The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is billed as the largest flower show in the world, and with a wide range of plants at their best at the beginning of July the plants and flowers are naturally the stars. However, I have to admit that I didn't even make it into the floral marquee this year as I was too busy looking around the show gardens. Hampton Court may not have the prestige, money or sheen of Chelsea Flower Show but it's still a great place to see show gardens and pick up design and planting ideas, and due to the size of the site there is a larger number of gardens and they can be enjoyed in a more relaxed way, some you can even walk through to experience them as the judges will have.
There seems to be more variety and some really interesting and novel ideas in there 4 categories of gardens at the show; the large 'Show Gardens', the smaller 'Summer Gardens', the purse conscious 'Your Garden, Your Budget Gardens' and the slightly wacky 'Concept Gardens'.
If you are looking for design ideas for a contemporary home then the large, gold winning, 'Vestra Wealth Vista' garden designed by Paul Martin is worth a quick look online with its clever contrasting use of metal and natural materials, such as a cedar water channel and timber-filled copper gabions, all beautifully set off with a cool planting pallet of Hostas and Lavenders. There was a lot of relaxed, soft, naturalistic planting at the show and the meadow turf in 'Jordan's Wildlife Garden' designed by Selina Botham was a big winner with the public and won the Show Garden People's Choice Award.
The Vestra Wealth Vista garden & Jordan's Wildlife Garden.
But my favourite overall was the 'Essence of Australia' Garden designed by Jim Fogarty and the RHS judges agreed giving it the accolade of Best Show garden. The garden transported you to North Australia with red rocks and exotic silver leaves and red and yellow planting, colours which were picked up and repeated as trimming on the wooden seating and structure. It felt modern, fresh and fun and somehow you could feel the dry and heat.
Best Show garden: Essence of Australia
Hampton Court gives newer, less well known Designers the opportunity to design a garden and the 'Your Garden, Your Budget' Gardens show what can be acheived with little money but alot of ideas. Best garden in this category was Alexandra Froggatts 'Garden of Solitude', built on a budget of £15,000. She used smooth contemporary hardlandscaping contrasted with soft voluminous planting and I loved the way the arches and trees framed different views of the water feature and seating area as you moved around the space. I also liked Stuart Charles Towner's 'Halo' garden. I'm a sucker for seating made out of dry stone walling and got lots of useful ideas from the gravel planting.
Your Garden, Your Budget Gardens: 'Garden of Solitude' and 'Halo'
And finally the Summer Gardens, a category won by 'A Space to Connect and Grow' designed by Jeni Cairns and Sophie Antonelli which was full of great ideas for recycling materials and encouraging creativity and food production. I particulary liked the recycled industrial metal grids filled with gravel in one area and then used again as a raised platform. In sharp contrast was the sleek, modern, urban outdoor dining space designed by Peter Reader. Easily transportable into a smart townhouse, the garden showcased a chic outdoor kitchen and a small waterfall, while an oak pergola and aromatic herbs softened all the pale hard landscaping.