A visit to RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is one of my highlights of the gardening year – an idyllic location beside Hampton Court Palace and the Thames, a vast array of show gardens, stand holders with just about everything you might need and plenty of eateries. Combine that with a fine summer’s day and you’ve got it cracked.
This year I went with a friend who had a van and a trolley. And no, it wasn’t one of those small, ubiquitous folding ones, but a rather large rectangular folding trolley on wheels – a bit like the festival ones you see being dragged through the mud at Glastonbury. When Jean pulled out out the back of the van, I thought her mad – how were we going to drag that around the show, assuming we could manage to get it over the footbridge between the car park and gardens in the first place. ‘Just you wait and see how many people comment on it’, she said. I was thinking abuse more like, but she added, ‘ I always get offers for it’. By the time we had man-handled it over the bridge, pulled it past the palace and reached the gates we had had three comments along the lines, ‘you must be planning a lot of shopping’. We were asked where we had bought it on the other side of the gates. In fact, every time I stopped to look around to see where she had got to, Jean was talking to somebody about the trolley … Fortunately, the plant creche was happy to look after it, so we ferried plants from stalls to creche.
Given the size of the show, I always try to have a purpose and a list of plants that I’m looking for. This year I was focused on the Dig In area as I had a shopping list of edible plants.
I’ve been following the progress of the RHS Grow Your Own with the Raymond Blanc Gardening School via Beryl (@mudandgluts) on Twitter so it was fascinating to be able to see the finished garden. It was also good to talk to some of the volunteers who had obviously enjoyed their time working on the garden. In fact, many of my photos were taken in this delightful garden.
Next was the Dig In marquee with some very familiar names – Plants4Presents, Hooksgreen Herbs, Pennard Plants, Battlebridge Mill, The Garlic Farm, Franchi Seeds and Blackmoor Nurseries. It was impossible to escape here without any purchases so I left with a 4-season lemon tree and Stevia plant from Plants4Presents and wasabi, pineapple guava and a new dwarf raspberry variety from Pennard Plants. Thank goodness for a large, sturdy trolley as there was no way I would have been able to get the lemon tree to the car with its developing lemons still attached!
Pennard Plants (one of my fav suppliers of edible plants) gained a gold award and Best Dig In exhibit which was well deserved as you can see here.
Finally, I dragged myself away from the array of edibles on offer, took in some of the show gardens, the wonderful Evolve exhibit on the evolution of plants (brilliant) and collected the by now full trolley from the creche.
We made our way out of the show ground via the impressive meadow display of thousands of Verbena bonariensis, which looked stunning when you looked up and saw them against the perfect blue sky.
And its odd how certain plants pop up everywhere. This year I spotted a Carolina Allspice in the Grow Your Own Garden [Calycanthus x raulstonii Aphrodite] and then I saw it in several other gardens including the Evolve exhibit. More on this fascinating edible in another blog.
And just as I was waiting with the trolley for Jean to complete a final shop by the exit I noticed a small exhibit that was festooned with #butterflies and #bees. Skipper butterflies (you can just see their small folded brown wings on the flowers) obviously love giant hyssop (Agastache). In fact, the wealth of insect life on the showground made this a very special day.
And the trolley? Well, we made it back to the carpark, although we had to walk along the road for some distance to find a place where we could cross and avoid the footbridge. I dread to think of how many legs got bashed as we man-handled it through the busier parts of the show (apologies if you are reading this). Jean was quite right as we could have sold the trolley multiple times over, and yes, we managed to fill it!
PS if you are looking for a photo of the trolley – there is none. We were so exhausted by the time we got back to the van that we unloaded and drove home … may be next year!