Hampton Court Flower Show is one of the biggest events in horticulture, and as an RHS member living not too far away, I was really keen to visit this year. I booked an early-bird RHS ticket for £20, arranged childcare, and off I went – all on my own! It was blissful to be able to wander around the ground, just seeing what caught my eye, without having to worry about pleasing anyone else. I even caught a glimpse of Monty Don being mobbed by adoring fans!
The Show Gardens
The show gardens are the big attraction for me. I love seeing them and taking inspiration for my own garden. They’re all spread out throughout the show ground, so you do have to consult the map to check that you’re taking them all in! I definitely missed one section, which I’m not sure how I managed to do.
The Lavender Garden
The Lavender Garden was my absolute favourite and, judging by the crowds when I went to revisit, was also a big hit with other people! The fragrance from this garden was just divine and I could have stood there for hours. I love the circular curves of the space which are so inviting and calming, and the whole space just feels like you’re on holiday. I love the shiny copper kitchenware too, although I’m guessing not many of us have call for a lavender kitchen in our back garden.
Designers: Paula Napper, Donna King and Sara Warren
The Dogs Trust Garden
I know that many dog owners have a difficult time in gardening – so many plants are poisonous to dogs, and they do have a habit of digging! This garden is designed for dogs and people to enjoy together and incorporates lots of shady space, tunnels and sniffer tracks, alongside the beautiful shallow pool for them to cool off in. I loved the grey wire sculptures and also the fact that they had real live dogs running around!
A Summer Garden Retreat
I loved this one, but sadly it proved difficult to get many photos of due to the strong sun! It’s very traditional and just so perfectly done it’s impossible not to love it. I loved the circular raised pool in the middle and its rusty metal finish – it’s a perfect focal point but just ties everything together rather than dominating. And what a gorgeous little summer house!
Abbeyfield – A Breath of Fresh Air
Abbeyfield are a charity which run care homes for elderly people with dementia. I was particularly keen to see this one, as my Grandma lives in an Abbeyfield home, and I thought it would be a lovely idea to encourage the residents to get outside and sit amongst the plants. I love the uplifting feel of the purple salvia and yellow yarrow. I chatted to one of the ladies on the stand for a little while and I loved the fact that this garden will be directly transported to one of their homes in Kew, which it has been specifically designed for. Apparently they were awarded a Silver medal, missing out on Gold because the judges felt it was ‘too care home-y’!
A Japanese Summer Garden
I have to confess that I’m a big lover of hydrangeas. They were my wedding flower, and I love the range of colours, and the fact that they’re a colourful plant which loves shade – a rarity! This garden has that simplicity of Japanese design, and the planting is designed for a shady space (although it was quite a hot day and perhaps not as shady as might have been expected!)
Eating & Drinking
There were plenty of typical ‘posh festival food’ vans for eating. I grabbed a frankly delicious but dirty hot dog, and an ice cream, but it was this little Gin Bar that really caught my eye! A range of gins and fevertree tonics – right up my street.
There were plenty of picnic tables if you’d brought your own food, and even a full on restaurant if you fancied a sit down meal.
I was amazed by the number of exhibitors there were and the range of things that were being sold. Hot tubs, garden furniture, sheds, ride on mowers – you name it, if it’s garden-related, it was there. I even spied a Joules shop, but I had deliberately gone with the intention of not spending much money, so I was pleased that I managed to restrain myself.
If you’re looking to buy plants, the range on offer is staggering. The Plant Tent is filled with specialist sellers, so you’ll get expert advice and a selection that you won’t find in your local garden centre. I found the prices quite reasonable too, which was a pleasant surprise. It’s a pleasant walk across the water bridges to get there too – and a great view of the palace.
There is a whole separate tent dedicated to roses (the ‘Festival of Roses’) and it’s worth stepping into just for the smell! I had a good browse and picked out a few that I have in mind for planting next year.
The only downside of my visit was the crowds. I arrived at 10.30 and despite following a surge of people from the train station, once I entered the show ground it wasn’t too busy. You could see all the show gardens without having to queue or force your way between people. But by 12.00 it was really packed – show gardens were particularly busy, and to get anywhere involving a slow amble behind a sea of people. I’m sure later in the day would have seen it thinning out again, but at the height of the day it was definitely a bit too crowded for me. I’ll definitely be visiting Hampton Court Flower Show again next year, but I think I’ll take advantage of the RHS Member Only days earlier in the week in the hope that they’re a bit quieter!
I was interested to see that Saturday is Family Day, with puppet shows and even fake northerner Mr Bloom to entertain the kids! I’m glad I left Max at home this year as I can see it would have been a pretty difficult experience, but maybe next year when he’s 3 will be more appropriate?
Have you ever been to Hampton Court Flower Show? I’d love to know any thoughts or advice you have for my visit next year!