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Monday, 22 July 2013

Hampton Court Flower Show 2013

A Quick Visit to Hampton Court Flower Show 2013
2013 was my first visit to Hampton Court and I was curious to see what it was all about. It was hot, it was busy and there was lots to take in not just the gardens.  There was a Country Living Magazine marquee, a food tasting marquee, plant marquees, stalls selling everthing you would expect at a country show, lots of shopping going on and at one point in the late afternoon I came across a fashion show and on the catwalk models were parading to uptempo music in garden and picnic wear.

The Palace setting is phenomenal, particularly in the gorgeous weather we have been having. What is great is you can drive there, park, which was easy and walk in through the grounds, but gates don't open until 10am unlike Chelsea  which opens at 8am. Visitors have more access to the gardens than Chelsea which most see as a bonus but it made it almost impossible to photograph the whole the garden canvas without strangers in your photograph.

The Gardens
There are lots of Garden categories. There were some delightful garden show gardens and summer gardens with delicious combinations of summer colour to inspire, some low cost high impact gardens and conceptual gardens that were really quite strange, intended to provoke thought and raise awareness. I can honestly say there was not a conceptual garden I would wish to replicate in my garden. 

Ash die back elm rejuvination
Ashes to Ashes

Whilst saying that I won't ever forget ‘Ashes to Ashes’, the ‘Tip of the Iceberg’ or 'I Disappear’. 'Ashes to Ashes' looked like a set from a vampire movie with the feature R.I.P gravestones, not something we get asked for in our stoneware department at Preston Bissett Nurseries! There was a skeleton of black burnt trees on a mass of rose pink and dark red ground cover. I should mention the planting, Heuchera Palace Purple featured with ferns, black grasses, Berberis ‘Nana’ and Sambucus Black Lace, the prickly roses provided the only colour. It spiralled into a ring of sapling elm trees. The concept was the devastation of ash dieback disease and the rejuvenation as the new elms rose out of the ashes.  
‘Tip of the Iceberg’ showed a mountain iceberg of old fridges planted with alpines like we plant our old butler sinks. The concept was reusing waste.

Garden by Arek at Hampton Court 2013
I Disappear

‘I Disappear’ I felt was a quite striking but threatening space. The garden feature was a real man seated and hooked up to tubes wearing a gas mask. The concrete wall that encased this allotment space was inscribed with red graffiti and the words related to a song ‘I Disappear’ by the heavy metal group Metallica. It was a strong concept of sustainability but a little lost on me as I, like most gardeners, am more familiar with the fern ‘Metallica” not the group!

My Favourite Gardens
These wacky conceptual gardens were interesting but what I really wanted to see were the real gardens that would inspire me to plant. I want ideas, new planting and colour combinations and I found some.

Low cost high impact garden Hampton Court 2013
A Room with a View

I liked elements of most of the show gardens, low impact and summer gardens, some of my favoured gardens were ‘A Room with a View’ , ‘The McCarthy and Stone Garden’, another Chris Beardshaw success. The ‘Wedgwood Garden’ ‘A Cool Garden’,’Bugs in Boots’ and ‘Athanasia’

I should highlight the strong theme of sustainability running through quiet a few of the entries, most notably the winning Ecover best show garden. Giants size bottles and elements of the cleaning products lime green and blue packaging were embedded in a beautiful landscape. The planting was very tasteful with silvery blue eryngiums and more Geranium‘Rozanne’ very prominent.

A summer garden at Hampton Court Flower show 2013
Willow Pattern

‘The Willow Pattern’ garden was planted and staged like the Willow pattern, a really lovely but simple theme. Beautiful white and blue hydrangeas, perovskia, leucanthemum daisies, white hostas, agapanthus, astrantia and so forth all entwining a little blue bridge leading to what was described as a tea house and overhung by a willow tree. It was picture perfect.

A woodland garden at Hampton Court 2013

‘Athanasia’ was the most wonderful little wood. Perchance this was also predominantly blue and white with only a little mauve Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’.

Athanasia a woodland garden at Hampton Court Flower Show 2013
Geranium 'Ann Folkard'

Soft harmonising tones made it very gentle and calm. It is quoted as being ‘a place for reflection, rest and a celebration of the beauty of nature.’

Athanasia Hampton Court 2013
Geranium Rozanne

 It met its brief with I am delighted to say swathes of luminous blue Geranium ‘Rozanne’, tiarella, brunnera, bergena, hostas, white rodgersia, actea, Geranium macrorrhizum, Euphorbia robbiae white foxgloves amongst some of the perennials, intertwined with ferns under a canopy of red oak, weeping silver birch, hawthorn, field maple, hazel  and cornus varieties. I will enjoy taking ideas from this garden and incorporate them into my woodland planting.

Summer Garden winning Gold at Hampton Court Flower show 2013
A cool Garden
The last garden I will afford to mention also from the summer garden category is ‘A Cool Garden’. A formal geometric shape planted with a relaxed naturalistic feel. 

Cool woodland wins gold at Hampton Court Flowershow 2013
Contorted Hazel 
Four huge coppery gnarled contorted Hazels were planted on each corner of the outer perimeter. The main body of the garden was a sunken circle decked with an oak path over a body of water.  A central bridge had supporting rails welded like twisted branches which replicated the twists of the hazel. Rusted corten steel wove its way through the centre and trickled a channel of water which cascaded gently into the main body of water. 

Cool plants at Hampton Court 2013

Plants blended with the copper tones, they included dramatic purple angelica, ferns, hostas, thalictrum, more astrantias and actea and other shade loving plants like epimedium and viola. Sanguisorba with its clover like leaves and purple heads toned well and Geranium clarkii ‘Kashmir White’ was a really excellent choice of geranium. Its so resilient to flooding and shady places.

I am pleased to say these plants would genuinely cope well planted in this kind of wooded semi shade damp environment. I like this integrity. Often show gardens plant things that look wonderfully dramatic for the display but would not survive if planted together but most of the planting schemes here were really legitimate plant combinations plants we stock all year round, combinations you could make note of and replicate at home. I would imagine that almost, if not all, of these latter gardens will be replanted and celebrated. They are real gardens and that is not always true of other shows which perhaps favour drama and theatrical design ideas over plants making Hampton Court Flower Show a real gardeners or plant lovers show.

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