Hampton Court Palace Flower Show that opens today (5 July) has something to offer everyone, with show gardens, talks, trade stands and plenty more. Nathan James Dodd attended the Press Day and was impressed with how much there is to see.
There couldn't really be a better setting for the world's largest annual flower show than Hampton Court Palace. Nathan James Dodd reports on the attractions to see and do this year.
Built for Cardinal Wolsey and then commandeered by Henry VIII, walking along the river you pass the imposing great gatehouse and catch sight of the impressive gardens before reaching Thames Gate.
Once inside the show, you immediately enter the Inspire zone with ideas that are perhaps a little too avant garde for the ordinary gardener to contemplate but there's certainly some arresting sights.
Turf Sculptures, no plants just rolling and oddly shaped mounds of soil and grass make an immediate impression, as do the Conceptual Gardens depicting the seven deadly sins.
The Sloth garden intriguingly features a succession of spades planted uphill to reflect the pursuit of goals and a graveyard of lost dreams and ambition. Wrath is depicted by a garden that billows smoke, rising from an angry cluster of fiery red hot pokers.
This zone is also home to the Celebrity Theatre where you can here talks from well known gardeners including Diamuid Gavin, Toby Buckland and Charlie Dimmock.
As you walk through the show there's a great number of retailers from whom you can purchase everything you have ever wanted for your garden – ornaments of all sorts, crafts, outdoor furniture, tools and equipment, landscaping - but the real attraction are the show gardens, in total over thirty of them.
Before leaving Inspire, there's the Macmillan Legacy Garden that whimsicallly has dancing nymphs accompanied by a harpist, and the World Vision garden, built from pallets and wooden boxes, devoted to the transformation of Ethopia from an area of famine to a lush landscape exporting bananas, figs, olives and much more. I particularly recommend trying their fresh strong coffee.
There's far too many gardens to mention individually with such diverse influences but this year's top prize was awarded to 'Essence of Australia' in which decking twists through the landscape referencing an Aboriginal serpent as it leads you to what is now a contemporary and cosmopolitan nation.
And don't be dismayed if you garden on a budget, there are a set of gardens that exhibit what great results can be achieved on a relatively modest outlay. Also to really inspire non-professionals there's the winner of this year’s amateur competition whose garden with nine square pools is based on a Roman bathhouse.
Next to the Ocean Spray garden, with ponds full of thousands of cranberries, you'll find the Growing Tastes marquee, containing everything from sausages and cheeses to curry ingredients to crusty pies. There's also a cookery theatre with personalities such as James Wong and Mary Berry giving talks.
If it hasn't hit you by now, the scent from the Rose marquee soon will, and inside is just a wonderland showcasing roses of every colour, size, habit. Here you'll find the rose of the year, 'For Your Eyes Only', pink with a dark centre, that will be available in the autumn.
Visit the Country Living marquee if you require the better things in life, clothes, jewellery, cosmetics, interior design ideas before crossing 'The Long Water' to what for me was the star of the show, the RHS Floral Marquee.
Inside there is a huge area overflowing with magical orchids, gladioli bursting out of their display like fireworks, magnificently statuesque carnivores, small but perfectly formed bonsai, dahlias to die for, and wonderful cottage garden plants - it really is a fantastic sight.
Further on in the Grow Zone you can purchase plants from a multitude of nurseries in the Plant Village and also visit a fascinating Plant Heritage marquee that highlights national collections and how important it is to conserve these plants.
Don't worry if you have children, the RHS is very aware that they need to grow the next generation of gardeners. Your offspring won't be bored with the Great War orientated scarecrow competition, taking part in various hands-on activities and inspecting bugs and plants through microscopes in the Invisible Garden.
The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is a pleasure to visit due to its diversity and spaciousness, there is so much to see in such a spectacular location. It takes place from Tuesday 8 July – Sunday 13 July and gates open at 10.00am.
We have also reported on the following gardening shows this year:
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