Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Look Back at 2012 RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

We had such a fantastic, action packed time last Saturday at the recently concluded RHS Hampton Court Flower Show, so much so that it took us almost all Sunday to recover from our visit!

It is such a colossal show, there's so much to see and do in such a grand setting that if you're well into plants and want to see everything at a leisurely pace then a one day visit is not enough, it's more like a two day affair. We could have easily spent the entire day just in the Floral Marquee alone (where the stands of most of the specialist nurseries are, and where you can do most of your plant shopping). It's do-able with just one day of course, even just one afternoon but be prepared to whizz through some of the sections (which we did) or even bypass them altogether.

The Floral Marquee - this section is huge and could easily spend the day just browsing here. I think I took this photo a third of the way down, so just imagine the scale of it...
An outstanding display of Eremurus inside the Floral Marquee (by Jacques Amand - Silver Gilt)
Inside the much smaller Rose Marquee, which is about...Roses!
This 'floral arrangement' won gold, which is deserving especially compared to the others in the Rose Marquee!
A moment of naffness....
Garlic mania! One of the stands inside the Growing for Taste Marquee

Interspersed amongst the main attractions and areas of show gardens are plenty of stalls selling various garden related items, from garden ornaments all the way to luxury garden outbuildings. There's even a sponsored marquee wherein most of the stands there sell fabrics, leather goods, shoes, and clothes. Which also made me wonder, do people actually go to a flower show to buy clothes?? Evidently so as a quick glance inside showed that it was also full and people were actually clothes shopping. I suppose it's more than just a flower show and they have to appeal to a wider audience (a day out for the entire family thing) to pull the crowds in by offering other non gardening retail experience. 

For if you must have that floral umbrella....
Since we had the chance to take a peek at the build of the show gardens a couple of weeks ago, we haven't been back until last Saturday which was a day before the show closes. Quite a big gap really and we had to miss the press day, the day before the show officially opens due to work commitments. But with better planning hopefully we'll make it earlier next year whilst the show is still fresh and ongoing.

Without further ado, here's just a few snippets and highlights of this years show:

The Discover Jordan Garden (Gold)

Say cheese everyone!
Following the invitation to see the build of this garden in particular and meeting its designer Paul Hervey-Brookes, we thought we wouldn't be able to see him again last Saturday as he said that day was his day off. So it was a nice bonus that he was actually there when we visited. The garden won a well deserved Gold Medal and Best Destination Garden award, and with its success he had to come in on his supposed to be days off too. No rest for the successful! The garden has come on very well since we last saw it in person (as you can imagine) and I'm glad the attention to detail and sheer spectacle of the garden won the judges over.

and After. This section is designed to resemble a dried up river bed.
The linking arch with a few more plants surrounding it
The rill now complete with a sculpture
Other World of Gardens

The Russian Museum Garden (Silver Gilt)

I had my reservations on this one after seeing the completed garden on the television but it actually looked much better in real life; much, much better even! I liked this garden with its attractive planting combinations and colour scheme. It is a fantasy garden after all and only elements of it can be applied to a real life garden, but it certainly did provide a shot of rich colour on a grey, cloudy day.

and After.

The Azorean Garden (Silver Gilt)

and After.
Noticed many changes between the two photos? Apart from the purple coloured water (!) not much has changed as this garden was pretty much finished when we visited during the 'build'.

The Swiss Alpine Garden (Silver Gilt)

I liked this garden too, especially with the use of green slate (which actually is light blue) chippings on the water feature which is refreshing and soothing to the eyes. Funny enough when we stood next to it there was a sudden cool breeze blowing which gave us a momentary chill, now hows that for an autumnal, Swiss mountain feel! I also half imagined Heidi about to come out from the log cabin adjacent to it as well as hear someone yodeling somewhere on the horizon, so somehow it is for me effective in evoking that feeling of being in Switzerland. Interesting to note though that some of the alpine plants used are actually Himalayan rather than Swiss...

and After.
Now on to the other show gardens...

Live Outdoors Garden (Silver Gilt) - built on a budget of £13,000
I absolutely LOVE this garden and kept staring at it as a whole for quite some time, as well as studying as many details of it as I can, taking it all in and making lots of mental notes (and photos!). Perhaps you will see a version of this in our garden in the future? ;-) This is one the best things about attending flower shows, gaining inspiration from the show gardens and displays!

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Gold)
Bridge Over Troubled Water, Before...
and After.
Bridge Over Troubled Water. Lovely planting combinations too!
Our First Home, Our First Garden (Gold) - built on a budget of just £7,000 (tiny for a show garden)
Now that's clever! A Riot of Colour Garden
It must have been fun smashing that car for the show - a display within the Urban Oasis section
I hope those knickers and pants were brand new! A display within the Urban Oasis section
The Essential Indulgence (Silver Gilt) - another contemporary garden that I liked
The seating area within the This is Me garden (Bronze)
The Wheels of Time (Bronze) - I'm rarely a fan of writings and quotes displayed on gardens but wouldn't mind if I see 'A Grumpy Old Git Owns this Garden' instead. Much fun me thinks, hehe!
The Coral Desert (Silver Gilt) - a conceptual garden, succulents are used to resemble a coral reef within a blue cube. Gorgeous!
Do Not Adjust Your Set (Bronze) - another conceptual garden, fun and unique but somehow felt corporate. Great outside an office building (perhaps an advertising firm).
Chaos (Silver Gilt) - it is as you see it. Well it's a conceptual garden after all. Apart from the grass on the perimeter the only other plant involved in this 'garden' are duckweed in between the blocks.
Coastal Drift Garden (Gold)
The Italian Job (Silver Gilt)
Contemporary Contemplation (Gold) - a stunning garden and one of my favorites! I love it for the restrained planting palette and the use of contemporary hard lansdcaping. Top marks from me too!
Must not forget the whimsy of summer bedding planting, courtesy of...

A Very Victorian Fantasy Garden (Silver Gilt)
surreal imagery, utter fantasy...
and beddings galore!!

So here you go, believe it or not these are just a few snippets of this years show. There are certain aspects and subject matter within it that we will blog about in better detail in the future. The show is colossal after all and there are loads of other fascinating aspects within it worth talking about in detail. Which also adds to my excitement, I can't wait for next year now!

Mark :-)


  1. This looks like a MASSIVE show--much bigger than the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show I attended in March. I can easily see why you'd need two days if you want to look at the display in depth.

    The Live Outdoors Garden was easily my favorite as well. It looks contemporary and livable at the same time. Some contemporary designs look too faux for me, but this one was fantastic.

  2. Wow, wow, wow! The rose lady definitely deserves a gold medal. As for the gardens, well, you had me scrolling up and down. Like you, I want to base our back(side)yard design on the Live Outdoor garden. I also like some elements of the Essential Indulgence and Contemporary Contemplation. Is it okay if I snag for personal use?

  3. That stand of eremurus makes my two flower heads look a little paltry! Just a little. Amazing day you had. D

  4. Hi Gerhard, it is massive indeed! Wish we had the chance to go back to the show proper for a second time, to have a more thorough peruse of the floral marquee especially we didn't buy that many plants due to lack of time.

    I'm starting to figure out already the best way to do the hanging garden/pergola as seen on the Live Outdoors garden, thinking about the drainage etc to make the structure more longer lasting. Watch this space :)

    Hi Bom, glad you like the photos! Yes of course, feel free to use the photos as you need it :)

    Hi David, yes it was an amazing day. Eremurus blooms looks much better en masse isn't it? Much like the stand. It takes awhile for it to bulk up though. I remember seeing masses of them in bloom at Chenies Manor last year, looks fantastic!

  5. Hi M and G, i found this post so exciting! All the gardens are worth seeing - even the bedding one is exciting, creative, interesting. I would like to go this garden show next year - it's a dream, but ... plans can come out of dreams sometimes???????!!!!!!!

  6. Each and every garden is so fantastic; I would like to have each one of them in my garden and for that I need some hundred acres, I guess :-).

  7. The show gardens are very inspirational. So good to know what's happening in your area.

  8. We having nothing like that event in Australia. It's amazing.
    I was wondering what are the plants hanging from the pergola? I can't tell from the photo but it would look so good in your garden.

  9. Hi Catmint, KL, Autumn Belle, glad you found all of them inspirational :) You can always find something suitable for you in all of the show gardens, even if just small elements of it.

    Hi Missy, hopefully there will be something in the offing for Oz soon :) Some of the plants hanging from the pergola are Ivies (Hedera) but I still have the specification card with me and will look it up later for you when I get home.

  10. Hullo lads! Can you post on your pond please?
    I'm looking on with interest thinking of a pond myself! And DUCKS!
    I love show gardens so inspiring. But no hint of a waterlily there!

  11. Hello Bok Flock :) will post more pics of the pond sometime soon although I'm afraid that's going to be a plantless pond! There were some waterlilies during the show too, just didn't manage to post any pics of them for now, will do on a near future post though.

  12. Hey guys,
    So many beautiful gardens you got my bipolar mind abuzz. The bridge was very inspiring and I love the whimsy of the TV. How time do they have to set things up? Similar to Chelsea? Best, Patrick

  13. You Brits sure know how to put on a garden show. Agree that "Contemporary Contemplation" is beautiful. I love a restrained plant palette, just will never be able to have one of my own.

  14. I love the eremurus! i have seen photos of this plant but never in person. I don't know if it would grow here. The different gardens are fascinating, with lots of good ideas. The urban oasis? Not so much! I am reminded of an abandoned car we once saw at the airport in Honolulu. It had been there for a long time, and there were all sorts of plants growing through its floorboards.

  15. Patrickq, Glad you got some inspiration. I think they have a similar build time to Chelsea, roughly 3 weeks for the bigger gardens.

    Hoover, glad you enjoyed it, restrained is hard to do but can look so lovely

    Debs, Glad you enjoyed it. That photo was just part of the urban oasis, the rest was much more green. That idea was all about how urban areas can go from derelict to pleasant without too much effort as long as the will is there.

  16. I've just found this...glad you found 'Do Not Adjust Your Set' fun and unique! Perhaps the corporate feel stems from my background as a graphic designer - an interesting observation :)


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