After last night's Preview Evening, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show opens today (4 July), and David Coton is again impressed with how much there is to see for all the family.
As a regular visitor this is no surprise, the world's largest flower show is so vibrantly colourful and has so much to see that there is something to interest everyone.
Traditional and contemporary gardens this year showcase themes such as Mental Health as in the On The Edge garden, and the Buddhist influenced Journey of Life garden. There's a Blind Veterans' garden that offers sensory and tactile stimulation, together with a disabled children's therapeutic garden.
Gardens for the Changing World provoke 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 encompass Italy and the United States, the former is naturally romantic with camellia, spring water and vines while Oregon has mountainous natural beauty and historical elegance is represented in the Charleston garden.
For the more adventurous, Conceptual Gardens offer unexpected insights. My attention was instantly drawn to the Tusk 'Not For Sale' Garden a stark though provoking design that highlights 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 surprisingly inspired by particle theory.
Festival of Roses
Go through the Floral Design Studio and you'll arrive at the Festival of Roses which is always one of my favourite places to visit. Here you are 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 you'll find 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, don't miss out on the Cook & Grow marquee which Is laden with herbs and edible plants of every description. For the thirsty, there's even a section on how to grow your own cocktails.
Look, Listen and Learn
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, there are demonstrations at the Potting Shed and you can seek horticultural help at the RHS Garden Advice stall.
Interspersed with the gardens are 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. Immediately any children will make a bee line for the Butterfly Dome, although adults will also 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 scarcrow competition and interactive learning, Saturday and Sunday are especially child friendly with Mr Bloom from Cbeebies arriving, a Kids' Cookery School, balloon modelling, storytelling, face painting and the ever popular Punch & Judy.
The Hampton Court Flower Show is taking place Tuesday 4 July to Sunday 9 July and is open 10.00am – 7.30pm (5.30pm Sunday).