Monday, July 5, 2010

The 'I want one of those' guide to the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Everyone loves the Hampton Court show. It's as if some glorious garden party married a pretty village fete and produced one of the most gorgeous flower shows in the world.
The setting helps, of course - the Tudor palace, the 17th-century privy garden, the Christopher Wren South Front, the great canal known as the Long Water, which runs right through the show.
Many gardeners prefer it to Chelsea because - as everyone will tell you - it's possible to buy plants at Hampton Court. Not only do the exhibitors sell plants but among the many, many retail stalls, there are nurseries of every description selling everything from acers to zantedeschias.
It's also a great place to buy garden bygones, sculptures, pots, greenhouses, gazebos and garden furniture of every conceivable kind.
What people won't tell you is that it is very easy to part with serious amounts of money very, very fast. I even found myself lusting after this cute watering can handbag and accosting the very elegant lady who was carrying it in order to take a picture. She didn't seem to mind, and told me it came from Octopus handbags.
Here, in no particular order, are the things that made my I Want One of Those list:

A garden shed planted up with cottage-style flowers, as seen in Mary Payne and Jon Wheatley's Market Garden. (Anyone remember the fabulous 1950s Daily Mail garden at Hampton Court a few years ago? Mary had a hand in that too.)

A vegetable orchestra, as seen on the Tyrrells Potato Chips stand, featuring students from the Royal Academy of Music on instruments ranging from a carrot recorder and a pumpkin drum, to a cucumber trumpet complete with red pepper mute.

Yet more Market Garden gorgeousness from Mary Payne and Jon Wheatley. It was part of an even bigger exhibit called Home Grown which featured British growers.

A field of sunflowers from Fields of Gold, the commercial agriculture section of the Home Grown exhibit by Gillian van der Meer.

An orchard with ducks and chickens (Market Garden again)

A cutting garden from, yes, you guessed, the Market Garden. I'm sorry, it just blew me away. It was far and away the best thing in the show.

A conceptual garden that makes you think. This is Journey to Awakening, by Makoto Tanaka. The circular pond symbolises the inner mind, while the slats depict the 108 earthly desires that Buddhists believe cause human suffering. Words representing these failings (arrogance, doubt, anger and so on) are hung upside down on the outside of the slats - you can only read them when they are reflected in the water.

This is the Pansy Project Garden. If Journey to Awakening is about finding inner harmony, the Pansy Project is about going out into the streets and making a protest. Artist Paul Harfleet has gone round Britain planting a pansy at sites of homophobic abuse.

A Dutch breakfast. This is the Warmenhoven nursery crew sitting down to a well-deserved brunch after setting up their exhibit of alliums and hippeastrums. They'd brought everything with them from the Netherlands (including the home-made jam).

A teddy bears' picnic. This was part of the display of eremurus on the Jacques Amand stand. What have teddy bears to do with eremurus? Haven't a clue. But they were rather sweet.

Afternoon tea, with proper china and a real tablecloth.

A tree lily or three.

So what did I buy? Ah, well, you'll have to wait until my next post to see ...