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A Glorious Day Out at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

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The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show dazzled with its array of stunning gardens and inventive displays. From lush, shady oases to the packed out Floral Marquee, the show offered inspiration and delight for garden enthusiasts. Here’s a look at some of the highlights.

Show Gardens:

Juliet Sargeant’s Stunning Lion King Anniversary Garden seems to have set the themes for many other gardens and features seen at Hampton Court. The warm earthy tones in the landscaping, drought tolerant planting, sinuous pathways and natural materials are echoed across a number of the gardens. Named Best Show Garden 2024, Juliet’s design is a joyful, theatrical celebration of the musical which opened in the West End 25 years ago. Could you make this yourself at home? There are many aspects of this garden that you could easily reproduce, from the dry hedge to the use of grasses, achillea, echinacea and kniphofia to create a tapestry style border around a circular seating area.

Juliet, known for her garden design work at Paradise Park in Newhaven, also offers talks and courses at Old Barn Garden Centre. The next being 8th August: https://sussexgardenschool.com/garden-courses-and-talks/

Another standout was Lancaster’s Garden of Renewal, Nature’s Embrace. With warm-toned landscaping, repurposed wood and clay artifacts crafted into sculptural features and wildlife habitats, this garden exuded peace and natural beauty. Airy plants like orange geums, dark leaved fennel and achilleas made this a serene space. It feels very unhurried, a space where you could relax and take your mind off the stresses of modern life. Could you make this yourself at home? Yes, it could be emulated quite easily in a sunny space in the South or East of the UK where the drought tolerant planting would thrive. It earned a silver medal.

The third show garden I want to mention is almost the opposite of the two above. The Way of St James has a serene tranquil shady feel with a pool shaded by mature trees and surrounded by large boulders where you could sit in the shade on a hot day. The lush leafy planting and white flowers of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Madame Emile Mouillere’ and Martagon lilies add to the calming feel. Could you make this yourself at home? The boulders would be hard to move in and you may need a mechanical digger to shape the pool, but I can see this absolutely fitting in to a larger rural garden. Maybe somewhere like Ditchling or across the Sussex weald, where the clay soils would support the lush planting.

Feature Gardens:

The four feature Gardens were all gorgeous. RHS Britain in Bloom 60th Anniversary: Gardening for People and Planet had distinct areas with different styles and purposes. My favourite part was the blue, pink and white border under the arch representing friendship and community. I particularly loved the Angelica gigas with its dark burgundy flower heads about to burst open and its seeds are now on my ‘must-buy’ list.

The RHS Peat-free Garden designed by Arit Anderson was also stunning. It had excellent examples of how to encourage wildlife into your garden with log piles that not only work as habitats but also boundaries and architectural features. The overflow from the water tanks forms a water feature in itself, and channels rainwater into a pool where the wildlife can make use of it. From there it percolates down through the ground rather than entering or overwhelming drainage systems. Everything in this garden worked so well together for the people, the wildlife and the environment. It cleverly combines ideas to both mitigate flooding and support plants and wildlife during dry periods.

Get Started Gardens:

The ‘Get Started’ gardens were introduced in 2021 and aim to inspire beginner gardens and boost the careers of budding young designers.

Out of these I loved The Mediterraneo Garden which deservedly won a Gold Medal and Best Get Started Garden. The terracotta colours, natural features, drought tolerant planting and permeable landscaping are very on trend. Unlike the Lion King Anniversary Garden or Lancaster’s Garden of Renewal, The Mediterraneo Garden has a more formal layout and feel, with squared edges softened by the continuity between the limestone and golden gravel materials and the colours of the planting. The zingy lime foliage of the Punica granatum (pomegranate) and the yellow Achillea ‘Moonshine’ lifts the feel from an evening mellow to a fresh morning vibe. I loved it.

The Floral Marquee:

A plant lover’s sweetie shop, filled with displays and stalls from some of the best know growers and suppliers in the country. There was everything from summer flowering perennials and spectacular lilies to spiky cacti. I particularly loved the lush displays of hostas with no signs of slugs or snails!

The display of planted containers by D’Arcy and Everest look perfect for a balcony or patio overlooking the sea along the Sussex coast. So easy to replicate at home with the right kind of compost and a few alpine plants. A very easy take-home idea.

I fell in love with the displays of cacti and succulents.  Although not a fan of owning one of the prickly beasts, I can appreciate how beautiful they are. I do adore aeoniums however, with their big open flowers of fleshy leaves; the pink tinged varieties are just gorgeous.

A Standout Feature:

I can’t finish this review without mentioning The Soil Food Web and the Evolution of Plants by Eddie Bailey from RhizoPhyllia.

Initially uninviting on first glance, with what looked like a dank pond of algae, but on entering the display and reading the signs it was clear this was so much more. The poems about bacteria and algae made me laugh and drew me in (see image) and once you are in you are led through 570 million years of plant evolution from the bacteria and algae where it all began to the bright colourful flowering plants that we all love so much today. The way the displays were arranged was a brilliant visual demonstration of the changes, including the mass extinctions that plants on our planet have evolved through. I loved it!

Take home:

So what did I take home with me? Other than my weary legs and tired feet, I left with some inspirational ideas for my own garden at home, numerous photographs of plants and a gorgeous variegated aeonium called Pink Witch!

All information correct at time of publishing July 2024.

Hazel Still Tates of Sussex Garden Centres
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Hazel Still

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