featured some fascinating entries including Melissa Jolly’s design ‘Picturesque’ which examined the links between plants and art and recreated famous artworks with plant material. The other ‘stand out’ conceptual garden was ‘Landscape Obscured’ designed by Dan Lobb, which was in the form of a raised square of turf surrounded by steel periscopes of differing heights. The periscopes, when looked into, revealed a secret underground garden full of mosses and various fungi. I am pleased to report that both ‘Picturesque’ and ‘Landscape Obscured’ won gold medals, with ‘Landscape Obscured’ winning the best conceptual garden award.
The main pavilion was (as ever) filled with exciting plants from the UK’s best nurseries. Amongst the best displays were Downderry Nursery, Bowden Hostas and Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants.
As always (sad man that I am) I was drawn towards the tool suppliers and spotted our new Victorinox garden knives on the Felco stand, along with one of my favourites; the Felco 310 pruning shears. Bulldog Tool’s stand was filled with a wide range of spades, forks and other tools and they were also displaying the big spade (which always draws a crowd). Bahco had their long reach hedge shears and loppers on display; which I was happy to recommend to a passing lady who asked me which loppers I thought were best!
The day passed much too quickly (which is always the sign of a good show) and I must admit that by the time I left, my boot was pretty full with all the plants I ‘suddenly’ found I needed!