GardenSite has once again been nominated for the award of 'Best Online Garden Retail Buying Team' at this year's Glee, the UK's most important Garden & Leisure Industry show.
Dazzling with colourful interest in the sunshine, the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is a tremendously popular annual event as it caters for both keen gardeners and also families who want a terrific day out.
With 100,000 people attending each July to admire 250,000 flowers in the wonderful surroundings of a royal palace, there are marquees, stalls and displays either side of the magnificent Long Water, and the show undoubtedly has something for everyone.
The show's themed and show gardens are always magnificent and full of innovative style. From the spectacular to the thought provoking, they showcase trend setting design ideas to inspire your gardening.
Entertaining talks and demonstrations take place in themed theatres around the showground, these present a great opportunity to listen and learn new skills from some of the nation's favourite gardeners.
More skills can be learnt at a number of workshops and demonstrations. These can focus on an eclectic range of horticultural subjects and they are all family friendly and hands-on to appeal to a wide age range.
The show is an ideal place to buy gifts for yourself and your friends. Shopping enthusiasts will not be disappointed with the multitude of trade stalls, high quality merchandise and fine foods that are available everywhere.
Plant hunters will love the Floral Marquee and Plant Village which are packed with all kinds of plants that are for sale, and if your passion is roses, the RHS Festival Of Roses has outstanding displays of these fragrant blooms.
Relating to a particular theme chosen for the show, perhaps sponsored by a commercial concern, or a charity to publicise their work, these gardens are epitome of design excellence and are packed with innovative and eye catching elements that should inspire everyone. With entries from experienced garden designers as well as up and coming talent, the winning garden receives the Tudor Rose Award.
All the well known rose breeders are represented in this spectacular marquee that is overflowing with the scent and colour of the nation's favourite flower. You can help but to be impressed by the superb displays and it is the ideal opportunity for growers to launch new roses. You can also admire the Rose Of The Year judged on various criteria including colour, form, health and fragrance.
This marquee containing the world's largest annual plant show will will take your breath away with the amount and breadth of plants, and the manner in which they are so beautifully displayed. Larger than a football pitch, thousands of plants are exhibited from growers and nurseries throughout the country. An incredible opportunity to admire award winning and specialist plants as well as old favourites.
This busy collection of stalls is probably the best opportunity you'll have of buying the plants you've always wanted from specialist nurseries and leading growers. A lively section of the showground that's crammed with an incredible range of plants. Superbly displayed to entice every gardener, you will find all your 'must have' plants that will transform or provide the finishing touch to your garden in one location.
There are a series of theatres throughout the show here well known gardeners from radio and TV, personalities and experts in various fields give talks and demonstrations that are designed to inspire and instruct. They are all free to attend and take place in the RHS Celebrity Theatre, Festival of Roses Theatre and Dig It Cookery Theatre, they represent a fabulous opportunity to keep informed and learn new skills.
Next year's show promises another glorious display of fabulous gardens, floral events and marvellous shopping. For more information, times and tickets, go to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show website. In the meantime refer to our reviews of previous years to see what you can look forward to.
When entering the 2018 Show from the Thames Gate after a lovely walk along the river, the first display to catch many people's eye will be the feature garden commemorating the Great War. Complete with genuine relics, trenches and sandbags, Battlefields To Butterflies pays tribute to the Royal Parks and Palace Gardens men who lost their lives in the conflict, with 24 ceramic poppies placed among the wild flowers.
Adjacent to the battlefield is the Celebrity Theatre where recognizable names such as Chris Beardshaw, Joe Swift and Pippa Greenwood can be heard dispensing their knowledge along with Julia Bradbury, and Bill Oddie talking about his 'ludicrous garden'.
Next stop is the Evolve Dome, a giant time capsule that takes you back 3.5 billion years, telling the story of how organisms evolved and adapted, moving from the sea to land to become present day plants and trees. Nearby there is also fossil and sow & grow workshops.
Families with children will find it difficult to ignore the copious refreshment stalls on the Village Green with its bandstand, and stalls offering food and drink ranging from Vietnamese street fare to Mr Whippy ice cream, fish and chips to healthy vegan goodness.
Gardening enthusiasts will have already discovered the Piet Oudolf border full of perennials and grasses before finding their way to the first of an impressive vista of show gardens on one side and stalls, literally selling every garden ornament under the sun, on the opposite side.
There is a huge variety of gardens including The Entertaining Garden, a celebration of gin with the juniper plant taking centre stage, The Family Garden designed for the environmentally aware with an entire wall of insect houses, and Brilliance In Bloom with its sculpture, metalwork and mosaic. Each has a story to tell both in terms of their design, construction and inspiration.
Further on is the Dig It restaurant, Foraging Workshop and Cookery Theatre, here as you might guess the emphasis is on growing and eating. There is also the RHS Grow Your Own garden created with the Raymond Blanc Cookery School, designed to encourage everyone to get growing no matter the size of their outdoor space.
That well know greengrocer and masterchef Gregg Wallace appears in the Dig It Live theatre as well as Frances Tophill from Gardeners' World, talking about her allotment, together with many other personalities at various times each day.
The show gardens continue to impress, and you may find yourself spoilt for choice as there is so much to look at and enjoy. There really are too many to mention, thirty in total, with displays from leading UK designers as well as many other countries, some conceptual, others focussing on particular themes.
I have no idea whether he was a fan of the beautiful game but Anton Chekhov loved gardening and a replica of part of his tranquil estate near Moscow, based on an original photograph, is particularly apt with the World Cup taking place in that city at the same time as the show.
Further on is an artist using red wine to paint the Santa Rita Living La Vida Garden, Countryfile's 30th Anniversary Garden, a Nordic Lifestyle Garden complete with real Vikings (or were they actors?), and one of the Gardens For A Changing World - Conscious Consumerism, that exposes the reality of the South American meat industry and its devastating environmental results.
Away from the gardens and into the shade of a marquee, every year I find the promise of wonderful colour and sweet scent emanating from the Festival of Roses irresistible. Fabulous displays of these gorgeous blooms will send your senses into overdrive, and there is also a Roses and Floristry Theatre with live talks to satisfy your fully justified curiosity.
Equally unmissable is the Floral Marquee, very probably my favourite destination, the 'Place To Buy Plants' is a huge space that contains every plant you have ever wanted and many more that may not have crossed your mind. The displays are wonderful, some quirky such as the Fun Of The Fuchsia roundabout, others just jaw dropping in their beauty.
Contained within the marquee is the Potting Bench where experts offer advice and Q&A, there is also a Plant Creche where your purchases can be looked after and collected at the end of the day.
With a little time left, I enjoyed looking at the Community Gardens, a Scarecrow competition for the children, the Plant Village, and stalls selling everything you need to create the perfect garden. And I haven't got round to mentioning the Kinetic Arboretum or the River of Flowers that sweeps along the Long Water, which is possibly the best picnic spot in London.
This year the Show Gardens feature themes such as Mental Health as in the On The Edge garden and the Buddhist influenced Journey of Life garden. There's was a Blind Veterans' garden that offers sensory and tactile stimulation, together with a disabled children's therapeutic garden.
Gardens for the Changing World provokes thoughtful interest focussing on how nature can evolve in a post-industrial world. The Power To Make A Difference garden draws attention to destruction and regeneration, while the Urban Rain garden concentrates on conserving scarce water during climate change.
World gardens encompasses Italy and the United States, the former is naturally romantic with camellia, spring water and vines while Oregon's mountainous natural beauty and historical elegance is represented in the Charleston garden.
For the more adventurous, the Conceptual Gardens offer unexpected insights. My attention was instantly drawn to the Tusk 'Not For Sale' Garden a stark though provoking design that highlighted the slaughter of elephants. The 'Miracle / Elements of Life' garden takes you on journey to better understand roots and soil, and the 'Kinetica' garden is inspired, perhaps surprisingly, by particle theory.
Go through the Floral Design Studio and you arrive at the Festival of Roses which is always one of my favourite places to visit. Here you are always greeted by an intoxicating mixture of scent and colour, this magnificent spectacle is heaven for anyone who loves roses of any variety.
Across the magnificent 'Long Water' with its glorious fountains is the Floral Marquee. This is a place where I could, and generally do, spend a lot of time inside, as it seems to contain not quite every plant under the sun but most of them.
The displays from nurseries and growers from all over the country are simply stunning and everything is for sale, and there is more to buy in the extensive Plant Village.
In between, the Cook & Grow marquee is laden with herbs and edible plants of every description. For the thirsty, there is even a section on how to grow your own cocktails.
Inside the Celebrity Theatre, Cook & Grow Theatre, and the Roses & Floristry Theatre, there are frequent opportunities to increase your gardening knowledge by taking part in presentations and demonstrations by well known gardening personalities. In the Floral Marquee, you can watch demonstrations at the Potting Shed and seek horticultural help at the RHS Garden Advice stall.
Interspersed with the gardens is a multitude of stalls, over 300 offering every conceivable ornament, tool and gadget for your garden. Clothing and gifts are also well catered for in the Country Living marquee where you'll find everything from the glossy pages of the eponymous magazine.
To encourage families, entry for into the flower show for under 16s is free. Your children will immediately make a beeline for the Butterfly Dome, although adults will be entranced as they walk through a lush landscape with fabulous butterflies flittering all around landing both on the plants and your shoulder.
Although there are activities all through the week with bug hunts, a scarecrow competition and interactive learning, Saturday and Sunday will be especially child friendly with Mr Bloom from Cbeebies arriving, a Kids' Cookery School, balloon modelling, storytelling, face painting and the ever popular Punch & Judy.
Building a Hutch Company Starter Chicken Coop is easy by following the detailed instructions that are supplied, it is a practical design that uses excellent quality wooden panels and requires only a screwdriver for assembly.
With a view to introducing their impressive range of timber products to GardenSite, David Coton recently visited Churnet Valley Garden Furniture to look around their manufacturing facility.
GLEE is the garden retail industry's annual show, David Coton took the opportunity to visit this year's event at the NEC in Birmingham to catch up with the news, visit current and potential suppliers and evaluate new products we can offer on GardenSIte in the coming year.
With a La Hacienda chimenea or firepit providing light and heat whatever the thermometer says, David Coton discovers that you can continue savouring an outdoor lifestyle even in late summer and the cool of an autumn evening.