The Surrey Life guide to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2016
- Credit: Tim Whitby / Getty Images
The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show will again be drawing the crowds this year with its inspiring display gardens, exhibits and activities. Here, Surrey Life gardening editor, Leigh Clapp, reveals the best things to look out for at this year’s show – and brings us an exclusive ticket offer
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2016
As the world’s largest annual flower show, RHS Hampton Court draws thousands of people from all over the country and beyond – so, here in Surrey, we are lucky to have it happening right on our doorstep. What is more, this year’s event, running from Tuesday July 5 to Sunday July 10, looks set to be one of the best yet, with the highest number of gardens for many years, and plenty on offer for all ages and gardening abilities.
With an overall theme this year of ‘health, happiness and horticulture’, recognising the therapeutic qualities of gardening, the show will be veritably blooming with inspiring gardens, special displays and fun activities, and don’t forget the great shopping and cookery demonstrations as well. In fact, this is the place to find ideas for all areas of your garden – from the latest plants and grow-your-own advice to outdoor living.
“Every year, we try and pack in even more exciting and interactive content to thrill and inspire,” says show manager, Dave Green. “Visitors will also have the chance to experience the amazing gardens by walking through them and getting up close with the incredible designs. There is also a fantastic range of garden tools, sculptures, furniture and more on offer from our wonderful trade stands, as well as the best, newest, finest and most unusual and colourful blooms imaginable in our floral marquees. It’s definitely a bumper year in terms of what’s on offer.’”
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Highlights at this year’s show will include a celebration of the 300th anniversary of ‘Capability’ Brown, with three themed gardens, a new City Garden category, offering inspiration on just how much can be achieved in a small outdoor space, and the return of the Butterfly Dome with thousands of tropical butterflies. Also, for the first time, the RHS is hosting a Family Saturday, on Saturday July 9, which will be featuring additional children’s activities including seed-sowing, a family trail, story time and child-oriented cookery classes.
“We’re really excited to introduce the Family Saturday this year,” continues Dave. “On this day, the show will be themed on rocket science to tie in with the RHS Campaign for School Gardening’s partnership with the UK Space Agency to discover whether space travel impacts on the growth of seeds. The day will be packed full of out-of-this-world activities including a giant floral rocket, space scarecrows, puppet shows, storytelling and cookery classes – in addition to the fantastic inspirational content already at the show. It’s set to be a great summer’s day out for the whole family.”
And then of course there’s the 40 display gardens on show this year (that’s more even than at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show). Visitors can look forward to nine Show Gardens, six World Gardens, ten Conceptual Gardens (celebrating their tenth year), five City Gardens, three Water Gardens and seven Summer Gardens. There will also be more than 500 exhibitors, offering visitors everything from displays, nurseries and flowers, to ornaments, tools and outdoor living, as well as talks, lectures and advice. Plus, Surrey is again well-represented across the 34-acre site, from show-stopping gardens to trade stands.
With so much to see, it can all feel a bit overwhelming at first, so here we bring you our essential guide to making the most of this world-class show – plus an exclusive reader offer on tickets. This year’s theme of ‘health, happiness and horticulture’ is strongly represented in the display gardens, with an emphasis on the therapeutic benefits of horticulture as well as the role it can play in combatting depression or recovering from illness. This is taken further with some gardens representing the struggles people go through to improve their health, such as refugees in the Border Control garden, and the vulnerability of life itself in the World Vision garden. Once again, Surrey is set to shine this year – and here we meet some of those flying the flag for our county…
The must-see display gardens
• Garden designer John Warland, from Richmond, will again be overseeing the World Vision garden. His designs are always one of our favourites as he uses such exciting and innovative visual ideas. This garden symbolises the journeys of life and is inspired by the lives of children in the world’s hardest places. John, who is a long-term supporter of World Vision and a child sponsor, says that he relishes the opportunity to raise the profile of this organisation. “The planting will include an ox-eye daisy meadow en-masse reminding us of the naïve beauty and innocence that every child deserves to enjoy,” he adds.
• Celebrating their 80th birthday this year, Surrey-based Squire’s Garden Centres will feature a garden designed by Catherine MacDonald from Landform Consultants in Chobham. A truly talented Surrey star, she is sure to impress with her creation. Aimed at a suburban couple with grown-up children, it will be divided into an entertaining area, lawn and an area for relaxed outdoor living. “Visitors will feel a sense of enclosure and privacy in the garden and be enveloped by a mix of soft and structural planting,” she says. “The garden focuses on accessible, modern design with nods to Squire’s’ past.”
• For Farnham garden designer Gary Price, his inspiration behind Inner City Grace, in the City Garden category, was walking in local Tilford woods and Hankley Common and wanting to translate the same environment into a small space. “This garden should feel like a relaxing environment bringing you in contact with nature as the planting is very close to you at all times,” he says. “The planting is mainly greens, of different textures and heights, created with ferns, hostas and buxus. White foxgloves and silene are the only additional planting colour to create a clean feel to a normally unclean environment.”
• Another City Garden to enjoy is by Beautiful Borders from Guildford, with Wendy Forster-Scorgie and Lisa Niemy doing the planting and Darren Lincoln designing. Called the New Horizons garden, it explores the idea of retirement, downsizing and travelling. “The planting was inspired by a recent trip to South Africa and a quest to find unusual plants for our increasingly dry climate,” explains Lisa. “We love the idea of bringing some fun colour combinations and textures into the garden, so we will be combining acid oranges, lime greens, chocolate and a smattering of deep purple, with a cooling white/lime perennial ‘lawn’.”
• The Border Control garden in the Conceptual category, designed by Tom Massey from Richmond and John Ward from Acton and built by Landform Consultants of Chobham, highlights the plight of refugees and the risks they take to reach sanctuary. Set within a treacherous moat is a wildflower meadow and lush fertile planting, while outside plants are starved of water and nutrients, fighting to survive. “On approach, there is despair, but among the desolation some plants are blooming, colourful glimpses of hope, strength and dignity,” says Tom. “At the centre of the oasis, a shelter provides protection. Surrounded by the meadow, visitors are shielded and safe, but how comfortable can one really feel when confronted with the suffering beyond?” • Designed by Camberley-based garden designer Amanda Miller, the Inner Demons Conceptual Garden communicates the isolation and inner suffering of people living with depression, and the brave face that they hide behind. “There is an emphasis on soft landscaping and naturalistic planting to illustrate the concept,” says Amanda. “The marginal planting represents friends and family unable to reach the rock island, while the alpines portray a harsher environment, depicting the fight to blend in.”
Where to eat and drink
• It can get very hot so be sure to keep hydrated. There are food courts across the site offering covered or outdoor seating or you may prefer to sit in one of the restaurants or cafés. Keep an eye on the crowds and we would advise beating the rush with brunch or an early lunch.
• If you’d like a fine-dining restaurant in a lovely setting overlooking the Show Gardens, the palace and the historic deer park, book a table at the Allium Restaurant in its new location in the centre of the action, by calling them on 0844 338 7502.
• For simpler fare in a beautiful spot overlooking the Long Water, we’d recommend the Palace Garden Room located on the north of the site. In association with Cunard, it will be offering sandwiches, salads and cakes, as well as full afternoon tea, and you can sit inside or outside in sun or shade.
• Another restaurant that needs booking in advance is the Champagne and Seafood Restaurant in the heart of the showground. To reserve a table, call 0844 338 7502.
• Finally, you may prefer to buy from the self-service food outlets, the Garden Walk Café in the south area or Long Water Delis, on both sides of the Long Water, and then spread out and have a picnic.
Why not enrich your day out at the show by attending a few of the many talks and demonstrations taking place? Here, we highlight just a few of the things going on
• There will be a whole host of talks and advice from leading rose and floristry experts in the Roses and Floristry Theatre. They include Arne Maynard, Simon Lycett, David Austin Roses, Toby Buckland and Jonathan Moseltey, to name but a few.
• Pick up some ideas and inspiration from the well-known names in the Cook and Grow Theatre, such as John Christophe Novelli, Alys Fowler, Cyrus Todiwala, James Wong and Tess Ward.
• See some of the celebrity gardeners at this year’s show in the Celebrity Talks Theatre. Among the well-known names making an appearance are Christine Walkden, Diarmuid Gavin, Mr Bloom and David Domoney.
• A full timetable for all of the above events can be found on the show’s official website at rhs.org.uk
Shop until you drop
Be sure to pack a few shopping bags, because we defy you to leave the show empty-handed...
• With over 150 trade stands, selling everything from traditional garden tools to Jacuzzi hot tubs and greenhouses, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping.
• One of our favourite areas is the Country Living Pavilion, a treasure trove of some 120 stalls, where you will find artisan crafts, home accessories and gifts, many of which are British-made products.
• For produce, browse the Great Taste Marquee, to discover artisan food direct from the producers, including delicious chocolates, biscuits, olive oils, pies, cheeses, preserves and even English-grown Tregothnan tea.
• For plants, explore both the Plant Village and the Floral Marquee with their array of specialist nurseries.
• Although plants can be bought throughout the week, don’t forget the plant sell-off on the last afternoon, Sunday July 10 from 4.30pm, when you can pick up some great bargains.
Need to know
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey KT8 9AT
Runs from Tuesday July 5 to Sunday July 10, 10am -7.30pm (RHS members only on the Tuesday and Wednesday)
Tickets £20 to £38 (see the website for pricing options)
Tel: 0844 338 7502. Web: rhs.org.uk/hampton The Preview Evening takes place on Monday July 4 from 5pm to 10.30pm (£58 members, £68 non-members). This is a chance to enjoy the gardens in a relaxed party atmosphere with live music, alfresco dining and fireworks.
Why not arrive in style on one of Turks’ charming shuttle boats that leave from Hampton Court Station and also from the piers at Kingston and Richmond. Ticket prices vary. For more information, see online at turks.co.uk/getting-to-hampton- court-palace-flower-show