More Hampton Court Thoughts

I’m pretty unashamedly a practical gardener. Show gardens which would make impractical real gardens do not interest me generally. In recent years I have overcome my disgust at inappropriate plant use in show gardens. I used to be heard at almost every stop saying something like ‘But that wouldn’t grow in full sun!’ Or ‘But that plant will completely outcompete that other plant in a matter of months!’ And ‘Yeah, but it’ll all be dead in three weeks. No late summer interest at all’ or other similar comments which completely missed the point of a show garden. Now I’ve come to accept that the planting elements are more like floristry than gardening I’m a lot happier. However, I’m still prone to saying ‘How the hell are you supposed to mow that?!’ Which was at the back of my mind* when I first saw this:

What was at the forefront of my mind was ‘Wow!’ and ‘Cool!’ and ‘nice umbellifers, baby.’ So it looks like I might be making progress on being able to appreciate the utterly impractical show garden. So that’s nice.

If you haven’t already got bored of it, this is the World Vision garden. The convex hemisphere represents the children of the world that have their needs met, and the concave hemisphere those that do not. I am not entirely sure how a show garden helps the situation of the have-nots, but since several of the gardens were charity or ‘message’ gardens I’m sure there is reason for the sponsors to believe it works.

There was a definite trend for edible plants. Even apparently unveggie gardens were sneaking in cabbages and kale while no-one was looking. This still sets off my ‘But it wouldn’t grow well there!’ reaction which seems to be more sensitive to edible plants being given insufficient space. The RHS themselves were among the worst offenders here:

Can you spot the veggies? I can just about ignore the hostas in full sun with insufficient space but cabbages? I thought the Edible Garden was partly about educating people that they can grow edibles in their ornamental gardens? Not if they treat them like that they can’t. Well, they can. But they will just get leafy greens for their trouble. I think this might be the practical versus impractical question. Many show gardens which include veg have pretensions to practicality; pretensions which are belied by their cramped spacings. Well, I hope lots of people are inspired and go off and buy a decent book on veg growing and set up some raised beds or a couple of containers and have a go.

Oops sorry. Seem to have got into a whinge-fest here. I wouldn’t want to give you the impression that I go around the flower shows snarking away to my heart’s content; I don’t. I really enjoy the shows and come back absolutely fizzing with ideas and ambitions! And the edible garden was very pretty, I wouldn’t dispute that. And cabbages, especially the red ones, are beautiful creatures indeed. But… but… am I wrong here dear readers? What do you think to cramped kale and cornered cabbage in the interest of prettiness?

* * *

*I think it might involve wellington boots and shears. The mowing I mean. Or a tethered rabbit perhaps?

P.S My other Hampton Court posts are here and here.


14 responses to “More Hampton Court Thoughts

  1. I’m just jealous cos I never get to go…. Wwwaaahhhh….

    Oh and pretty is ok but I like pretty and practical at the same time for my edibles

  2. I’ve never quite got the point of show gardens either, to be honest. Looking at the work people put in…holding flowers back, bringing them forward – what, exactly is the object? Whenever I go to a show, I long to put in an exhibit called ‘my garden now’, with patches of weeds, shot lettuces, and dead flowers, just by way of contrast!

  3. Refreshing to read a slightly jaded view of show gardens – HC & Chelsea too much like the Emperor’s New clothes for me perhaps because they are more art than gardening. Have to take the practical hat off when viewing.

    • I think you’re right. These days I do appreciate the show gardens more as art than gardening, but still the gardener in me occasionally says ‘huh?’, and don’t get me started on ‘conceptual’ gardens! I think there’s plenty to learn from show gardens about design, just not about planting generally! Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, they can introduce good colour combinations and individual plants which are worth investigating; you just couldn’t usually transfer the planting wholesale to a real garden and expect it to work.

  4. I’m glad I’m not the only one who was disappointed by the RHS Edible Garden. I was really looking forward to it, but it just didn’t offer anything to me. The worst offenders were the peppers – growing lovely sized peppers by early July outdoors in Britain? yes, right.

    I’m also not clear how they intended to harvest the veg (or look after it / check for pests) in the middle of a big border which is densely planted.

    And as for the hops, the foraging and the nuttery/orchard, it’s nice stuff but my little back garden won’t oblige.

    PS: Another commentator on twitter mentioned how shocked they were that #hrshampton seems almost completely white. A bit more diversity would be great, there’s some great allotments by people from all backgrounds, but none of that is reflected within the RHS show.

    So back to Terry Walton’s podcast – they guy knows his veg 🙂

    • I enjoyed the Edible Garden for its prettiness, but felt the same way as you do about its practicality for actual production. The hops were nice IMO more as a reference to our heritage growing edibles, rather than a suggestion we should all turn our gardens over to them! Mind you – it would have it’s advantages… home grown, home brewed beer YUM!

      (I noticed the lack of diversity too which sat a bit oddly with all the cultural appropriation going on… but perhaps best not get onto that – I might rant about things I’m ignorant of and grossly unqualified to comment on.)

      • Appreciate it’s more a reference, but as the stated aim of the RHS is to get us to grow more veg, I was hoping for less reference and more practicality. I’ve been an RHS member for many years and value their advice (and magazine) highly, just a shame their knowledge did not come through in the garden.

      • I suspect people who are encouraged to grow veg by the show gardens will be a little disappointed. I just hope they perservere!

  5. I am pretty much a practical gardener as well. I am the one who primarily tends my garden, and so I need to think about whether something is high maintenance or low maintenance. Although I enjoy working in my garden very much, I cannot devote 10 or 12 hours a day to it. I would love to have those perfectly manicured lawns and shrubs someday, but it is not practical. I enjoy touring them however……

  6. Hi Libby. I am actually shocked at this garden. I enlarged the picture and had a good look. This garden had the potential to be beautiful, abundant and practical. Food and vegetable gardening is the way that gardening is going (in my opinion) and I really hope that people who saw this garden are inspired to tuck veggies and herbs into their flower beds. I’ve put quite a few herbs in my perennial border. They look beautiful and attract of lot of bees. Yayyy. I love your blog and I’m going in right now to favorite you!!

  7. Pingback: Bye bye 2011 | The Sproutling Writes

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