Category Archives: Flower Show

Hampton Court 2014

On Tuesday Mum and I made our annual RHS Flower show trip and 2014 is a Hampton Court year. Pimms, pretty flowers and rain were the standout features, as usual.

The conceptual gardens were based around the seven deadly sins and my favourite was Wrath – Eruption of unhealed anger:

Conceptual garden - Wrath


I also liked Pride and Lust. I always find myself prefering the conceptual gardens that are more garden and less conceptual. I don’t doubt that they can be done well but the curse of the conceptual garden is that they often feature an unpalatable combination of heavy-handed teen-poetry symbolism with gimickry and a sprinkling of pretentious wankery.

There were also turf sculpures. I love the soft green shapes of turf sculpture (though I have to silence the irritatingly practical side of my brain that insists on piping up with ‘well, that’d be a bugger to mow.’)

Turf sculpture

Turf Sculpture by Tony Smith

The ‘Your Garden, Your Budget’ gardens had us saying ‘not my budget, love.’ My previous rant on the subject is here (Got ten grand to spare on a garden?) and applies to this show too as the gardens had similar budgets.

I wouldn’t expect to like the winner from this category if I had read a description; it is pale to the point of iciness, modern looking and clean-edged. However, the designer (Alexandra Froggatt) has succeeded in creating a beautifully calm atmosphere, cool and still.

Peaceful and pale

Peaceful and pale

My favourite show garden was the Jordan’s wildlife garden which only got a silver (one of my conclusions from this show is that  I have no idea how the judges score the gardens). I wanted to walk into it. The textures of wood and straw, the turf which was mostly ‘weeds’ and the colourful beds of flowers to attract the bees and butterflies were very appealing. None of my pics of it are very good though so this will have to do:

Jordan's Wildlife Garden

Jordan’s Wildlife Garden

On the plants front – my next garden will contain this combination seen on the David Austin stand:

Roses 'Summer Song' (orange) and 'LDBraithwaite' (red)

Roses ‘Summer Song’ (orange) and ‘LDBraithwaite’ (red)

This Digitalis featured in several of the gardens and we hunted it out in the floral tent to find out what it is:

Digitalis 'Illumination Pink'

Digitalis ‘Illumination Pink’

And now that I google it I find that it was Plant of the Year at RHS Chelsea. Which goes to show how much attention I’ve been paying to the gardening media over the last few months! Oops.


Chelsea 2013

Last Wednesday my Mum and I hopped on a train and went to Chelsea for the first time in three years. We alternate between Hampton Court and Chelsea (one big RHS flower show per year is enough) and someone (ahem) didn’t buy tickets early enough last year so we missed the Chelsea deadline. I was surprised to find that I really missed going in 2012 even though I generally prefer HC for several reasons, mostly in that it’s more laid back and less fashionable.

There were, as usual, a few gardens that were a bit ‘meh’ and some that were a bit ‘er…?’ but there were several that I liked.

The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden

The Telegraph Garden by Christopher Bradley-Hole took inspiration from the British countryside with blocks of yew, box, and beech representing the fields. Unusually for a show garden it had no real path, with just a narrow walkway behind the oak columns on two sides of the garden and no seating area. It’s got a simple beauty. By omitting the path/seating essentials the designer seems to fully accept that it’s a show garden and abandon all pretence at forming a complete ‘real’ garden which is a standard fiction of show gardens. I like that honesty, it’s got a freshness to it.

The East Village Garden

The East Village Garden

Apparently the East Village Garden takes a lot of its direction from the Olympic Village which completely passed me by when I looked at it from among the straining hordes. The clean sweeping curves of this garden made up for the horrible black water (why? why do they all dye the water black? it looks vile to my eyes) and I liked the green-ness of the planting. The great stand of Zantedeschia was stunning too.

The Mindfulness Garden

The Mindfulness Garden

This was one of the ‘fresh’ gardens in which the designers had to think ‘outside the box’ (will someone please get the RHS a new box of management speak cliches please? these are looking a little tired). I just loved the chaotic mass of cheerful flowers on a meadowy hummock – it hid a cylindrical mirror and rotating quote. A small seating area allowed the garden’s inhabitant and maybe one or two small or very intimate friends to sit in front of the mirror and meditate. Personally I find meditation brings quite alarming sensations of dizziness and physical wierdness so adding a rotating mirrored tunnel to the mix would probably be a very bad thing, but it’s a lovely idea. Ok, I will admit it was mostly the colourful hummock of flowers that got me. Had it been a round door instead of a mirror I’d have probably liked it even more because I’m a bit of a geek.

I said last week that my favorite show garden was the M&G Centenary Garden designed by Roger Platts. Here are a couple of the details which, for me, made the garden such a hit:

The M&G Centenary Garden 'ruin' detail

The M&G Centenary Garden ‘ruin’

Ivy + ruinous stonework = happy Libby. I do love a good ruin, even when it’s a fake ruin. If ever I’m lucky enough to have a substantial patch of ground to call my own you can bet there’ll be a fake ruin somewhere.

M&G Garden seat and Rhodedendron detail

M&G Centenary Garden seat and Rhodedendron

The big white blooms of the Rhodedendron and the rusty seat set each other off nicely. I can imagine sitting here and reading a good book which is an essential attribute of a garden in my opinion.

That’s an interesting question – what do you think does a garden have to have or do to be successful? Must it have a seat? Should it please the eye, the belly, the nose? Does it just have to please its owner?

Chelsea Crumblets

I had a wonderful day at Chelsea on Wednesday and took about two hundred pictures (why?! will I ever process them all? No!) and have had no time to prepare them for your perusal. In fact, given a long weekend in a tent beckons (insert expression of joy here), I won’t have time for a proper post-Chelsea post until sometime next week. Mea culpa and so on and so forth. So here are a couple of crumbs to keep the ravening wolves from the door…

The M&G garden got the Libby’s Fave Award:

The M&G Centenary Garden

The M&G Centenary Garden

Oh, and the RHS gave it a gold. I like the colours and planting and the fact that there are lots of details to spot – I suspect some might find it a little cluttered but I rather like that.

Favourite flowers from the blimmin’ great tent:

Iris x hollandica 'Gypsy Beauty'

Iris x hollandica ‘Gypsy Beauty’

Isn’t it gorgeous with the brazen cheerfulness of that blue and yellow?

And this ‘mum is sumptuous with its black leaves and sunburst flowers with a lime green heart:

Crysanthemum 'Delistar Saffira'

Crysanthemum ‘Delistar Saffira’

I’ll have a further dig around in my piccies next week and find some more for you. You never know, I might manage to string some intelligent words together too (don’t bet on it).

A brief glance back at Hampton Court

Well, I’ve gone and left my full Hampton Court post a bit late after my rantlet last week so instead of trying to cover the whole shebang I’ll tell you a bit about my favourite garden and a freaky plant I met.

This year I liked several of the gardens and even some of the conceptual ones (yeah I know, who’d believe it?) particularly Las Mariposas (Hopes of a Nicaraguan Girl) which was a big pink box full of butterflies in a field of stipa and catananche. It didn’t photograph easily and none of mine were worth showing but go and follow the link – it’s well worth a look.

My favourite was the Discover Jordan garden:

Discover Jordan garden at Hampton Court Flower Show

The Discover Jordan garden had a cross shaped water feature and warm stone.

Discover Jordan garden at RHS Hampton Court

From this angle you can see the slope of stone and natural style planting that goes up and over the arch.

Discover Jordan garden at RHS Hampton Court

The back of the garden showing the other side of the arch and the path through it.

I like the contrast between the smooth stone and very formal water feature with the ‘ruin’ behind. Also I have a love of doorways and arches that look like they go somewhere interesting. Other than that it’s hard to say why I liked it so much but apparently the judges agreed with me as it got Gold.

As always there were some lovely plants about the place too but this was one of the most striking:

Acanthus mollis 'Whitewater'

Acanthus mollis ‘Whitewater’

What do you think? Yes or no? It looks a bit anaemic to me but the pinkish stem is rather pretty and it’ll almost certainly be less rampant than its darker siblings which might be useful. I tend to come down on the side of ‘no’ which is probably due to my prejudices against variegation, particularly splashy variegation. The white flower with normal coloured leaves however would be great. Unfortunately I can’t remember whose stand it was on so I can’t tell them to get with the breeding!

Got ten grand to spare?

Yesterday my dearest Mother and I voyaged to Hampton Court Palace for the flower show. We were greatly entertained by the ‘Low Cost, High Impact’ gardens.

Hampton Court Flower Show 2012 - A Compromising Situation

A Compromising Situation

Am I unusual in that a £7,000 – £13,000 budget for a fairly small garden seems far from ‘Low Cost’ (the one above had a budget of £10,000)? Am I, in fact, the one so hilariously out of touch that I think most first time buyers don’t have around ten grand to spend on the garden? Is it in fact the case that I am a freakishly poor person despite feeling ‘comfortable’ financially and yet I would still balk at spending multiple hundreds, let alone thousands? Only the top 10% in this country have a net household income exceeding £40,000 and we’re expected to believe that a quarter of that constitutes low cost gardening? ‘Low Cost, High Impact’ gardens that cost one grand or preferably less would be worth seeing in my view. The gardens were pretty, very much so, but the most amusement we gained was from the budgets. Frickin’ hilarious.

I will post some more pics and things once this bad case of snarkiness has worn off!

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.

Rain, Hampton Court and a glass of Pimms

The last ten minutes of the journey to Hampton Court are always the best!

Once we had munched some lunch and perused the programme we headed to the Rose Marquee which for some reason had a rather charming Alice in Wonderland theme. We sniffed, snuffled and oohed and ahhed our way through the roses, eventually coming to the conclusion that Rosa ‘Gentle Hermione’  (left) from David Austen’s stand had the most gorgeous scent, though it was a tough competition.





Adjacent to the Rose marquee was the Plant Heritage Marquee where the plant collectors live with their information pamphlets on cultivation and their excitement for a single genus, or even a single species. Something in the careful presentation and slight air of obsession appeals to me although I don’t have the concentration required to join the hallowed ranks of these plantophiles. I particularly liked the carnations (right – Dianthus ‘Tayside Red’) and the carnivorous plants. My sister has a minor obsession with native carnivorous plants, getting down on her hands and knees excitedly in a bog at the sight of a Sundew plant or Butterwort so I was tempted to buy her one. But in the end I felt carnivorous plant plus tube journey would almost certainly equal disaster.


As I wrote yesterday, The Stockman’s Retreat by Chris Beardshaw was my favourite show garden. The Copella garden (below) was also beautiful; it forms an appeal to us to look after our orchards and apple trees and prevent them disappearing at the current rate. It was planted with apple trees and bee-friendly plants as well as featuring some stunning wood work. I asked after an attractive umbellifer in the garden to be told it was carrot! As a biennial it makes a rather attractive plant in its second year apparently.

I also really liked the LOROS hospice garden which was colourful and yet calm. The garden is going to be relocated to the Leicestershire and Rutland Hospice after the show. I wonder if they’ll notice if I steal that pavilion en route? Surely not.

The RHS Edible Garden had stilt-stalking hop pickers, a pond and coracle, cider press (left) and lots of beautiful plantings of flowers and edibles together. Grafted vegetables were impressive and the attached Marquee was full of tempting seeds and plants.

After perusing all the veggies we stopped to have a glass of Pimms and sent texts to loved ones saying ‘well, it’s not raining yet’. We should have known better. By the time we finished our Pimms great heavy drops had started to fall.





I enjoyed several of the small gardens depite the rain and although I showed you the fun 5-a-Day garden yesterday my favourite was the Wild Side garden, a city wildlife friendly garden, unfortunately none of my photos of it are any good! I also particularly liked the Heathers in Harmony gardenwhich made an attempt to rehabilitate Heathers in the estimation of the nation and the Deptford Project garden (pictured).


It was an inspiring, thought provoking and tiring day. And now I know another great thing to do with carrots!

Hampton Court Highlights

Today I’ve gathered together some of my highlights from  Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2011. Tomorrow there’ll be a longer descriptive post after I’ve had more of a shuffle through my photos and there’ll be some further musings about the whole thing on Friday.

My favourite show garden was Chris Beardshaw’s garden The Stockman’s Retreat. As a nature lover and rural girl I’m a sucker for a garden that successfully captures the feel of a rural landscape.

The Rose Marquee was wonderful. The David Austen and Peter Beales stands are always highlights of the flower shows for me. Pictured is ‘Summer Song’ from the David Austen stand.

The ‘Grow Your Own’ Marquee and RHS Edible Garden were top of my ‘must see’ list and I wasn’t disappointed. The Garlic Farm came up trumps with this wonderful display.

The Burgon&Ball 5-A-Day garden (Designed by Heather Culpan and Nicola Reed) was one of my favourite small gardens. I love the dining table/trough planter. What an excellent idea!

More pictures and ramblings to follow tomorrow!